AFC East Free Agency
With the close of the NFL season now past, I don’t really know what to do with my life. There’s no football to watch, so now I’ll have to transition into full-time college basketball watching.
Of course, I’m a firm believer that there’s only an NFL offseason if you let there be an NFL offseason. That being said, I’m not allowing the lull from February to July bring me down. Besides, there’s always the NFL Draft, free agency, and trades that can be completed throughout the spring and summer.
We’ve got a few mock drafts out, so I’ll begin to examine the free agency class of 2016. I’ll inspect each teams free agents, and look at the players’ possible landing spots.
New England Patriots, 12-4
Offensively, New England doesn’t have too many players that could leave. The Patriots could lose two running backs, each of which could produce next season.
The first, LeGarrette Blount averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 165 tries in 2015. He reached the end zone six times on rushing attempts and added one more score via the passing game. In a crowded and confusing Patriot backfield, Blount found his way to contribute despite a hip injury that cost him his season after 12 games.
Blount is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), and may receive interest from other teams in the NFL. It’s likely that Blount remains with the Pats next season with a new deal.
The next running back is one that found a job after not receiving any looks from NFL teams until the Patriots signed him. Jackson was signed due to Blount’s injury and rushed for just 71 yards on 31 carries for New England in the final four games of the season and the postseason. Jackson scored two rushing touchdowns as well.
It seems unlikely for Jackson to wind up with any team next season. The Patriots already have Dion Lewis and others, so New England will probably not sign Jackson for next year.
New England has no starter on idefense that will enter free agency in March.
Other New England Free Agents: Ryan Wendell, Tarell Brown, Tavon Wilson, Aikem Hicks, Nate Ebner, Brandon Gibson, James Develin, Sealver Silga, Dane Fletcher, Justin Coleman, Rufus Johnson, Brian Tyms, Cameron Fleming, Brandon King, LaAdrian Waddle, Dekoda Watson
New York Jets, 10-6
The New York Jets were the only team in the NFL to finish over .500 yet not make the playoffs. They have many key contributors that could depart the team for a better future elsewhere. A starting quarterback, multiple running backs, and wide receivers could head elsewhere for 2016.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s #beard saved the insanity of many Jets fans this season. The bearded warrior threw 31 touchdowns and led the 11th best scoring offense in the NFL.
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has made it clear that he intends on re-signing Fitzpatrick in the offseason. I expect Fitzpatrick back with the Jets when the season opens.
The running back position gets hairy for New York. Leading rusher Chris Ivory, and complimentary back Bilal Powell will hit the market this offseason.
At age 27, Chris Ivory may be heading out of his prime. Ivory scored eight total touchdowns in 2015, and only rushed for 4.3 yards per carry.
His season was filled with highs and lows, which is apparent in his best and worst games. He accounted for 196 total yards and one touchdown, including 7.3 yards per carry against Washington in week five. In week eight, Ivory ran for just 26 yards on 23 carries, yet he still turned in two touchdowns.
2015 was Ivory’s best season, but inconsistency and age worry me. I’m not sure if that’s true for GM’s around the league, however. Rumors around the Jets organization point to Ivory heading away from New York next season.
As the leading pass-catcher out of the backfield last season, Bilal Powell will look for a new contract this offseason. Powell caught 47 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. He also rushed for 4.5 yards per carry in 313 attempts. Powell was a solid back which provided a great change of pace for the Jets last season.
Powell is 27, just like Chris Ivory. I’d make Powell a priority over Ivory, but again, I’m not the Jets. With Ivory unlikely to resign with the Jets, Powell may become a priority. I expect Powell to resign with the Jets and earn more carries next season.
As a Pro Bowl reserve, fifth-year defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off his best season. Registering a career-best 12.5 sacks and batting down seven passes, Wilkerson will most likely look for a large contract. You may remember him playing in the fourth quarter of his week 17 game with a broken leg.
Wilkerson has got to be at the top of a crowded Jets free agency board, and I can’t see Wilkerson settling for a hometown discount. Wilkerson opted not to resign with New York during the season, meaning he could be looking for a max deal.
