Free Agency Grades For The AFC East
(Can Vick guide the Jets to the Playoffs in 2014?)
We are three weeks into the NFL free agency period and there have been a lot of changes among the teams in the AFC East. Who are the teams that have gotten better and who still has work to do before the start of the NFL season? Here are my grades for the four teams in the AFC East.
The Corey Graham four-year, $16 million signing is a great value pickup for the Bills. Not only is he a cornerback who can play the slot and the outside, he can also play special teams if needed. I also like the signing of linebacker Brandon Spikes to a one-year $3.25 million deal. Now they Bills can move Kiko Alonso to weak side linebacker where along with Spikes and new addition Keith Rivers should make the Bills one of the better linebacker trios in the division. Buffalo also re-signed tight end Scott Chandler and kicker Dan Carpenter. The team lost Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd to the New Orleans Saints, which will hurt the secondary. Look for the Bills to improve their 18th ranked offense during May’s NFL Draft.
Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times last season. So the team knew they needed to address their offensive line and they certainly have done that during the first three weeks of free agency. Miami signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith. Some wonder if Albert was worth the five-year, $46 million contract the Dolphins gave him, but Albert was widely regarded as the top left tackle available in free agency. Left tackle was the biggest need for Miami, so it makes perfect sense the team signed the best available tackle on the market. Miami signed nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who was a full-time starter with the Houston Texans last season. He should help improve the Dolphins rush defense, which finished a mediocre 18th last season. The signing of cornerback Cortland Finnegan could prove to be a steal. Look for him to play opposite Brent Grimes, who Miami re-signed. The team also re-signed former Pro Bowler defensive tackle Randy Starks.
New England Patriots
The Patriots made one of the bigger off-season splashes when they signed cornerback Darrell Revis. He’s an excellent pickup and an upgrade at corner after the team lost Aqib Talib to the Denver Broncos. The Patriots also added Seattle corner Brandon Browner, who will serve a four-game suspension to open the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The duo of Revis and Browner will make the Pats one of the most physical secondaries in the NFL. The team also improved its depth at wide receiver by signing Brandon LaFell. The bigger key move for the Pats on offense was retaining slot receiver Julian Edelman. Overall, the Patriots have had one of the better off-season thus far.
New York Jets
The Jets two biggest signings this off-season so far have been quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver Eric Decker. The team signed Vick to a one-year, $5 million deal. While Vick isn’t the quarterback he once was, he’s still a better option than last year’s starter Geno Smith. If he can stay on the field, Vick gives the Jets the best chance to win in 2014. Adding Decker was also big signing for the Jets. The team needed to address the receiver position and Decker has shown he can put up big numbers the past two seasons. He was a number two receiver for the Denver Broncos, but he will be asked to become the Jets number one receiver next season. The team also signed tackle Breno Giacomini from the Seattle Seahawks after the Jets lost Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders. The one position the Jets have yet to address is cornerback. The team cut Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie and have yet to find a replacement for him.