By Luciano Rapa
Featured writer for Sideline Report covering the Jets on Special Assignment
Free Agency changes the Topography of the AFCeast
Part two…THE Runner-ups!
Last week we expanded on the Big Winners of this FA period (to date), The NE Patriots. In this article I will give you my opinion on the remaining teams, like it or not, in order top to bottom:
Bills fans have had a bittersweet off-season, to say the least. First, Byrd, a long time franchise safety decides to bolt. Unfortunately team owner Ralph Wilson passed away at 95. Wilson was the reason the Bills have remained in Buffalo, and now, that is in serious jeopardy. A new owner will want to maximize on his return, and unfortunately Western New York is not the place that it can happen. As a long time Jet fan, which once considered the Bills his second team, I really hope that the city retains the franchise.
The Bills weakest position last year without question, had to be their LBs, and the ability to stop anyone from running on them. They quickly tried to fix that by signing LBs Spikes and Rivers. They also retained TE Chandler, a big signing in my opinion. The team also retained the kicker, Carpenter and numerous others. They tried to fix the OL with Chris Williams, but its not even close to enough. All in all, the Bills have the second best off-season so far in the division.
These two teams ended the year tied, two games ahead of the Bills, and both have had a similar off-season.
First the Jets: There is a new Sheriff in town, and he doesn’t spend like the old one. The fans are all crying foul over it. Idzik is going about it the right way. Why overspend on older mediocre players. He is a draft first guy, and it’s never been clearer than this year. The team has now the biggest CAP room in the NFL, and they are in no hurry to sign anyone. The Jets only lost one player of any kind of quality, Austin Howard. The Raiders paid a ransom for his services, and he is not worth that kind of money. They quickly replaced him with SB winning Beno (who cares about his last name with a cool first name like Beno. The others that left were no longer in the Jets plans. They retained Pace, Folk, Walls, Douzable (the most underrated DL in the division). Last year, one thing was obvious; the Jets had no weapons on offense. The WR position was a revolving door of no names; somehow Geno actually completed some passes. They signed the #1 WR available, Decker. Deck is no #1, but he is FAR better than anything on the team. This was a smart signing at a very reasonable price.
The Dolphins are an enigma to me, but I like the way they have attacked free agency this year. Gone is the free-spending GM with no clue. The team has one huge need, OL, and they attempted to fix that with G Shelley Smith, OT Branden Albert, and the shadow of Incognito. No way is this close to enough; they need two more if not three OL. They also signed RB Knowshon Moreno, who I really don’t think can play unless he has a passing attack to depend on (Denver learned that too), Finnegan (to my surprise he is still playing in the NFL. Finnegan was once a very good CB, but he is no longer that good. The biggest signing was Grimes. Retaining Grimes was huge, and this new GM has delivered. The biggest loss, no matter how much they downplay it, is the NT, Soliai. He anchored that middle for the last few years, and to me they are taking a big chance in relying on the leftovers.
Possible affects to standings to date:
- Patriots = 10-12 wins
- Dolphins = 7-9 wins
- Jets = 8 wins
- Bills = 6-8 wins
Pats have improved, but their offense was a question mark last year, it remains so. Defense slightly better.
Dolphins will suffer from not having continuity on the OL, otherwise I would have said 9-11 wins
Jets still need weapons and the development of Geno
Bills are making strides, but I’m not sure their QB situation is stable
So much still to happen…stay tuned