We eagerly anticipate news today of Reggie Nelson's decision, and of the outcome to LaRon Landry's visit to Florham Park. However as we are quickly moving through free agency and steam rolling to the draft. I think we should do a quick catch up on how things have been going in the AFC East in general.
Where else to start? Mario Williams was the most coveted defensive free agent this year and Buffalo managed to get him into the facility and didn't let him leave until they had a deal in place. 6 years $100 million and $50 million guaranteed is a nice bit of change. Some are questioning it but I think it's worth the gamble. Buffalo needed that marquee player to build a franchise around. When healthy Mario is one of the most impactful players in the league, and despite recent health concerns with him missing 14 games in two seasons, he never missed a game in 5 years to start his career. I think the injuries are being blown out of proportion and unless he suffers a serious one in 2012 I'm not ready to call him injury prone just yet.
Mario gives Buffalo one of the most dangerous defensive lines in the league, if not the most dangerous. Not only do you have to worry about Mario Williams, you also have to worry about Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Buddy Nix has said that Mario will be playing left end which means that Chris Kelsay will be playing right end. Although I don't think they will, if Buffalo decides to take Ingram in the draft; you have Mario, Kyle, Marcell and Melvin all up front, good luck trying to block. They don't have the best secoundary in the league but as we say, if QB's are constantly being rushed, that can make defensive backs look a lot better than they are.
Apart from Mario Williams, Buffalo has been very quiet. They were rumoured to be in on Mario Manningham, however he signed with the 49'ers last night. It's a shame as their off-season could have been about the Mario Brothers (I'll get my coat). Their own free agent Demetrius Bell looks to be on his way as he visits the Redskins and Cardinals. They do have a promising youngster in Chris Hairston a 2nd year player out of Clemson however I think they could and probably should go offensive line in the first round of the draft.
I still think Buffalo need some help on the offensive line, in the secoundary and probably need another weapon in the passing game. However with Williams they are now an attractive destination, it'll be interesting to see what they do the rest of free agency and in the draft but no doubt the Bills got better this off-season so far.
The Dolphins similar to the Jets have not made any big name signings, however they have added a couple of very nice pieces. They struck out on Manning and now must find their QB going forward, I think they end up signing Matt Flynn and that is a gamble. They then have to put pieces around him to help him in his development. At the moment the wide receiver group of Brian Hatline, Davone Bess and tight end Anthony Fasano won't be scaring many people.
They made the decision to ship troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall out of South Beach to Chicago and I actually think they made the right move. Brandon has been in another incident where he is alledged to have punched a women in the face. Miami need a new identity with a young QB, whoever the QB in Miami is next year, they could do with Marshalls talent but not the headache. Two third round picks isn't exactly a kings ransom, but in the end it will depend how they use them.
So what have they done so far? they have brought in Richard Marshall from Arizona on a three year deal. Marshall spent last season with the Cardinals after previously spending 5 years playing for the Carolina Panthers. He had 69 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks last year. Marshall is very much a cornerback/safety hybrid. He can line up outside, inside or at safety and last year was called the defensive MVP of the cardinals by Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton. It's a very good signing for Miami with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith showing promise already.
Artis Hicks the 10 year veteran has also been brought in to sure up the right side of the offensive line which was pretty poor last year. However Hicks is a right guard by nature and not a very good tackle at all. I'm not sure how Miami plan to use him but this isn't really a move that would make me confident of changing the right side of the line.
The only other moves the Dolphins have made relates to their own free agents. Steve Slaton has re-signed on a one year deal. 93 yards in 2010 and 84 yards in 2011, he adds a little depth at the position but he is far removed from the player of 2008 where he rushed for 1,282 yards and 9 touchdowns. They also re-signed Paul Soliai to continue to anchor their defence.
They have lost Kendall Langford to the St Louis Rams and of course Chad Henne has headed to Jacksonville, however neither player will be missed too much. There is a lot of work to do in Miami on the offensive side of the ball, but if they sign Flynn and he works out and they draft a wide receiver high. A couple of players come through like Jared Odrick, if you were here before the 2010 draft you will know I loved this guy. He's continued to improve and finished last season with 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception. I fully expect him to make the next jump this year.
Of all the teams in the AFC East, the Patriots have been the most active. They have re-signed three of their own players and brought in 6 free agents so far. Starting with their own free agents. Interestingly enough, the Patriots chose to sign Dan Connolly before Dan Koppen. Connolly has been an excellent back-up for the Patriots filling in for Logan Mankins at left guard in 2010 and for Koppen at centre in 2011 after his season ending injury. I've always been impressed with Connolly, so I have to imagine that he may well be the starting centre going forward.
They also re-signed back-up veteran linebacker Tracy White and special teams ace Matthew Slater. Both very solid moves, Slater is a player that I really like and Tracy gives the Patriots depth if not production. They still have several free agents who they need to decide if they want to re-sign. Benjarvus Green-Ellis wants to come back and I would imagine the Patriots want him back; so I think that gets done. Deion Branch is another player who I think re-signs. Free agent DE Mark Anderson has recently visited with the Dolphins. Former Jet Shaun Ellis and veteran Andre carter still remain on the market.
Former Jet James Ihedigbo is still un-signed.
So now to the six players that the Patriots have brought in. Lets start with the cream of the crop and the player that fills the biggest need. Brandon Lloyd has joined back up with former coach Josh McDaniels on the New England staff. Some fans are trying to play this down, but this is a guy who can get vertical in a hurry and although Brady's long ball isn't as strong as it used to be, he's still capable of throwing it deep. Lloyd averaged 13.8 yards a catch last year for 966 yards and 5 scores. That was with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow throwing him the football. With Brady, it's just one more thing you have to worry about. You have outside presence, inside presence, out of the backfield presence, this offence just got a lot better.
Former Bengals DE Jonathan Fanene has also signed up in Foxborough on a three year deal. He had 6.5 sacks last year but is well known for his run defence as well as his pass rushing. He adds excellent depth to the front line of the Patriots. They gave him a $3.85 million signing bonus which kind of shows you how much they think of him.
They also signed former first round pick Anthony Gonzalez from Indianapolis. Gonzalez is one hell of a talented football player however he just can't stay healthy. He has appeared in only 11 games the last two years and 8 of those appearences came in 2011 where he failed to register a single catch. This is similar to our Chaz signing, it's very low risk, high reward.
We can add two more defensive players to the list of signings for the Patriots. They also inked DT Marcus Harrison a depth special teams signing; and Steve Gregory formerly of the San Diego Chargers who we believe will battle for the starting safety spot. A strong special teamer and decent strong safety, if the Patriots don't land LaRon Landry I fully expect Gregory to start the season as the SS to Patrick Chungs FS.
The final move comes in the form of OLB Trevor Scott, another low risk, high reward signing. Scott started his career with a bang notching 12 sacks and 67 tackles in his first two years as a Raider. Unfortunately for him he capped off a poor 2010 season by suffering a torn ACL injury and he never quite bounced back in 2011. It could boom and bust, if it booms they have a bargain if it busts.....well no harm done.
Personally I think that all three teams in the AFC East have made some pretty good signings. All three still have work to so, as do we. However it's building up to be a very competitive division in 2012.