AFC East Free Agency Preview

AFC East Free Agency Preview 6

NFL Free Agency Preview

NFL Free Agency PreviewThe following is a 2019 NFL Free Agency breakdown written by Anthony Cervino. Throughout this NFL Free Agency preview, Anthony tries to identify team needs from each and every NFL franchise. He also takes a stab at trying to accurately predict logical landing spots for impending free agents and connect the dots for some surprising moves that we may not see coming.

NFC East Free Agency Preview

Buffalo Bills

Salary Cap Space: $79,082,419

Notable Impending Free Agents:

  • OT Jordan Mills (28)
  • RG John Miller (25)
  • C Ryan Groy (28)
  • WR Deonte Thompson (30)
  • RB Taiwan Jones (30)
  • DE Jordan Phillips (27) — re-signed
  • TE Charles Clay (30) — released
  • CB Lafayette Pitts (26) — RFA
  • TE Logan Thomas (27) — RFA
Team Needs and Potential Fits:

Offensive Line  — The Bills need to protect 2018’s top NFL Draft investment, QB Josh Allen. Once an adequate o-line, the Bills traded away Cordy Glenn and lost Richie Incognito and Eric Wood to retirement last offseason. Those key losses were magnified in 2018 through the Bills’ inefficient running game and shaky quarterback protection. Allen ran for his life, which reflected in his stats. With C Ryan Groy, RG John Miller and OT Jordan Mills expected to reach the open market, look for Buffalo to replenish their talent in both free agency and the draft. Playing in the AFC East, the Bills are familiar with Dolphins free-agent OT Ja’Wuan James, an excellent run and pass blocker, making him a perfect fit for Buffalo.

Wide Receiver — Aside from an inconsistent Zay Jones, most people can’t even name another Bills wideout. That won’t help Josh Allen’s progression entering year-two. Despite late-season pushes from Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, the Bills must bring in much-need help around Allen. The Bills need veteran experience at pass-catcher, which could mean they could target players like Adam Humphries or Devin Funchess once the free agent signing period opens. They could also make a run at Patriots WR Chris Hogan, who played in Buffalo from 2013-2015.

Running Back — The Bills employ two running backs over the age of 30 (LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory) and then there is Marcus Murphy. While Buffalo finished 2018 ranked ninth in total rushing with 1,984 yards, if you take away Josh Allen’s 631 yards on the ground, the team would have likely ended the year as a bottom 10 team in that category. Since the Bills have plenty of veteran experience at the position, they could potentially go younger and take one in the upcoming NFL Draft. As long as the Bills have McCoy, I can’t see them going after one this year’s top free agent backs. Though if they do pursue a Tevin Coleman, Le’Veon Bell or T.J. Yeldon, I’d expect the Bills to move on from Shady in a corresponding move. With nearly $80 million of cap space, they could certainly afford the upgrade.

Miami Dolphins

Salary Cap Space: $6,940,015

Notable Impending Free Agents:

  • RB Frank Gore (35)
  • DE William Hayes (33)
  • DE Andre Branch (30) — released
  • OT Ja’Wuan James (26)
  • WR Danny Amendola (33) — released
  • DE Cameron Wake (37)
  • WR Leonte Carroo (25) — RFA
  • MLB Mike Hull (27)  — RFA
  • C Jake Brendel (26)  — RFA
Team Needs:

Quarterback — Since the Dolphins are shopping Ryan Tannehill, the next logical step is his release if they can’t find a willing trade partner. And because moving on from Tannehill would only leave them with Jake Rudock and Luke Falk, the Dolphins are indeed in the QB business this offseason. While the Dolphins could draft a quarterback early in April’s draft, I also believe they will bring in a veteran to bridge the gap. Look for the Dolphins to pursue capable starters like Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater on the open market. However, another option could be picking up the phone and attempting to acquire Jacoby Brissett from the Colts, who some view, including myself, as a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.

