Opinion Sports Columns

The Roller Coaster that is AFC East Free Agency

Billy Peterson 

Staff Writer

The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for nearly a decade and a half. Since 2001, they have made the playoffs every year except two, winning four Super Bowl titles along the way.

The other three teams in the division have been nothing more than punching bags for Bill Belicheck’s crew. A lot has been made of how weak the AFC East has been during the last decade, but the fact the Patriots beat the other three teams five to six times a year contributes to that.

However, it appears as if the Bills, Dolphins and Jets have had about enough. No more waiting until next year or hoping to build through the draft. These teams want to win now, and the moves they are making indicate that.

Lost in Chip Kelly’s parade of eye-brow raising and often even head-scratching moves in Philadelphia, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets have all been very active in the first few days in the 2015 NFL free agency period.

While the Patriots have watched players like Darrelle Revis (and potentially Brandon Browner) move on, it has been the other three aforementioned teams that have been opening their checkbooks and writing blank checks.

The Bills actually got the ball rolling before free agency, trading for all-pro running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy, still only 27, is coming off of another 1,000-yard rushing season, and seems primed to help the Bills ground game. They followed that up by acquiring tenured veteran Matt Cassel in a desperate attempt to try to bandage up the quarterback position.

Oh, and not to be forgotten, they signed troubled offensive lineman Richie Incognito, a man who has not appeared in an NFL game since November of 2013.

Despite all of this, the Dolphins were the team who had the finances to land arguably the best 2015 free agent, Ndamukong Suh. Miami must have been tired of watching Brady rip apart their defense, as Suh is known for shredding offensive lines and getting to opposing quarterbacks at will. Suh’s contract is for six years, worth a staggering $114 million dollars, with $60 million guaranteed.

And then there are the Jets. New coach Todd Bowles is not messing around at all, looking to get his team back on the map.

The Jets welcomed back Revis, the top corner on the market, swiping him away from New England. This came after they signed former Cleveland Browns corner Buster Skrine. For a team that was already known as defensive-oriented, these additions help improve a secondary that was riddled with injuries last season.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall will also join Revis and Skrine in New York after the Jets sent a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft for his services.

What does this all mean? Well, these teams could all still be battling for second place in the AFC East, but it is far too early to make any predictions. More players are still to be signed, New England will counter with their own moves as well, and then there is the NFL Draft in May.

One thing is for certain, the three teams who have been looking up at the Patriots for a decade and a half in the AFC East seemed primed to change the current state of affairs in the division. Only time will tell.

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