AFC East Team Needs
- Quarterback – Chad Henne is set to become a free agent, as is backup JP Losman. Neither are expected to return which leaves Miami with undrafted free agent Pat Devlin and incumbent starter Matt Moore heading into next season. The Dolphins definitely need to add a starting-caliber player as although Moore played decent this season, he’s not a long-term solution and probably a true developmental guy as Devlin hasn’t shown much. Expect Miami to heavily pursue Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn in free agency and it would be a shocker if they didn’t get one of them. If they get Peyton, I believe they should double up on a QB early in the draft like Brandon Weeden or Kirk Cousins on day 2 as they are a bit more NFL ready than guys like Osweiler and Foles and Peyton’s health is uncertain to say the least. If they get Flynn, he should be a more long-term solution and going with a late-round developmental guy like B.J. Coleman or Ryan Lindley makes sense in the 4th-6th round range. If they don’t get either of them, Ryan Tannehill at 8/9 becomes a real possibility given his college coach is Miami’s offensive coordinator.
- Pass rusher – Miami is supposedly switching to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 look but with Kevin Coyle’s experience all pretty much coming from a 4-3 defense, I expect them to be positioning themselves to make the full switch in that direction. Either way, with Jason Taylor’s retirement, Cameron Wake is the only legitimate pass rushing threat this team has. They need to add a combo DE/OLB type of player in order to take some double and triple teams off of Wake. One note is that Ireland has never signed or drafted a DE/OLB shorter than 6’3″. That means guys like Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw won’t even be in the discussion for them. With Miami likely sinking their money into a free agent QB, its doubtful they’ll be able to afford a top pass rusher via free agency like Cliff Avril or Mario Williams. It seems much more likely they draft someone in the first few rounds with Quinton Coples, Andre Branch, and Chandler Jones being three guys that seem like good fits.
- Right side of the offensive line – Starting right tackle Marc Colombo was downright awful last year and should be allowed to walk via free agency. Vernon Carey is also a free agent but Sparano and his staff never seemed overly high on him and I suspect he’ll be walking as well. Miami likes Nate Garner, John Jerry, and Lydon Murtha and all of them have played well in stretches. I think they will look to add one definite starter at either RT, RG, or LG (current LG Richie Incognito has experience playing RG and many believe he’s actually a more natural fit there) and allow Garner, Jerry, and Murtha to battle it out for the other starting job. One option could be drafting one of the top OTs in this draft at 8/9 as all of Reiff, Martin, and Adams could be quality RTs and provide injury protection for Jake Long. There are a number of quality offensive lineman in the free agent market as well this season and they could look to acquire a starter there as well.
- Safety – Starting strong safety Yeremiah Bell had another solid season but many believe that he will be a cap casualty as he enters the last year of his deal. If he is released, Miami will be left with three safeties that have all had enough playing time to claim a starting job and none of them showed enough to justify being the long-term solution. To be fair, Chris Clemons, Rashad Jones, and Tyrone Culver are probably all better suited to play strong safety than free safety so its possible one of them could emerge as a long-term solution on the strongside if Bell was released but that still leaves a hole at free safety. One player that makes sense is Reggie Nelson who spent last season with the Bengals and had now Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle as his position coach. Nelson had, by far, the best season of his career and could be looking to play for his old coach again.
- Offensive playmaker – Brandon Marshall isn’t going anywhere and his Pro Bowl performance has many in Miami giddy to see him next season but the fact is, he’s never played anywhere near that well in Miami (granted he’s never played a meaningless game where they aren’t playing defense either). That being said, Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline are nice players but none of them strike fear into opposing defenses. Miami needs to add someone that can stretch defenses to open things up underneath for Bush/Thomas in the screen game and all those aforementioned players to run their short/intermediate routes, which is what they are best at. Hartline has some ability to get deep, Miami was hoping Clyde Gates could add that element to the offense but he’s proven very raw and needs a lot more development. Adding someone like Kendall Wright at 8/9 could be a huge lift for this offense. If not him, grabbing a Coby Fleener in the second round would bring a new dimension to the TE position that Miami hasn’t had since Randy McMichael’s early career.Other needs: Nickel corner, perhaps a DT/DE if Langford and Soliai leave via free agency, linebacker depth, a blocking fullback if Sherman’s offense calls for one, and RB depth as Bush is entering his contract year and the other backups are free agents.
Other needs: Nickel corner, perhaps a DT/DE if Langford and Soliai leave via free agency, linebacker depth, a blocking fullback if Sherman’s offense calls for one, and RB depth as Bush is entering his contract year and the other backups are free agents.
New England Patriots
- Pass rusher – New England played a lot of base 4-3 last year and it remains to be seen if they stick with that going forward or move back to their traditional 3-4 but either way, they need to add a pass rusher or two. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson both managed to get double digit sacks for them but neither player was really overly dominant and both are free agents that may try to cash in elsewhere. Belichick is another guy that seems to have size requirements on his DEs as he likes tall, long DE/OLB types. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to retain Anderson but with Carter coming off an injury, I doubt they bring him back. Looking to the draft, there are a number of players that seem to fit their mold that could be available in that tail end of the first like Andre Branch, Nick Perry, and Whitney Mercilus. There is also value in the second and third round at the position with guys like Chandler Jones, Cam Johnson and Jake Bequette. New England is also a team that you can never rule out pulling a surprise and Mario Williams is a name I’d keep in mind as they have the cap space to make a move for him.