Defensive Line — It seems like new head coach Brian Flores is cleaning house as the Dolphins are likely letting Andre Branch, William Hayes and Cameron Wake walk via the open market. In fact, there are even reports suggesting that the Dolphins are looking to trade away Robert Quinn after one year in Miami. Due to the Patriots connection with Flores, the Dolphins could be one of those teams that heavily pursue Trey Flowers and Jamie Collins in free agency.
Wide Receiver — The Dolphins don’t have a No. 1 wide receiver. In fact, there are some who believe they don’t have a WR2 and their depth chart is full of threes and fours. And although Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson have flashed, they are more of big-play threats than anything else. Look for the Dolphins to add help on the outside in the draft in order to rebuild for the future. But if they do decide to bring in veteran talent, Golden Tate could be in the mix due to his rapport with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell from their days together with the Lions.
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New England Patriots

Salary Cap Space: $16,133,486

Notable Impending Free Agents:

  • P Ryan Allen (29)
  • OT Trent Brown (26)
  • TE Dwayne Allen (29) – released
  • DE Trey Flowers (25)
  • K Stephen Gostkowski (35)
  • RB Jeremy Hill (26)
  • CB Jason McCourty (31)
  • WR Cordarrelle Patterson (29)
  • S Jordan Richards (26)
  • CB Eric Rowe (26)
  • WR Phillip Dorsett (26)
  • WR Chris Hogan (30)
  • DL Danny Shelton (25)
  • DL Malcom Brown (25)
  • CB Jonathan Jones (25) — RFA
  • WR Josh Gordon (27) — RFA
Team Needs:

Wide Receiver — With Josh Gordon’s issues and the fact that Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett and Chirs Hogan are hitting the open market, the Patriots wide receiver corps will look different in 2019. While they don’t have ample cap room, the defending Super Bowl Champions always find a way to make things work. With 12 picks in April’s draft, six of which, in the early rounds, I could see New England making a move there. However, there are quite a few wideouts that could make sense available in free agency. The obvious one is Golden Tate, who has been linked to the Patriots for years. There is also Adam Humphries too, who seems to fit the mold of receiver that the Patriots tend to be attracted to. While both Tate and Humphries could cost $10-$14 million per year, a player like Cole Beasley is another option at a slightly lesser rate. Free agency isn’t the only place the Patriots could look to fill their voids at receiver. With players that include DeVante Parker and John Ross available via trade — the Patriots love to bring in former first-round talent who haven’t really lived up to the hype — plus, the likely scenario in which the Dolphins part ways with Danny Amendola, the Patriots are poised to find the right fit for Josh McDaniel’s offense.

Tight End — Due to the age, injury liabilities and 2018 regression from Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots must find his heir apparent this offseason. And while there is a chance that Gronkowski plays in 2019 — despite playing well in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, Gronkowski is seriously considering retirement for the second straight offseason — there are no guarantees that New England wants him back, especially at his projected 2019 $11.9 million salary cap number. Whether Gronk is with the Patriots or not this season, I believe we will see turnover on their tight end depth chart. Since the Patriots had already released Dwayne Allen, depth will still be an issue even if Gronk is retained. Like I said in the WR blurb, the Patriots have 12 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, which is where I think they will replenish the position… Speaking of the 2019 NFL Draft, all of the draft experts are reporting that the incoming TE prospects will be the best and deepest class that we’ve seen in a long time. In fact, similar to what the Patriots did back in 2010 when they selected both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, I can see them snagging a pair of TEs in the early rounds to set them up for years to come.

Defensive Line — Since DE Trey Flowers, DT Danny Shelton, DT Malcolm Brown and DE John Simon are impending free agents, expect the Patriots to be busy trying to find ways to replace the ones that they let get away. And because they are working with a limited budget — they only have the 19th most cap space in the league — there is a good chance they lose at least two of those names. However, the most significant loss would also end up being the most likely loss in the form of Flowers. While the Patriots could have placed the franchise tag on him, they are instead letting Flowers test, and likely sign elsewhere via the open market. An up and coming star coming off of a 7.5-sack, championship campaign, Flowers could break the bank in free agency. Although they will likely use one or two of their 12 draft picks to revamp their defensive line, the Patriots could also try to find value in free agency. Since the Patriots enjoy bringing in known commodities from their division rivals, they could look to pick-pocket the Dolphins who appear to be blowing up their defense as pass rushers Williams Hayes, Cameron Wake and Andre Branch are all available on the open market and north of the age of 30. They could also look to acquire longtime Panthers OLB Thomas Davis, who intends to resume his playing career at the age of 36 or the recently released Jamie Collins, whom the Patriots traded to the Browns back in 2016. However, unless Collins is willing to give the Patriots a discount, landing him might be nothing more than a pipe dream.

