2009 Offseason Overview: AFC East

AFC East:

Miami Dolphins:

-Fresh off their incredible turnaround, the Phins will look to add more talent to their roster that overachieved this season. Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano have done a great job in turning around a 1-15 team, but there are still some holes on this roster that need to be filled.

Key FAs:

-RB Ricky Williams: he has certainly resurrected his career, and was a big part of the Dolphins offense this season. He is definitely a player that Miami will be looking to bring back next year.

-OT Vernon Carey: Carey may be somewhat coveted by other teams, seeing as how good RT are a rarity in today’s game. This might mean his price tag could be too high in order for the Dolphins to retain him.

-LB Channing Crowder: Has been an up and down player for them, who has dealt with his fair share of off-the-field issues. Did lead the team in tackles this season, so Miami may look to bring him back.

-CB Andre Goodman: The Dolphins are a team short on depth at corner, so it may be wise to bring him back for next season.

Needs: OL, CB, LB, NT

-Even with the drafting of Jake Long first overall, this is a unit that could use more depth and an overall increase in the talent level. Offensive tackle could certainly become a big need if Vernon Carey signs elsewhere, because Jake Long still has to prove himself at LT, and he may eventually be moved to RT. Inside, they have a good guard in Justin Smiley, but C Samson Satele struggled this season, and they are short on depth.

-On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback, linebacker, and nose tackle are definitely positions of need. This unit played very well this season, but they were 25th in the NFL in pass defense, which tells me that the secondary needs to be addressed. They are set at SS with Yeremiah Bell, but the other positions could be upgraded, especially corner, where Will Allen is getting up there in age, and Andre Goodman is a free agent. Linebacker should be another area in which the Dolphins may look to address this offseason. As far as nose tackle, Jason Ferguson can still play at a high level, but he is in his thirties now, so they may look to find an eventual successor, that is if they are not satisfied with back-up Paul Soliai.

New England Patriots:

-The Patriots coaching staff did an excellent job this season in winning 11 games, and falling just short of the postseason, even with all of their injury woes. With veteran leaders such as Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, and Adulias Thomas going down with season ending injuries. The main focus of this offseason will be to decide what to do with Matt Cassell. The career back up came out of nowhere this season, and had an incredible year, admirably filling the shoes of Brady. With Cassell being an unrestricted free agent, and Tom Brady ready to come back after surgery, the Pats have a quarterback controversy on their hands. On one hand, Brady was coming of a 50 TD year before he got hurt on the first series of this year, but there is also the worry that he will not be the same coming off of surgery, and Cassell is younger than him. The Patriots will have to decide whether to keep both, trade Brady, or maybe workout a sign-and-trade with another team for Cassell.

Key FAs:

-QB Matt Cassell: (See above)

-SS Rodney Harrison: Harrison has been the quarterback of their defense for many years now, but the Patriots are never afraid to let an aged veteran walk if they think he is done, no matter how well he has played for them. It will be interesting to see if they bring him back since Brandon Merriweather is younger, and has been playing extremely well this season. However, the other starting safety is James Sanders, who is also an unrestricted free agent, so this opens up the possibility of keeping one or the other.

Needs: CB, RB, TE, OL, DL, LB, WR

-This may look like a lot of needs for an 11-5 team, but the Patriots aren’t necessarily weak at these positions, rather they are a veteran team who need to add some depth to these areas. As far as offense goes, it is safe to label Laurence Maroney a bust, and although the committee of Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, and LaMont Jordan have been effective, none of these players are gamebreakers. Plus, adding an elite running back would make this offense even more scary than it already is.

As far as TE goes, the Patriots have always had success with blocking ones, but they need a pass catching threat, and Ben Watson has been almost non-existent this year. The offensive line has always overachieved as a unit, but the talent level of some of the individuals has come into question, as they have been often exposed by speed rushers on the outside. Some added depth along the front five certainly wouldn’t hurt. Another wide receiver who can take pressure off of Moss and Welker I’m sure would be welcomed as well.

-On the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think Belichek can ignore the fact that he needs an elite cornerback. The pass defense just wasn’t the same without the ballhawking skills of Asante Samuel, who they let walk last summer. Also, the lack of depth along the defensive line should be addressed. Their starters are great, but the normally stellar back up, Jarvis Green, has not been very good coming in relief. Rookie Jerod Mayo has been excellent for them at LB, but the other starters are all in their thirties, and the Pats could look to add a pass rushing OLB. The Patriots LB situation became so dire at one point in the season that they had to coax Junior Seau to come out of retirement.

