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Free Agency Preview: AFC East News and Notes

Following the NFL scouting combine, the league’s focus shifts to free agency, a pivotal time for teams to enhance their rosters by acquiring veteran talent. This phase is crucial for teams, including those in the AFC East — New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets — as they seek to strengthen their lineups and become serious contenders.

 

Free Agency Preview: AFC East News and Notes
Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills | Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

This year’s free agent pool is brimming with talent, particularly in pass rushing, although many teams may use their franchise tags to retain their leading edge rushers. Additionally, there’s a substantial selection of wide receivers, defensive backs and running backs available, contributing to what promises to be one of the most frenzied initial waves of free agency seen in recent times.

The free agency period begins with the new NFL league year on Wednesday, March 13, after 4 p.m. ET. This marks the expiration of last season’s contracts and the start of the 2024 calendar. This moment also allows for the finalization of trades previously agreed upon. The activity during this time is intense, with rosters undergoing significant changes as teams strategically navigate the market to address their needs.

Buffalo Bills

Notable free agents: Micah Hyde (S), Leonard Floyd (EDGE), DaQuan Jones (IDL), Gabriel Davis (WR), Tyrel Dodson (LB)

Due to financial constraints, Buffalo may not be active in free agency. Still, GM Brandon Beane has options to free up space, such as extending left tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Taron Johnson, who will become free agents in 2025.

Beane could also consider releasing safety Jordan Poyer and cornerback Tre’Davious White after June 1, saving $5.7 million and $10.2 million, respectively.

The Bills have several valuable players approaching free agency, including the older yet impactful Hyde and Floyd. After a standout season alongside Terrel Bernard, linebacker Dodson is poised for a significant payday while Davis stands out as one of the better available wide receivers.

With the Bills working to fit under the salary cap, these prominent free agents may hit the market, offering other teams a chance to significantly strengthen their rosters. If all goes well, their Vegas betting odds of +1100 to win the Super Bowl could be a steal.

Miami Dolphins

Notable free agents: Christian Wilkins (IDL), Connor Williams (C), Robert Hunt (RG), Emmanuel Ogbah (EDGE), DeShon Elliott (S)

Like the Bills, Miami is bound by financial constraints with -$28.5 million in cap space. The Dolphins might need to let some players enter free agency. Still, retaining Christian Wilkins should be a priority; he ranks among the top 10 available if he hits the market.

The offensive line faces potential losses, with proven starters Williams and Hunt a challenge to keep. Safety Elliott, another established starter, will likely draw interest from other teams. Miami’s focus should be on securing both Wilkins and Williams.

Financially, the Dolphins are starting to make headway after releasing cornerback Xavien Howard, but more difficult choices loom. GM Chris Grier faces the dilemma of extending quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to reduce his $23.1 million cap hit or releasing linebacker Jerome Baker for a $9.8 million savings.

Miami is at a crossroads with no simple solutions, especially with star defensive tackle Wilkins approaching free agency. With no clear path to sustained success, the Dolphins’ NFL odds of +2200 to win the Super Bowl feel right.

 

 

New England Patriots

Notable free agents: Kyle Dugger (S), Trent Brown (LT), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Hunter Henry (TE), Myles Bryant (CB)

With over $100 million in cap space, the Patriots are poised for an exciting offseason. Dugger is a critical retention target on a team in need of upgrades. Brown, at 30, remains a valuable left tackle when fit and Bryant is emerging as a critical player in the slot.

Beyond Dugger, the Patriots‘ free agent class lacks standout stars, prompting them to be proactive as free agency commences.

The Patriots’ offseason revolves around deciding whether to franchise tag safety Duggar or guard Michael Onwenu. Following these decisions, the team must focus on offensive enhancements through free agency and the draft, leveraging their substantial cap space.


The Patriots are also in a position to add a receiver to complement young Demario Douglas and to seek a veteran quarterback as a potential successor to Mac Jones.

New York Jets

Notable free agents: Jordan Whitehead (S), Chuck Clark (S), Mekhi Becton (RT), Quinton Jefferson (IDL), Duane Brown (LT), Connor McGovern (C), Bryce Huff (EDGE)

Should Whitehead and Clark, proven starters in their mid-20s, depart, the Jets face crucial decisions in free agency, especially at the safety position. Tackles Becton and Brown, rare commodities in a tackle-scarce league, are also hitting the market. Becton’s value is particularly intriguing due to his injury history. Additionally, Jefferson’s versatility on the defensive line is an asset many teams will find attractive.

GM Joe Douglas is under pressure this offseason to make judicious choices. Douglas must refrain from further missteps following last year’s aggressive moves, including the Aaron Rodgers trade and signings of receivers Mecole Hardman and Allen Lazard.

The Jets need to focus on their offensive line, improving both tackle and guard positions, and aim to retain edge rusher Bryce Huff, who impressed with 10 sacks in 2023. However, financial and strategic constraints mean that not all players can be retained.

 

 

Questions of the Day

Who has the best NFL betting odds to win the Super Bowl


The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs have the same odds at BetUS Sportsbook to win the Super Bowl at +600.

What are Alvin Karmara’s free agency odds?


If Alvin Kamara does not stay with the Saints, the odds suggest a good bet online is for him to join the Ravens (+200), Cowboys (+400) or Bills (+500).

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