Free Agency 2011 – Two Views on the AFC East

| July 18, 2011

Free agency is coming. So now, after spending so long wondering about when it would arrive, we’re left to dive into what’s going to happen when it finally does.
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Well, we can’t tell you that exactly, but we can tell you what should happen. Two of our top analysts, Sam Monson and Khaled Elsayed, sat down to discuss what each franchise should do, answering three questions for every team.
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Up first, we’re looking at the AFC East.
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Buffalo Bills
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Khaled: It’s a bit of a no brainer. Paul Poszlusny is the only guy on their list they should really be looking at keeping. He struggled as the Bills switched defensive schemes, but he’s a talented player and if they can settle on something, he’ll thrive. Best fit in a 4-3, so what kind of balance their hybrid has will be something to watch.

Sam: Pos is the only Bills player they should be concerned with locking up. His performance in the 4-3, along with Kyle Williams, should really lead the Bills to settle on that defensive front, rather than persisting with 3-4 looks.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: They need to be less reliant on Williams for their pass rush. Chris Kelsay struggled rushing from two or three point stances, and it’s asking a lot of Arthur Moats to build upon an encouraging but hardly amazing rookie year. They need some proven pass rush whatever front they end up in.

Sam: As much as they need pass rush, they can survive there. No, what they really need is some better blocking. Fred Jackson is very solid and their offense has some other legitimate skill players. That will all go to waste unless they improve their blocking and protection.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: Simple. They go out and make Matt Roth a highly paid man. He’s an extremely talented and complete outside linebacker. They’ll need to manage his snaps, but he’s better than anything they have on the roster (especially since it looks like they’re going to persist with plenty of 3-4 looks).

Sam: There is no shortage of quality offensive linemen potentially available, which is handy for Buffalo, because they could stand to upgrade almost every spot across their line. Jared Gaither and Doug Free would both make some sense, with Free in particular allowing them a bit of flexibility, but I think they should focus on Marshal Yanda. Yanda’s been successful at both RT and RG and would allow the Bills to focus on identifying players they feel can succeed on that line long-term.
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Miami Dolphins
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Sam: Ronnie Brown. The fins will doubtless be looking for running back help regardless of what happens with their own runners, but Brown is younger and has consistently scored higher in our Elusive Rating than Ricky Williams. He’s also more versatile to what the Dolphins do with the Wildcat.

Khaled: I’ll have to disagree on that. They got younger in the draft and so could look in another area for a bit of help. I quite like Tony McDaniel and feel he’s made himself an important part of their defensive line rotation. They’re pretty deep there, but you need to be at this level. Essentially, the Dolphins won’t be too badly impacted if none of their guys return.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: Running back. Both of their top runners are free agents, and they have no obvious replacement on the roster you’d be comfortable handing a starting load to. They have some other issues, but none more pressing than their need for a runner.

Khaled: With no way to upgrade the quarterback, I’m forced into agreeing. Daniel Thomas is an unknown quantity, and at the very least they could do with getting him some help.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: DeAngelo Williams makes a lot of sense. He missed most of last season through injury, but he was still able to place 2nd in our three-year Elusive Rating study. He’s a dangerous runner who can get yards above and beyond what the offensive line can generate, and that’s something the Dolphins haven’t had for a while.

Khaled: I worry about Williams given his health over the past two years. It’s somewhat ironic that I’d look more at Ahmad Bradshaw. He works best in a RBBC, and he can do things Thomas may not be able to (help out in the passing game). Could be tough to get their hands on him, but his blitz pick up may actually get the Dolphins prepared to get their tight ends out in the passing game a little more.
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New England Patriots
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Khaled: With Mankins tagged and ‘Law Firm’ a RFA, Matt Light is the only guy (given how many running backs they drafted) on the roster worth re-signing. He slowed down last year, but he’s good insurance if a rookie can’t come in and be serviceable.

Sam: I know they tagged Mankins, but I think they need to stop messing around and lock him up long-term. Mankins is as good as there is and the dominance he displayed in 2010 after missing as much game time as he did was crazy. The Patriots don’t like spending money, but he’s a player that’s worth it.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: If the Jets game showed us something it’s that they need to find a deep threat who can consistently stretch the field vertically. Tom Brady makes great decisions and takes what a defense gives him, but he needs more variety in his options.