New York Jets:

-The Jets spent a lot of money last summer, and the expectations were very high going into this season, especially with the late addition of Brett Favre. Unfortunately the once proclaimed “Man-genius” and Favre couldn’t deliver to the New York faithful. Now, one is out of a job, and it is still being speculated as to what will happen with Brett Favre. The Jets looked like they were playoff bound at one point, but they faded down the stretch, in large part to questionable play calling and Favre looking his age. Whoever comes in as the new head coach will be stepping into a favorable situation, though, but may have to find a new starting quarterback. Don’t expect a loud offseason from the Jets, as they are low in cap space thanks to their free spending last summer, and the only murmurs coming out of there should be to do with Favre or a new head coach.

Key FAs:

-K Mike Nugent: He was starting to play well for them before he went down with an injury this season. Look for the Jets to re sign him, unless another team in need of a kicker comes in with a big offer.

-FB Tony Richardson: Has been a big part of the success that the Jets have had on the ground this season. A wily veteran, who the Jets should look to bring back to open up holes for Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.

-LB Eric Barton: led the team in tackles, and should be a player that the Jets will look to bring back, as he is one of the leaders of the defense.

Needs: QB, CB, SS, LB

-Depending on what happens with Favre, the Jets could be in search of a new QB this offseason. They don’t really have one on their roster, as Kellen Clemens has been unimpressive in his starts, and hinder a team that is very close to being in contention for a championship. Personally, I don’t see Favre coming back, but he may give it one more kick at the can, if he feels like he could lead this team to the playoffs next season. It may depend, as well, on who the Jets bring in as their new head coach, and how that person feels about Favre.

-The defense was one of the strengths of the team this year, but the secondary cost them dearly all year, and finished 29th in the league in pass defense. Darrelle Revis looks like he will be a shutdown corner, but it is the other side that worries me, and Revis can sometimes still be susceptible to the big play. SS is another position that needs to be addressed in the secondary, but they are set at FS with Kerry Rhodes. ILB could also become a position of need if Eric Barton decides to leave as a free agent. David Harris was not the same player this year, after looking so strong as a rookie, making the Vilma trade easier to swallow for Jet fans.

Buffalo Bills:

-After starting the season 5-0, the Bills finished a disappointing 2-9 to miss the postseason, in what was supposed to be a breakout year for them. Still though, Dick Jauron was reportedly signed to a contract extension, so he may be around for another year or two. It’s hard to narrow down just what was the problem that led to such a monumental collapse, but it may have had something to do with Trent Edwards’ concussion. He was in the midst of a fine season before the injury, and the Bills offense struggled without him, not to mention, he didn’t look the same even when he came back from it. Furthermore, complications from LT Jason Peters’ contract holdout affected the chemistry of the line, which in turn hurt Marshawn Lynch. As well, the Bills could not generate any sort of pass rush, and sorely missed Aaron Schobel for a large part of the season.

Key FAs:

-QB J.P. Losman: Once pegged as the future starter, most likely will look for a starting gig elsewhere.

-RB Fred Jackson: He had some very nice games for the Bills this year, and forms a solid duo with Marshawn Lynch. He is an RFA, so look for the Bills to put a high price tag on him to prevent teams from luring him away with an offer sheet.

-WR Roscoe Parrish: Seems to have found a nice role as the slot receiver in the offense, and is an electric punt returner.

-C Melvin Fowler: starting center for the Bills for the last few seasons, not sure what their plans for him are.

-LB Angelo Crowell: has been a solid starter for them at OLB. They may bring him back, although he was hurt this season.

-CB Jabari Greer: Had a breakout year for the Bills, taking both his INTs back for touchdowns. Emergence of Leodis McKelvin may make him expendable.

Needs: DE, TE, OL

-The Bills have never really had a legitimate receiving threat at tight end. They will most likely look to address this position at some point in the draft. As mentioned earlier, the chemistry of the offensive line was really hurt by the Jason Peters holdout. Now, with Peters still without a new deal, and their starting center, and best back up, Duke Preston, scheduled to become free agents, this makes the offensive line an area of need.

-The lack of a pass rush really hurt this defense, and it all stems from the injury sustained by DE Aaron Schobel. Schobel is their main pass rushing threat, registering double digit sack totals three times in his career, but was limited to only 5 games this season. Look for this position to be addressed with one of the Bills’ first couple of picks in April’s draft.

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