Notable Additions:
  • DE Michael Bennett — acquired with a seventh-round pick in 2020 in exchange for a fith-round pick in 2020

New York Jets

Salary Cap Space: $95,832,575

Notable Impending Free Agents:

  • DT Henry Anderson (28)
  • G James Carpenter (30)
  • QB Josh McCown (39)
  • DL Steve McLendon (33)
  • K Jason Myers (27)
  • CB Morris Claiborne (29)
  • RB Bilal Powell (30)
  • CB Buster Skrine (29)
  • WR Rishard Matthews (29)
  • WR Jermaine Kearse (29)
  • WR Andre Roberts (31)
  • CB Darryl Roberts (28)
  • TE Neal Sterling (27)
  • WR Robby Anderson (25)  — RFA
  • TE Eric Tomlinson (26) — RFA
  •  TE Clive Walford (27) — RFA
Team Needs:

Pass Rusher — The Jets have a ton of cap space, the second-most in the NFL to be exact. Consequentially, they also have a laundry list of needs. None more important than a glaring need for effective pass rushers. Finishing 2018 ranked tied for 16th in the league in sacks (39), the Jets must find a way to apply pressure to terrorize enemy QBs and disrupt the line of scrimmage, especially since Henry Anderson, who led the Jets in sacks last season (7.0) is an impending free agent. Although the top two free-agent edge rushers — Jadeveon Clowney and Demarcus Lawrence — have already been hit with the franchise tag by their respective clubs, there are still quite a few highly-productive ones to be had. While Anthony Barr and Ezekiel Ansah could work, they have been playing in 4-3 base systems while the Jets run a base 3-4. The sleeper name that I love for the Jets is Za’Darius Smith. Not only is Smith coming off a breakout year in which he accumulated 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss, but the Ravens and Jets run a similar 3-4 style defense. While Smith will likely be looking to break the bank, the Jets could certainly afford to pay him as long as they don’t go out there and squander their money.

Running Back — While Elijah McGuire had flashed at the end of the 2018 season once he began handling a high double-digit touch per game workload, I am not sure the Jets will commit to him as their every-down back. And due to the uncertainty surrounding Isaiah Crowell’s future — the Jets are expected to release Crowell, who failed to surpass 49 yards rushing in 10-of-13 games last season — plus the fact that longtime Jets PPR back Bilal Powell is a 30-year-old free agent, the Jets are primed to add a rusher in free agency or the draft. While Le’Veon Bell has been linked to the Jets for some time now, reports out of the combine suggest that they will target a second tier back and pay up for an edge rusher instead. The best tier two backs available are Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman. And although Ingram has made it known that he’ like to stay in New Orleans, the Falcons are unlikely to retain Coleman, who could be awarded a featured role if he signs in New York. Other names to watch for the Jets are T.J. Yeldon, who could replace Powell in the PPR role, or Latavius Murray, who is a similar short-yardage banger as Crowell.

Offensive Line — The Jets have some offensive pieces in place for a quick turnaround in a weak AFC East — not talking about the Patriots here people so relax. The Jets also invested a top-five pick in Sam Darnold in last year’s draft. In order for any of these assets to work and develop into an effective offense, they must have a strong presence along their offensive line in place. That wasn’t the case last season as PFF ranked New York’s front five as the seventh worst in the league. While the Jets will likely target young studs in the draft, there are also reports suggesting that they will make a serious run at the highly coveted Rams guard Rodger Saffold, who if you’ve read this article in its entirety, you’ve seen his name a lot. He might be my favorite offensive lineman in this year’s free agent class.

Notable Additions:
  • WR Deontay Burnett — re-signed to a one-year deal
  • QB Davis Webb — re-signed to a one-year deal

 

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Anthony Cervino

Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don't hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.

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