For the past few weeks, there have been loads of speculation and rumors on what is going to happen once the league year starts March 18. The media has discussed what happened between Tom Brady and the Patriots, how the Miami Dolphins will spend their $93 million, what is next for the up and coming Buffalo Bills, and what could Joe Douglas do to help Sam Darnold. But no one has talked about what teams shouldn’t do this offseason. It is important to note what teams shouldn’t do this offseason if they want to fulfill their mission of either becoming a playoff team/Super Bowl contender or start their rebuild correctly. This is a list of what AFC East teams shouldn’t do this offseason.
Buffalo Bills: Not spending their money in house
The Buffalo Bills are ahead of schedule as far as how good they are as a team right now. In Josh Allen’s second season as a starter, first playing all 16 games, the Bills made the playoffs at 10-6. The Bills lost in the wild card round in a very close game with the Houston Texans, and are expected to make the playoffs next year with the roster they have. On top of that, the Bills came into free agency $78.4 million in salary-cap space to add to their roster. The Bills don’t have any major holes in their roster. Positions they could look to address are primary edge rusher, outside linebacker, a change of pace running back to go with Devin Singletary and the Bills could look to add another tight end.
Buffalo can go spend happy and then address their needs in the draft to build a contender for next season. However, next offseason the Bills will have multiple foundational players hitting free agency. Those players include starting linebacker Matt Milano, left tackle Dion Dawkins and shutdown corner Tre’Davious White. The Bills currently have $118.5 million in the 2021 offseason. It is not realistic for the Bills to have that amount when the 2021 offseason begins, but the Bills must make sure they have enough to extend their own players. Based off projections right now Matt Milano will make about $12 million a year, Dion Dawkins will make around $15 million a year and Tre’Davious White could become the highest paid cornerback in football and make around $17 million a year. White’s contract is projected to get extended after Byron Jones reset the market at $16.5 million.
If the Bills want to extend all of these players they will likely be looking at least $44 million per year that they will need to make sure they have room for after they spend this offseason. This shouldn’t be a difficult task for the Bills to do. They are not being asked to save all their cap for in house players, but to reserve enough to keep the team in a competitive position for multiple years rather than just next season.
Miami Dolphins: Rush the rebuild by overpaying players that do not fit
The Dolphins have fully committed to rebuilding their team. They have traded Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil for multiple first-round picks and have $96 million in salary-cap space. The Dolphins are far from a playoff team, they need to figure out quarterback, running back, left tackle and fill some holes on defense. The Dolphins should be able to address some of those needs as soon as this offseason. Already this offseason, the Dolphins made a splash by signing Erik Flowers and Shaq Lawson both to three-year $30 million deals. They also made Byron Jones the highest-paid cornerback in football to give the Dolphins one of the better secondaries and signed former Patriot linebacker Kyle Van Noy among other players. The first two address needs at guard and edge rusher and are low-risk high-reward deals. These are great signings for a team looking for a fresh start.
The Dolphins’ last huge free agency brought them Ndamukong Suh, Mike Wallace and Jordan Cameron. None of which reached expectations. Chris Grier and Brian Flores need to take this offseason with patience and fill as many voids as possible with young players that fit their rebuild and culture. They should avoid overpaying, unless it is a sure bet that that player will be a huge piece to the Dolphins future. The Dolphins should also save some salary for next offseason and address needs with their multiple draft picks. The Dolphins cannot rebuild their team overnight and will need some time to build this team in the image that they imagine it could look like.
New England Patriots: Panicking
The biggest story of the 2019-20 NFL season and offseason is Tom Brady’s impending free agency. He will be a free agent for the first time in his 20 year career. The New England Patriots might actually start feeling the pressure now that Tom Brady is going to leave. This is the first time in 20 years the Patriots have a real question mark at the quarterback position.
The Patriots opened the offseason by surprisingly franchise tagging Joe Thuney. That could be have been to combat the Chargers trading for Trai Turner and showing Brady that they are invested in protecting him. It could have been the Patriots trying to keep their offensive line together, because their long time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has retired and the unit has done very well together.
The Patriots have also retained defensive leader Devin McCourty, which is huge for the locker room now without Brady. They should remember Brady did not have a great year, they relied on their committee of running backs and elite defense to get them to the playoffs. The Patriots should have a contingency plan in place to sign Jameis Winston or trade for Andy Dalton or Cam Newton to start for them next season. It is not easy following an all-time great, but someone will have to do it in 2020. The Patriots should also have a young quarterback in place whether they are confident of Jarrett Stidham or draft a quarterback early this year to be the future of the team. It is unsure how long Bill Belichick will be running things in New England, but regardless of how long he is there he must use the most efficient ways possible to settle the quarterback position. If they do, as crazy as it sounds, the Patriots might still be Super Bowl contender in 2020.
New York Jets: Stay Conservative about addressing their Offensive Line needs
As crazy as it sounds the Jets didn’t have a terrible year. They went 7-9 under a dysfunctional head coach and their starting quarterback did miss four games because he got sick with mono. If Sam Darnold didn’t get sick, the Jets might’ve been the no. 6 seed instead of the Tennessee Titans this past year. Darnold did end up having a rough season, even though the Jets did go out and get Le’Veon Bell for him. That was because of the lack of top-end receivers and offensive line to protect Darnold. New general manager Joe Douglas has told the media that he plans on addressing the offensive line this offseason in free agency and the draft.
Now the Jets are not one or two offensive lineman away, they need four legitimate new offensive line starters. The only starter who should return in 2020 is third-round pick swing tackle Chuma Edoga. A few hours into the tampering period the Jets lost out on Jack Conklin, Ereck Flowers, Hal Vaitai and Graham Glasgow who signed with other teams. Also, Brandon Scherf and Joe Thuney did receive the franchise tag and will stay with their respective teams. The offensive line market, though very top-heavy isn’t extremely deep. At this point, the Jets should do everything in their power to sign another second-tier offensive lineman like Andrus Peat, Ron Leary, Daryl Williams or Cam Erving to go along with new left tackle George Fant and new starting center Connor McGovern. If they can grab another offensive lineman in free agency then draft one in the first round Darnold will finally be in a position to make big plays to his receivers. After ‘solidifying’ their tackles by adding George Fant, the Jets could look to draft a wide receiver in the first round rather than an offensive lineman unless they feel that one of the top tackles can play guard at the next level like Tristan Wirfs. A key thing to pay attention to is which big-name offensive free agents, if any, sign with the Jets. If none do it might have to do more with Adam Gase still coaching the team rather than Joe Douglas’ ability to bring in talent.