Team needs – The AFC East Version 

Team needs – The AFC East Version 
Reading Time: 7 minutes.
The AFC East teams all have some issues headed into free agency, but who will fill their team needs?

The Bills might have won the division last season but, at times, all four teams showed some promise. What needs to change for the Bills dominance to be broken? Well the other coaches and General Managers need to identify and fulfill their team needs. There are some obvious issues for every team.


Team Needs Based on What They Could Lose in Free Agency 

24 current Bills hit free agency in two weeks and 11 of them play on defense. They need to save $19.3 million to become cap compliant too. Brandon Beane will have to re-jig a lot of contracts in the off-season. Failing that the Bills will turnover a lot of personnel before next season. Buffalo only have six picks in the upcoming draft though. Unless they trade some players away they won’t be able to refresh the roster with rookies. Beane will be hoping to re-sign some of the free agents on team friendly deals. 

The Bills have four guards out of contract this month. They also have four linebackers hitting free agency. Punter Sam Martin will also become an unrestricted free agent in two weeks.  

Martin is 33 but his last deal was the 17th most expensive contract of the 35 punters on active rosters last year. Buffalo may decide finding a cheaper option makes sense. 

Team Needs Based on What They Lacked Last Season 

Josh Allen and his banged-up elbow took the Bills to the Divisional round of the playoffs, so they didn’t lack much at all. Allen’s injury and Von Miller missing the last eight games were season changing, but luck isn’t available to buy.  

Only two teams gave the ball away more often than the Bills in 2022 and only the Colts fumbled more. It’s hard to believe Allen’s ligament injury didn’t impact his ability to grip the ball. Especially as 13 of their fumbles were credited to him. If Allen’s injury caused nerve damage too that could become a long term issue. Backup quarterback Case Keenum is one of the free agents, so they do need to find another quarterback. Keenum’s last contract was worth $6 million so he’ll probably be too expensive. 

The run game was a problem for the Bills in 2022, on both sides of the ball. Defensively they were ranked 14th in terms of yards per carry in 2022. They allowed 4.3 yards per carry last season, so they’ll probably look for a big run stuffer in the draft. 

On offence the run game was good until it got into the red zone. They averaged 5.2 yards per carry, second only to the Bears but their 15 rushing touchdowns was 15th in the league. The Bills only ran on 41% of their plays. 29% of those runs were by Josh Allen and a $258 million quarterback should really be protected from that sort of exposure. Football Outsiders ranked Buffalo’s offensive line 13th in the league and the weakest part of their run blocking was at the second level. They’ll probably look to replace the out of contract guards with more dynamic options. 


Team Needs Based on What They Could Lose in Free Agency 

The Dolphins have got 29 free agents this month and all but four are unrestricted free agents (UFA’s). They’re also $23.5 million over the salary cap so they’ve got their work cut out.  

Four running backs are out of contract in Miami. Those four players were responsible for 74% of the team’s carries in 2022 so that’s a problem. They only have five picks in the 2023 draft too. After their Tyreek Hill trade they don’t currently have a first round pick this year. 

They also have four linebackers out of contract and four offensive linemen. There are a lot of gaps to fill and not much money to do it with. 

36-year-old punter Thomas Morstead is out of contract, so they’ll probably go for a cheaper option there. 

Team Needs Based On What They Lacked Last Season 

Last season Miami’s biggest issue was an inability to win games if Tua didn’t start and finish them. He only played 13 games in 2022 and they went 1-3 without him. Investing in a suit of armour for their starting quarterback could solve that problem but that might not be strictly legal. Failing that a reliable backup quarterback would help. Teddy Bridgewater is a perfectly fine quarterback, he has a 66% career completion rate and has won 33 games as a starter. For some reason he was unable adapt to his role in Mike McDaniel’s offence. Bridgewater will hit free agency and he’ll be too expensive for Miami to re-sign. An offence that can be run effectively by someone not named Tua should be top of Miami’s shopping list instead.  