Sam: I don’t buy the deep threat argument for the Patriots. Those same receivers tore the league to pieces most of the season, then after one game they’re a problem? Patriots got outcoached in that game (not often you hear that). They still need legit pass rush from somewhere.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: There are a number of options here. They have some cap room, so if they wanted to make a splash and give Brady a deep threat he’s been missing since Randy Moss was Randy Moss, Sidney Rice would be the guy to go for. As good as the Patriots quarterback was last year, adding Rice would make him that bit better, and make the Pats offense more varied.

Sam: Matt Roth just seems like a Patriot type of player. He’s not flashy, and he doesn’t often take over games the way some pass-rushers can, but he does everything well, and he’s a determined, relentless player that would bring a reliable pass-rush to New England.
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New York Jets
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Which player do they need to re-sign?

Sam: Santonio Holmes is the player that makes their passing game go. He is a legit top level receiver who can do everything well, threaten a defense at all levels of the field, and is responsible for two of the best catches I’ve seen over the past few years. Braylon Edwards may have eliminated most of the drops from his game, but Holmes has great hands.

Khaled: I won’t argue that Holmes isn’t a top level receiver, but with the money he will cost and how much they have invested elsewhere, is he worth the outlay when they already have the underrated Jerricho Cotchery on the roster? Is he worth the outlay when you think they could use the cash to tie down the over criticized Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie and others? Is he worth the outlay when they already have a number of big contracts on the books and others to secure? I say Holmes makes them better, but they don’t need him, and they’d be wiser to invest in Antonio Cromartie because, as Ryan says, you can never have too many cornerbacks (especially ones who can track guys down the field).
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: The Jets really don’t have many holes, and wide receiver could very quickly become one if they can’t lock up some of their own free agents, but they need a pass rusher the most. Calvin Pace hasn’t been able to be the force the Jets want him to be and they haven’t managed much production elsewhere either, relying on blitzing from strange angles rather than a legitimate playmaker.

Khaled: After the way Pace played last year, it’s hard to argue against this. Bryan Thomas just isn’t a guy who is going to get to the passer for all the good work he does in run defense, and Pace just doesn’t seem that effective when they get his hand off the ground. This defense could be even scarier with a legitimate every down pass rushing threat.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: The Jets don’t have an endless supply of cash to throw around, and while Manny Lawson makes some sense, I’m going to direct your attention elsewhere: Antwan Barnes. Barnes saw limited snaps with the Ravens under Rex Ryan in ’08, but he was a real force last season as a pass rush specialist in San Diego. Ryan is the right man to make the most of someone with specialized skills like Barnes and he would immediately give the Jets a guaranteed pass rush presence.

Khaled: It’s not a connection I immediately thought of, but my learned friend speaks some sense. The Jets could simply put him on the field in their many different sub package looks and watch him speed rush his way past tackles.
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Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled, and for Sam, it’s: @SamMonson … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • thadjw

    If you guys are feeling froggy about a few Pats questions then please say a few words on how much cap room team is likely to have? Could they possibly sign both these guys? Is Brady’s cap figure a problem bc he is paid so well? (Did they design that contract well and signing near the uncapped year change how they were able to GM a good cap impact together?)

    Let’s say cap is at $124m per year next yr?

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

    Saw an ESPN article that put the PAtriots’ cap figure at about $102m (all numbers now are VERY sketchy until we understand the nature of the new CBA), but if the new cap is in that $120m region they’ve got money to spend should they want to.

  • tim tellean

    I think the Dolphins tipped there hand at the draft when they did not select Marc Ingram. Ronnie Brown is the choice in Miami. I can’t see DeAngelo Williams in Miami. He isn’t the bruiser back that the Dolphins covet.
    Do you either NE or NY Jets taking a shot at Plaxico?

  • southbeach

    The “Brady Bunch” has done nothing in the playoffs the past two years. It makes one wonder how much the cheating helped the “Patsies” in the past. They are in need of some “fair help.” :)

  • thadjw

    Pats haven’t demonstrated that is wasn’t knowledge of signals that helped them win!?… You mean they didn’t win 18 in a row a year later or go 14-2 best in the league last yr!? Does this tired refrain from Pats haters even merit responding to anymore? No. Luck and chance figure in every game and the Pats were a Chung run away from a v last year. Cookie crumbles oddly sometimes. Thanks Sam (and often Khaleed) for answers. Always great stuff on this site. I mention your site when I call sirious NFL radio often. Keep it up and Pats nation is laaarge! Keep feeding us info. Don’t they have to spend if their cap figure is this low? The floor on salary cap is higher as part of this deal!? You like their draft picks? Thanks, tw