With free agency set to kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, Elliot Harrison identifies needs for all 32 teams over eight divisional primers. You'll find the outlook for each AFC East team below, but click here to examine other divisions.
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Top priority in free agency: Linebacker.
The linebacker position as a whole in the NFL has been de-emphasized. Why? Well, NFL teams ran the football just 42.2 percent of the time in 2012 and 42.9 percent in 2011. Linebackers can be exploited in coverage too often by small-forward-type tight ends who run 4.5's. But that doesn't mean the position can be ignored -- which is what seemingly happened in Buffalo last season. The entire linebacking crew -- all of them! -- combined for five sacks and no picks in 2012. Yikes. Philip Wheeler and Daryl Smith might not be the sexiest names on the open market, but adding either wouldn't be the worst move ever. Overpaying for Dannell Ellerbe would.
Other areas of interest: Safety, wide receiver, quarterback.
Top priority in free agency: Wide receiver.
Please make a bold move for Darrelle Revis! OK, OK, probably won't happen, but getting another wide receiver in free agency is pretty crucial for Joe Philbin and Co. Yes, as of this posting, the Dolphins were deep in talks with Brian Hartline about a long-term deal. A nice piece, but Ryan Tannehill must have more firepower at his disposal in 2013. You hear a lot of talk about Mike Wallace. Then there's Greg Jennings, who played under Philbin in Green Bay. Cool. Those aren't the only guys who are going to be out there -- Wes Welker and Danny Amendola come to mind. Here's the deal, though: Davone Bess is still a decent slot receiver, so the Dolphins don't need Welker or Amendola. They need a true perimeter threat who runs precise routes, makes as many plays in the first quarter as the fourth and occasionally gets vertical. Consistent, too. Answer: Jennings.
Other areas of interest: Cornerback, offensive tackle, tight end.
New England Patriots
Top priority in free agency: Safety.
Yes, questions abound at wide receiver. How will the Wes Welker situation play out? Should the club pay Brandon Lloyd a $3 million bonus due on March 16 or cut bait? (Lloyd can still play, according to these eyes.) Putting those in-house discussions aside, New England must get help on the other side of the ball, particularly in the back end. Safety is an area that can be upgraded, and when a guy like Ed Reed is out there ... well, can you say, 'Rodney Harrison, part deux'? Though it's probably far less than a 50-50 possibility, Reed going to the Patriots would be a huge blow to the rest of the AFC. Who cares if he's slowed down on the field? His football IQ would make Bill Belichick's defense notably better.
Other areas of interest: Wide receiver, cornerback, offensive tackle.
New York Jets
Top priority in free agency: Safety.
Safety is an important position in the AFC East, apparently. Really, every team in the division could use some help in this department, but the Dolphins (Reshad Jones) and Bills (Jairus Byrd) are much better off than the Pats and Jets. If you just go with the players currently under contract with Gang Green, the two best safeties on the roster are probably Antonio Allen and Josh Bush; two years ago, they were going to frat parties and playing "Madden." LaRon Landry is set to become a free agent. So is Yeremiah Bell, the other starter in 2012. And if the Jets deal Darrelle Revis -- as many expect they will -- the need for stronger play in the back two becomes even more pressing.
Other areas of interest: Linebacker, offensive guard, running back.
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