The NFL offseason is officially upon us. The next few months will be filled with roster activity as each team seeks to address their needs to become competitive for the 2014. For some teams, maintenance is all that will be required. For others, this will be a time of tearing down, and rebuilding. Some teams will be forced to focus on the draft, due to salary cap concerns, while others will seek to court the most high-profile free agents. Today we look at the AFC East offseason needs.
AFC East Offseason Needs: Buffalo Bills
Biggest Needs: Linebacker, Offensive Line, Tight End/Wide Receiver.
The Bills remain a team in rebuilding mode. In 2013, they appointed a new head coach, Doug Marrone. Marrone drafted who they hoped would become their franchise quarterback in E.J. Manuel. Although the team were just 6-10 in 2013, enough was seen from Manuel to give him and Marrone a decent crack of the whip. In 2014, they will aim to give Manuel some more protection on the line, and targets to throw to.
They have around $19 million dollars in cap space to lock up the core of their defense to long-term contracts. They will also have enough left over to be in play for one or two big name free agents. Taking a run at a free agent guard like Geoff Schwartz, or even Richie Incogneto—pending the outcome of the Jonathan Martin bullying enquiry—would give them the freedom to address other issues through the draft. A player like Khalil Mack, who played his college football at the nearby University of Buffalo, in the first round would set the team in a good situation going forward.
AFC East Offseason Needs: Miami Dolphins
Biggest Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Running Back
The Miami Dolphins offensive line as been decimated by the discord caused by the Incogneto-Martin feud. Basically, the entire line will need to be addressed.
Fortunately, their nearly $32 million in cap room will give them more than enough space to begin to address this. Centre Alex Mack and Left Tackle Brandon Albert could both be in play for the team. However, given the controversy, whether either man would want to join them remains to be seen. Mack would allow the team to slide Mike Pouncey to left guard, really cementing that side of the field.
They could even make a play for a running back, like Maurice Jones Drew, or Knowshon Moreno, and still have cap room to secure their own key free agents. They could then use the draft to address other issues, selecting someone like Louis Nix or RaShede Hageman to solidify their defensive line.
AFC East Offseason Needs: New England Patriots
Biggest Needs: Linebacker, Defensive Line, Tight End
The New England Patriots find themselves in the unenviable position of having very limited cap room, several key free agents that need to be re-signed and only a late first round pick.
They have only around $5 Million in cap space remaining. Resigning Aquib Talib would be their top priority, effectively erasing all of that.
They could seek to deal backup QB Ryan Mallet, and seek a slightly cheaper backup for Brady through the draft but this would only present a minor saving.
Most of their needs would need to be addressed through the draft. However in comparison to earlier years, the Patriots do not have a lot of extra picks. This will limit their ability to move up and make plays.
The Patriots could find a replacement for Aaron Hernandez, and the injury prone Rob Gronkowski in Jace Amaro in the first round. This would be possible knowing there is enough depth in the draft, and the Patriots staff are good enough judges of talent to fill other needs later.
But you should never discount Belichick’s ability to find a way to make a move on draft day.
AFC East Offseason Needs: New York Jets
Biggest Needs: Receiver/Tight End, Offensive Line, Running Back, Quarterback
The New York Jets needs are perhaps some of the most obvious in the NFL.
Their offense simply hasn’t found its groove in recent years. The team will need to find some dependable receivers for its quarterback to throw to, while taking pressure off of him by adding a more dynamic running game, and offensive line.
Fortunately, the team have plenty of cap room to do this with, and can create even more by making some obvious choices—namely, cutting Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.
Doing this will leave them thin at receiver, and with no backup for the inconsistent Geno Smith. However, in doing so, they put themselves in a place to really make an impact in free agency.
Potential targets should include WR Jeremy Maclin or Eric Decker and TE Dennis Pitta, who would all really add dynamism to their passing game.
After this, the team should also consider making a run at Michael Vick to a one year contract. Vick and Smith are remarkably similar players, so giving Smith a year or so to mature under the experienced Vick may be just what the doctor ordered for the team.
Other free agents could be in play, but making a splash like that, would give the Jets confidence to follow a “best player available” strategy in the draft, knowing that, no matter what, they will be a vastly improved team in 2014.