- Wide Receiver – Wes Welker, Matt Slater, and Deion Branch are free agents. I expect them to tag Welker if they can’t lock him up long-term but the rest of their WR corps needs to be evaluated and upgraded. Gronk and Hernandez were super productive, yes, but a large reason they were relied on so heavily is because of how weak the WR corps is. Their Super Bowl drops are well documented by this point and New England needs to add some youth and talent. One guy that I consistently find myself pointing to is Joe Adams from Arkansas who I think is a perfect fit for the Patriots system.
- Secondary – New England has spent many high draft picks on the corner and safety positions lately and they still haven’t found many answers. Devin McCourty had a major sophomore slump and outside of Pat Chung, there isn’t really a player that deserves a guaranteed starting position. Chung will lock down one of the S spots but he’s best suited to play SS so New England would be smart to add a starting free safety via free agency or the draft. They could also probably stand to use yet another high pick on a CB and hope that two guys can emerge and be legitimate NFL starters.
- Interior line – New England has their bookend tackles in Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. They also really like Marcus Cannon who may be able to kick inside to OG but starting center Dan Koppen missed the season and is a free agent, Logan Mankins had a down year by his standards, playing particularly poor in the playoffs/Super Bowl, and Brian Waters started out good but was really nothing special so adding a versatile interior lineman that can play all three spots like Ben Jones, Kevin Zeitler, or Peter Konz should be high on the priority list.
- Versatile defensive lineman – New England needs to add a combo 3-4 DE/4-3 DT type of player to the defensive line in addition to the exterior pass rusher listed above. Since trading Richard Seymour they’ve lacked that second presence on the DL to pair with Wilfork. Shaun Ellis was solid in that role this season but he’s a free agent and isn’t getting any younger. A mid/late day two guy like local Kendall Reyes or Billy Winn could make sense.
Other Needs: Kick returner if Slater departs, number three TE, LB depth
New York Jets
- Pass rusher – The Jets’ leading sacker last season was Aaron Maybin with six sacks. Maybin appears to be turning his career around but he’s still no better than a third down specialist. Starter Bryan Thomas is a free agent that many don’t expect to be back due to age. Calvin Pace is coming off a down year and is entering the final year of his deal. Grabbing a pass rusher with their first pick has to be on their mind and if Courtney Upshaw falls to them, they should pull the trigger. I also like Bruce Irvin as a good fit for the Jets on day two.
- Wide Receiver – Derrick Mason didn’t work out and Plaxico Burress is probably going to look for a job elsewhere. The Jets are married to Santonio Holmes but they will need to find someone to replace him on the other side. Given how much the lack of character blew up in their face this year, they may pass up on Michael Floyd in the first round but he’s a great fit for Plax’s replacement. Vincent Jackson is a free agent that would also be a nice fit.
- Right tackle – Wayne Hunter was the worst starting RT in the league last year and Vlad Ducasse has shown nothing to prove he can be a starter in the NFL. Look for the Jets to scour the free agent market for a potential starting RT with guys like Kareem McKenzie (former Jet) and Marc Colombo (Sparano favorite) available in free agency.
- Safety – Starting safeties Brodney Pool and Jim Leonhard are both free agents and both are coming off injury-plagued and ineffective campaigns overall. I’d expect Leonhard to be back because he’s on of Rex Ryan’s guys but I expect them to be on the lookout for a new starting FS.
- Quarterback – I know the Jets aren’t going to just give up on Sanchez but he’s shown little to prove that he’s really deserving of another season without at least being pushed for the starting job. Backups Kevin O’Connell and Mark Brunell are free agents and Brunell should retire and O’Connell has really done nothing to prove he’s even a worthy backup anymore. They like Greg McElroy who they drafted last year but they should look to acquire a veteran backup that could actually give Sanchez a run for his money as the starter. One guy that wouldn’t shock me is Chad Henne as his former coach Tony Sparano is now their offensive coordinator.
Other needs: If Sione Pouha leaves via free agency NT becomes a major need, RB could be a major need depending on if this season has soured them on some of their guys, Rumors of Bart Scott maybe being cut could make ILB a need, Kicker Nick Folk is also a free agent so he will either need to be retained or replaced.
- Pass Rusher – Just like all the other AFC East teams, the Bills desperately need a pass rusher. The Bills are reportedly moving back to a 4-3 defense with Dave Wannstedt taking over as defensive coordinator. They have a bunch of nice players that will fit his scheme well inside but Chris Kelsay is the only guy they have as a good fit to start at DE. Merriman would be a good fit but his injuries seem to be continually piling up and he can’t be counted on. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are actually both great fits from New England and they could pursue those two. Some guys early in the draft that make sense are Whitney Mercilus, Andre Branch, and Bruce Irvin.
- Wide receiver – Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish are free agents and even if Johnson returns, they still need an upgrade at the starting spot opposite him where David Nelson and the depth are all nice players but none of them are really number two receivers.
- Offensive line – Starting left tackle Demetrius Bell is a free agent and if he leaves, they’ll need a replacement. Even if he returns, the Bills have five serviceable starters but none of them really jump out at you as stars and they could use a stud lineman that would be the leader of the line.
- Tight End – Scott Chandler had a breakout year but he’s a free agent and there is no depth behind him.
- Cornerback – Aaron Williams had a promising rookie season but Leodis McKelvin has found himself playing purely special teams, Drayton Florence is a career backup/nickel/dime back, and Terrence McGee doesn’t look like he has much of anything left in the tank.
Other needs: They just gave Fitz a huge contract but the end of the season has to at least provide some doubts as to whether he can be the long-term solution at QB so a developmental guy could make sense