Free Agency – the story so far…. (part 2)

In the NFC the Eagles and Saints have been making the big headlines. Things are equally dramatic in the AFC, especially in an Eastern division that has been dominated by Tom Brady and the Patriots for a generation:

AFC East

  • The Bills made a bold move by bringing in Rex Ryan as head coach. If the new owners wanted to make a splash, then Rex is the master. On the opening day of Free Agency Rex set Twitter on fire with the McCoy/Alonso trade. FB Jerome Felton and WR Percy Harvin makes the offence more dynamic, although Rex is still showing little interest in Quarterbacks – the Bills have an uninspiring 3-way competition between EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor, which is unlikely to get the fanbase too excited. Re-signing Jerry Hughes was a big move though, and if they get Charles Clay in from the Dolphins, this will be an interesting season for the Bills.
  • The Dolphins spent some cash!! $114 million to be exact, now lining the pockets of one Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins defence was excellent last season, and can expect to be even more dominant this year with Suh lining up alongside Cameron Wake. However, they had to ship a lot out the door to afford him, including dumping money drains Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace. They’ve made some nice trades and pick ups to rebuild the offence since though, with Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron looking like good deals.
  • The Patriots had a lot to think about following their Superbowl victory – especially in the secondary. The result was a big new deal for Safety Devin McCourty, but big name Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner departed. Belichick also allowed Shane Vereen and Vince Wilfork to leave Foxborough, but then made a raft of low key acquisitions, which is typically Patriot-like. Expect Scott Chandler and Jabaal Sheard to be key pieces this season.
  • The Jets are starting anew (or in some eyes rolling back the years) with their off-season acquisitions. Reuniting the defensive cornerstones of the 2011 season, CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie return, and ILB David Harris was re-signed. The new management team continued to rebuild, with a trade for Brandon Marshall on offence, and the pick up of slot corner Buster Skrine.

AFC North

  • The Ravens have quietly allowed some big names out the door this off-season. Haloti Ngata was traded away, while Pernell McPhee, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Owen Daniels all moved on. They did decide to re-sign 2014 surprise package Justin Forsett.
  • The Bengals too have been quiet, bringing in experienced ILB AJ Hawk from the Packers, and bringing DE Michael Johnson home after a poor year in Tampa. They have a long list of Free Agents, all of whom look to be out the door.
  • The Browns have been typically chaotic, trading for QB Josh McCown in an effort to provide veteran stability and a mentor for the disappointing Johnny Football. The additions of veterans Randy Starks and Tramon Williams will patch up the holes that were left when Jabaal Sheard and Buster Skrine left, but the loss of Jordan Cameron leaves their offence looking very lightweight – the pick up of Brian Hartline is fooling no-one that the Browns desperately need help out wide.
  • The Steelers tied Big Ben down to a long term deal, and brought in veteran RB DeAngelo Williams to support breakout star LeVeon Bell. They’ve lost a lot of experience on defence though, not least the evergreen DC Dick LeBeau. Question marks remain whether Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Brett Kiesel will return, and Jason Worrilds shocked Steeler-nation by announcing early retirement for a career in religion.

AFC South

  • The Texans are still in rebuilding mode as Bill O’Brien starts his 2nd year. Question marks at Quarterback continue, as Brian Hoyer signed on to battle Ryan Mallett for the main job. The defence is expected to be as solid as ever, adding Bronco Safety Rahim Moore. Meanwhile superstar JJ Watt should enjoy having big Vince Wilfork alongside him in the D line. They finally cut ties with the malcontent Andre Johnson, but found another veteran reciever in Cecil Shorts to replace him.
  • The Colts have an ambitious and aggressive GM in Ryan Grigson, and it looks like they’re going all out to get Andrew Luck to the big show. They cut their losses with Trent Richardson, and brought in the evergreen Frank Gore to show Richardson how the job is supposed to be done. The acquisition of Andre Johnson meant that there was no place for Colts legend Reggie Wayne, nor the Hakeem Nicks experiment.
  • The Jaguars have made some bold moves already, bringing in premier TE Julius Thomas, and spending some big money on Jared Odrick from the Dolphins, Dan Skuta from the 49ers and Jermey Parnell from the Cowboys. They’ll want to spend some more of their cap space in the coming weeks, but will expect to have to pay a premium to persuade players to join such a massive rebuilding project.
  • The Titans are in a similar position to the Jags, in that they’ve struggled so long, its a difficult sell to get big name players to sign up. They threw a ton of money at homegrown OLB Derrick Morgan, and then even more to bring in Perrish Cox, Brian Orakpo and Da-Norris Searcy. The offence remains a problem though, adding only WR Harry Douglas and TE Anthony Fasano.

AFC West

  • The Broncos managed to get Peyton to agree to a paycut, but it wasn’t enough to keep Julius Thomas in the house. With Terrance Knighton and Rahim Moore also out the door, the Broncos will be relieved they franchise tagged Demaryius Thomas when they had the chance. New HC Gary Kubiak brings with him TE pal Owen Daniels, who is expected to line up alongside the re-signed Virgil Green in several 2-Tight End packages this season.
  • The Chiefs didn’t see a WR hit the end zone in 2014, and as a result said goodbye to former star Dwayne Bowe. Their 2015 efforts will now ride on former Eagle Jeremy Maclin. Star pass rusher Justin Houston got the franchise tag, but they lost a good center when Rodney Hudson signed for the Raiders.
  • The Raiders, as expected, have been very active in Free Agency. Reggie McKenzie does not have the best track record of recruiting outside of the draft, and despite picking up decent additions in Rodney Hudson & Roy Helu, they’ve continued to bring in unpopular players from around the league – such as Christian Ponder and Trent Richardson. The new look Raiders were wise though to move on from Darren McFadden, LeMarr Woodley and Matt Schaub.
  • The Chargers are a lock to pick up a new running back in the draft, after letting Ryan Mathews leave San Diego. The Chargers also refreshed their wide men, with veterans Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson coming in, to replace the Chicago bound Eddie Royal. Tying down CB Brandon Flowers to a long term deal is likely to be one of their best off-season moves.

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