After one of the more offense-driven Super Bowls in history (it broke a fair few records), I can finally write my piece on the AFC East, including Super Bowl runners-up the New England Patriots.
Imagine being a Patriots fan born in 2017, you still haven’t seen your team win a Super Bowl! Anyway, without further ado…
New England Patriots
2017 Record: 13-3 (Lost in Super Bowl LII)
Key Free Agents: CB Malcolm Butler, LT Nate Solder, ST Matthew Slater, WR Danny Amendola
Cap Space: Around $14m
Draft Needs: CB, QB, Edge
New England traded away backup QB (and now future Hall of Famer) Jimmy Garoppolo midseason last year, and will have to look to the future at some point.
A 2nd or 3rd round pick on a QB would not only be shrewd, but the other 31 teams around the league would sit up and take notice: quarterbacks in New England command a premium price.
Malcolm Butler almost certainly won’t re-sign this offseason following his benching in the Super Bowl, where Bill Belichick essentially cut off his nose to spite his face.
There may well be a low-rent cornerback on the free agent market that the Pats pick up off the street and turn into an All-Pro, but the more likely scenario remains the draft, where New England are renowned for moving around within the first round.
2017 Record: 9-7 (2nd in AFC East, gained the 6th seed)
Key Free Agents: DT Kyle Williams, WR Jordan Matthews, CB Shareece Wright
Cap Space: Around $30m
Draft Needs: QB, LB, DT
Despite snapping their playoff drought, it was more by luck than judgement (see; Peterman, Nathan and Dalton, Andy) and the Bills front office will have a fair amount of rebuilding to do if they are to become consistent postseason contenders.
Trading Marcell Dareus was the strangest decision of the season, followed closely by benching and subsequently unbenching Tyrod Taylor, who only turned the ball over 6 times all year, compared to 5 times in one half by his understudy Peterman.
The need to rebuild on the defensive line is strong, but if the Bills brass aren’t convinced by the skills of Taylor, then QB need to be the letters written largest on April’s draft board.
That said, the state of the run defense last year was no laughing matter, and as a result, any run-stopping interior D-Linemen or linebackers would be happily welcomed by coordinator and teammates alike.
2017 Record: 6-10 (Third in AFC East)
Key Free Agents: QB Jay Cutler(!), DE William Hayes, WR Jarvis Landry, OG Jermon Bushrod
Cap Space: Around $7.5m
Draft Needs: OG, ILB, RB
The Dolphins will definitely need a new QB this offseason in addition to the above positions, but don’t expect them to spend big with such a tight cap situation.
More likely is the scenario where they add a signal caller late in the second day of the draft, leaving free agency open for shrewd spending, which the Dolphins haven’t exactly excelled at recently.
That said, some contract restructuring and a few low-end signings could push this team from 6-10 to 9-7 and in the hunt for a wildcard spot, not to mention the fact that their starting QB should be fully healthy by the start of training camp.
Fins fans should be wary of the fact that their defense wasn’t as good as it may have appeared in spots last year, so the need for a commanding presence in the middle, or an effective edge rusher alongside Cameron Wake (when William Hayes inevitably gets overpaid in free agency), becomes greater than the need for a good interior O-Lineman.
New York Jets
2017 Record: 5-11 (Last in AFC East)
Key Free Agents: QB Josh McCown, DE Kony Ealy, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Cap Space: Around $73m
Draft Needs: QB, RB, WR, TE, OL
Josh McCown isn’t getting any younger, and coincidentally almost certainly won’t be getting any better, Robby Anderson needs a running mate, Their TE1 isn’t good enough to command TE1 money so might get re-signed, and I can’t remember the last RB the Jets had that didn’t make a name for himself before moving to the Big Apple (Tomlinson and Forte spring to mind immediately).
That said, as much as the Jets need help on offense, the defense could also use some new pieces. Last year’s first round pick Jamal Adams can’t do it on his own, even if tackling machine Darron Lee is roaming the field in front of him.
However, their cap situation leaves them with the ability to sign at least one marquee player, and I have heard lots of people projecting New York as a landing spot for Kirk Cousins after they traded for Alex Smith, and they could do worse.
Come draft day, the Jets will most likely have their pick of the crop at no. 6, so don’t be surprised to see them pull the trigger on a huge name capable of making blockbuster plays in the big city.