That said, things are changing quickly.
This division is growing increasingly more competitive and this offseason is no exception. After their emergence last season, the Miami Dolphins have made moves that will keep them in the playoff conversation. Meanwhile, The New York Jets are on the verge of adding a Hall of Fame quarterback into the fray. Yeah, it’s been a doozy of an offseason and we haven’t even hit the NFL Draft.
With the first waves of free agency now behind us, let’s run down what each team in the division has done thus far and hand out our grades.
Buffalo Bills: B
Additions: WR Deonte Harty (Saints), QB Kyle Allen (Texans), WR Trent Sherfield (Dolphins), C Greg Mancz (Vikings), RB Damien Harris (Patriots), RG Connor McGovern (Cowboys), RG David Edwards (Rams)
Re-signings: LB Matt Milano, S Jordan Poyer, RB Nyheim Hines, IDL Tim Settle, LB Tyler Matakevich, RG David Quessenberry, P Sam Martin, RG Ike Boettger, LB Tyrel Dodson, CB Cam Lewis, CB Dane Jackson
Departures: QB Case Keenum (Texans), LB Tremaine Edmunds (Bears), WR Isaiah McKenzie (Colts), WR Jamison Crowder (Colts), RT Justin Murray (Raiders), RB Devin Singletary (Texans), S Jaquan Johnson (Raiders), TE Tommy Sweeney (Giants)
Buffalo’s most important moves this offseason came by way of retaining talent that was already on the roster. The team extended Matt Milano and surprisingly was able to bring back star safety Jordan Poyer as well. Poyer seemed to be a likely candidate to leave once he hit the open market, so being able to keep a player of his caliber was a major coup for a Bills team that boasts a Super Bowl-caliber roster. The biggest hit came on the defensive side of the ball with Tremaine Edmunds inking a deal with the Bears, leaving a notable hole at the off-ball linebacker position.
Offensively, Damien Harris could be the type of running back that this backfield has been longing for quite some time. The former Patriot gives Buffalo the ability to dictate pace late in games and should allow them to churn down the clock to better put teams away. He’ll be a solid complement to James Cook and Nyheim Hines.
Miami Dolphins: B+
Additions: CB Jalen Ramsey (trade with Rams), WR Braxton Berrios (Jets), P Jake Bailey (Patriots), LG Dan Feeney (Jets), QB Mike White (Jets), EDGE Malik Reed (Steelers), TE Eric Saubert (Broncos), S DeShon Elliott (Lions), WR Freddie Swain (Broncos), LB David Long Jr. (Titans), S Taylor Rapp (Rams)
Re-signings: CB Nik Needham, LB Duke Riley, RB Raheem Mostert, LT Geron Christian, CB Justin Bethel, LT Kendall Lamm, RB Jeff Wilson, WR River Cracraft, RB Salvon Ahmed, CB Elijah Campbell, FB John Lovett, EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel, RB Myles Gaskin
Departures: TE Mike Gesicki (Patriots), LB Elandon Roberts (Steelers), P Thomas Morstead (Jets), IDL John Jenkins (Raiders), TE Hunter Long (Rams), WR Trent Sherfield (Bills), C Michael Deiter (Texans)
The Dolphins made some savvy moves throughout this offseason after being major players a year ago. While there hasn’t been much major spending, they were able to make their splash by striking a trade for former Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Inserting him into the secondary over recently released corner Byron Jones (who missed all of last year), will give them a tremendous boost and a great one-two punch at the position with Xavien Howard. David Long Jr. is another intriguing addition to the linebacker unit.
Offensively, Miami was able to keep its backfield intact by re-signing Mostert and Jeff Wilson, but that unit could still use some more talent to raise its ceiling. The most notable departure also came on offensive with tight end Mike Gesicki, but his loss may not be as dire as his name vale may suggest as he did not seem to mesh within Mike McDaniel’s offense.
It’s also important to point out that the Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option for Tua Tagovailoa.
New England Patriots: B-
Additions: TE Mike Gesicki (Dolphins), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Chiefs), RT Riley Reiff (Bears), LT Calvin Anderson (Broncos), LB Chris Board (Lions), RB James Robinson (Jets), P Corliss Waitman (Broncos)
Re-signings: CB Jonathan Jones, WR Matthew Slater, S Cody Davis, S Jabrill Peppers, IDL Carl Davis, IDL Daniel Ekuale, LB Raekwon McMillan, LS Joe Cardona, LG James Ferentz, LT Yodny Cajuste, CB Myles Bryant, LB Mack Wilson, TE Scotty Washington
Departures: TE Jonnu Smith (trade with Falcons), Nelson Agholor (Ravens), WR Jakobi Meyers (Raiders), P Jake Bailey (Dolphins), RB Damien Harris (Bills), S Devin McCourty (retirement)
New England added some high-upside players, but there hasn’t really been that home-run swing that firmly puts them in the conversation to win this division. The addition of JuJu Smith-Schuster has the potential to be an upgrade over Jakobi Meyers — who has signed with the Raiders — but it is a roll of the dice for Bill Belichick. The addition of James Robinson was also a bit head-scratching even with the departure of Damien Harris. Running back is one of the team’s deepest positions, so it’ll be interesting to see where Robinson factors in. Tight end Mike Gesicki could end up being the best addition of the bunch as he’s a clear upgrade over Jonnu Smith, who the team traded to Atlanta. While Riley Reiff brings experience at both tackle positions, New England does seem to need a little more talent here, which could be their target at the NFL Draft.
Defensively, retaining Jonathan Jones was arguably their most important move of the offseason to this point, especially in the aftermath of Devin McCourty retiring.
New York Jets: A
Additions: QB Aaron Rodgers (pending trade with Packers), S Chuck Clark (Ravens), C Wes Schweitzer (Commanders), WR Allen Lazard (Packers), P Thomas Morstead (Dolphins), WR Mecole Hardman (Chiefs), C Trystan Colon-Castillo (Ravens)
Re-signings: EDGE Solomon Thomas, K Greg Zuerlien, S Will Parks, LG Adam Pankey, IDL Isaiah Mack, FB Nick Bawden, LB Quincy Williams, EDGE Bryce Huff, RB Ty Johnson
Departures: WR Braxton Berrios (Dolphins), IDL Sheldon Rankins (Texans), LG Dan Feeney( Dolphins), QB Mike White (Dolphins), WR Elijah Moore (trade with Browns), RB Nate Herbig (Steelers), IDL Nathan Shepherd (Saints), WR Jeff Smith (Giants), RB James Robinson (Patriots)
While it’s not actually done yet, Aaron Rodgers being traded to the Jets is looked at as an inevitability, so we’ll work under the assumption that he’ll be their QB1 by the time Week 1 rolls around. By bringing in a future Hall of Fame quarterback, this has been a home run of an offseason for New York as the arrival of Rodgers does immediately put them in the playoff conversation and even has them as a sleeper Super Bowl contender. New York has also revamped the wide receiver room for Rodgers, bringing in Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman to complement Garrett Wilson and others.
The offense — specifically the quarterback position — was what kept New York back from being in the playoffs a year ago. With Rodgers now in the fold, the narrative around this team is flipped overnight and could even have them rivaling Buffalo for the division crown.