Calvin Pace, an outside linebacker who is just finished his 13th season in the NFL, will probably be forced into retirement. His 2015 season was underwhelming, and sources report that the Jets are not looking to resign the seasoned veteran this spring.
Fresh off of a season with 90 tackles and two sacks, Demario Davis will test his value in free agency. Davis is coming off his fourth season in the NFL, and his previous two were better statistically than that of this season.
Sources say the Jets will move on from the Arkansas State product. Davis won’t receive a huge contract, but he should still be slotted into an NFL team’s linebacker rotation come this fall. To fill the void, the Jets are planning on signing fellow free agent Erin Henderson.
Other New York Free Agents: Damon Harrison, Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Leger Douzable, Darrin Walls, Stevan Ridley, Ben Ijalana, Stephen Bowen, Willie Colon, Jamari Lattimore, Chris Owusu, Kellen Davis, Zach Sudfeld, Ryan Quigley, Kenbrell Thompkins, Randy Bullock
Buffalo Bills, 8-8
The Bills are looking to add a few free agents to propel the team over the 8-8 hump. The biggest names the Bills may attempt to resign are Percy Harvin, Richie Incognito, and Cordy Glenn.
After a rocky first season that even included reports of contemplation of retirement for Percy Harvin, the wide receiver will most likely see a smaller contract than the $4 million he received in his previous deal. The Bills are reportedly “leaving the door open” for Harvin, but it seems like Harvin will really feel out his options before signing a new deal.
Richie Incognito re-birthed his career this season in Buffalo, finding his way to the Pro Bowl. Incognito will be a huge part to the Bills offensive line, and will likely receive a big time deal with whoever he signs with.
The biggest conundrum with Incognito is his age. At age 33, Incognito’s number of seasons left may be numbered. He may not receive more than a two-year deal, but the Bills have expressed that the offensive guard has been prioritized for the Buffalo offseason.
The Bills have another offensive lineman who they’ve also said they’ll prioritize in the left tackle, Cordy Glenn. Glenn has been so dominant that he could find a deal worth upwards of $10M. The Bills want to retain both Glenn and Incognito, and they’ll have to do some major work to fit them and others on the payroll.
Other Buffalo Free Agents: Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Alex Carrington, Corbin Bryant, Chris Hogan, Stefan Charles, Ty Powell, Bacarri Rambo, Jordan Mills, Josh Johnson, MarQueis Gray, Cierre Wood, Leonard Hankerson
Miami Dolphins, 6-10
Miami has a few bigger names that they’ll attempt to resign, and one of those is one of the top running backs available. Lamar Miller is a top three free agent running back, and the Dolphins will do what they can to resign Miller.
Miller has said that he wants to sign with the team that has a scheme that fits his style the best. Multiple coaching changes throughout the season could hurt Miami’s chances of retaining Miller, as he carried the ball less than ten times in six games. Miller will absolutely listen to all offers, so Miami must impress the tailback to get him back in the Sunshine state.
Rishard Matthews was an interesting wide receiver for Miami in 2015. He had tremendous games and huge busts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews back in Miami, but there will be other teams willing to overpay for Matthews due to the lack of available wide receivers. Matthews is a home run threat for any team, and could be valuable for whichever squad rosters him.
Oliver Vernon and Derrick Shelby both battled for playing time as defensive ends in 2015. Vernon, the starter, had 7.5 sacks and 61 tackles in 16 games started this season. Shelby, who started nine games, sacked the opposing quarterback 3.5 times and added two forced fumbles and an interception.
It seems one of the talented defensive ends will be back in Miami next season, but the question is who. Vernon will receive more money, but Shelby proved he could come in a produce for Miami. It’s hard to predict who will go where, but expect one to resign with Miami for next season.
Other Miami Free Agents: Matt Moore, Louis Delmas, Kelvin Sheppard, Michael Thomas, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Stoneburner, Matt Hazel, Ulrick John, Shamiel Gary, Brandon Williams, Shelly Smith, Jacques McClendon, James-Michael Johnson
Check The Game Haus for articles concerning each division’s free agency situation as the week goes on.