Our Roster Reset series takes a division-by-division look at where things stand across the league heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Edward Lewis examines the current makeup of the AFC East below.
It sure doesn't seem that way.
The Patriots don't look as unbeatable as they usually do around this time of year, with key contributors like Nate Solder, Cam Fleming, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Butler all departing in free agency. Yet, the Jets, Dolphins and Bills haven't done much to scare off the division's top dog, either.
New York still needs to find its QB. Buffalo does, too. Miami has to complete its roster purge and start building things back up in South Beach.
Until any (or all) of that happens, this still looks like the Patriots' division to lose, as it's been for nearly the past two decades.
FREE AGENCY NOTABLES
It's going to take an unreal few seasons from Johnson to live up to the five-year, $72.5 million deal he signed last month, but even if he isn't the second coming of Darrelle Revis, he makes the Jets exponentially better. When you pair him with promising young safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, and you put him opposite veteran cover man Morris Claiborne, with Buster Skrine in the slot, suddenly it's going to be very tough to throw on the Jets. In a division that includes Tom Brady, that's paramount.
New England made the smart play letting a soon-to-be 30-year-old tackle who wanted highest-paid-OL-in-the-league money walk away. That doesn't make the loss of Brady's blind-side protector any easier. Solder was steady and reliable in pass pro. Given the additional loss of valuable backup tackle Fleming (who signed with the Cowboys), offensive line is suddenly a big question mark in New England.
Replacing a 25-year-old who had a league-high 112 catches in 2017 (Jarvis Landry, traded to Cleveland last month) with a 32-year-old who had 61 catches (Amendola) never bodes well for your team from a production standpoint. But this year's Dolphins roster might not necessarily be about production. Obviously, everybody wants to win, but coach Adam Gase has made a point this offseason to express that the Fins need to change their culture. Cutting loose outspoken players like Landry, Mike Pouncey and Ndamukong Suh was apparently the first step. Getting guys like Amendola, who's spent the last five seasons in arguably the league's most stable franchise and has always been known as a dogged worker, to teach others is the next.
Buffalo Bills: This is the offseason in which the Bills need to find their quarterback. They punted onTyrod Taylor, and while they added AJ McCarron, the deal he got (two years and $6 million guaranteed) coupled with the interest he drew on the open market suggests he's much more of a bridge than a destination. Buffalo has already started the process of creeping up into the top five to land a quarterback of their choice by swapping the No. 21 overall pick and tackle Cordy Glennfor the Cincinnati Bengals' No. 12 pick. This month should be all about how they can manage to flip that and more in order to jump into one of the top spots in the draft to snag one of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield or even Lamar Jackson.
Miami Dolphins: Like the Bills, the Dolphins need to figure out their quarterback room. Ryan Tannehill is expected to be ready for OTAs, but there were questions about his play even before knee injuries cost him the entire 2017 season and a piece of 2016. Finding out if Tannehill is the long-term answer -- or, at the very least, healthy enough to try to be that -- should be priority No. 1 for the Dolphins. If he's not the guy, Miami needs to consider taking a QB with the No. 11 overall pick in this month's draft.
New England Patriots: Former backup QBs Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are no longer Patriots, and Brady, despite what his play might look like in between the white lines, is still turning 41 in a few months. Owner Robert Kraft has said the team "obviously at some point" needs to draft a quarterback. Finding an O-lineman who can replace the production of Solder and Fleming should also be a top priority.
New York Jets: Make it a clean four for four here. The Jetsalso must find their quarterback of the future. They've run with journeymen for far too long in New York. Unlike the other AFC East teams, however, the Jets are sitting at No. 3 overall in the draft, thanks to a trade with the Colts. Whether their pick is Darnold, Rosen, Allen, Mayfield or Jackson, New York needs to hit on it. Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater (operating with a knee that has not been subjected to the rigors of a full NFL season since that devastating 2016 injury) just aren't going to cut it if the Jets want to be a contender for the foreseeable future.