As you’d expect with a head coach recruited from a Kyle Shanahan team the Dolphins offence was very good last season. Only three teams scored more touchdowns through the air. McDaniel’s team were also ranked fourth for passing yards and fumbles lost.  

Their 4.3 yards per rushing attempt was the same as the Cowboys and Patriots. It was ranked 18th in the league. Their reliance on passing and the relationship between Tua and his receivers is why their results were so dependent on the quarterback’s health. They obviously need to re-sign some running backs or find cheaper options and they could do with some more mobile linemen too. Football outsiders ranked the Dolphins line eighth in the league but, like the Bills, they weren’t as good at the second level or in open space. 

Defensive disaster

Defensively they were an absolute disaster in 2022, only eight teams conceded more points. Just five teams conceded more points in third quarter’s than the Dolphins in 2022. They were 19th in the league in terms of the number of turnovers they made. Only five teams conceded more passing yards last season and six teams allowed more passing touchdowns.  

Predictably they fired their defensive coordinator at the end of the season. New (not that new though, he’s 64) defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be glad there are 13 defensive players headed to free agency. He might decide to start completely from scratch. 

Kicker Jason Sanders only kicked 81.3% of his field goal attempts last season so they may be in the market for a cheaper option. 


Team Needs Based on What They Could Lose Free Agency 

Gang Green have got 24 free agents and 19 of them are unrestricted. They’re already $4.3 million over the salary cap so they’ve got some work to do before they can sign anyone.  

Both backup quarterbacks will hit free agency. They’ll need more than the high price starter they’ve been linked with. 

Kicker Greg Zuerlein is out of contract, there are six cheaper options than the 35-year-old available. They’ll probably go for a younger option. 

Five defensive linemen hit free agency in two weeks too and after the Jets ranked as the 4th best defense in the league, you’d think they’ll want to keep as many of them as possible. There’s also the small matter of four linebackers hitting free agency too. 

There are seven offensive linemen out of contract for the Jets. Two of those were on contracts worth $9 million or more last season so it will be tricky to keep everyone. Look out some new faces up front next season. If they sign Aaron Rodgers David Bakhtiari may be part of the deal.

Team Needs Based on What They Lacked Last Season 

The 2022 defense was obviously very good, but the offence was inconsistent. Numerous injuries to quarterbacks and the timing of injuries didn’t help at all. That’s why they’re linked to Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr. Their best two young offensive linemen were injured for large parts of 2022. Rookie running back Breece Hall flashed brilliance in seven games before a knee injury ended his season. What Robert Saleh’s men really need is good luck (or, dare one say, a better playing field at MetLife).  

The Jets rushing attack was ranked 24th averaging just 4.3 yards per carry last season. If they get Alijah Vera-Tucker, Mekhi Becton and Breece Hall back healthy that will improve drastically. Counterintuitively a more accurate quarterback will also help the running game as defenses won’t be able to load the box. Wilson’s career completion rate is 55.2% and last season was 54.5% which was lower than Nathan Peterman’s. 


Team Needs Based on Who Could Leave in Free Agency 

The Patriots only have 17 free agents in 2023, it’s like their front office has mastered roster management or something. One of those free agents is Devin McCourty who might retire (if he returns it will probably take a team friendly deal). Five other defensive backs are out of contract too including Jonathan Jones who was one of the Patriots standout players in 2022. 

They also have two wide receivers out of contract, Jakobi Meyers who may price himself out of a new contract and Nelson Agholor. Agholor is 30 in May. Agholor’s last contract was worth $11 million and last year he only caught 58.5% of his targets so it’ll be a surprise if he remains in New England. 

New England have eight picks in the draft and $28.2 million in cap space, so they can shop around free agents. 

Team Needs Based on What They Lacked in 2022 

Injuries to quarterbacks, incomprehensible play-calling and inconsistency were New England’s issues on offence in 2022. Three different signal callers started games for the Patriots, and they had to start three different running backs too. So that partly explains the inconsistency. Matt Patricia’s play calling explains the rest. Bill O’Brien is back as offensive coordinator and they’ve been linked with DeAndre Hopkins so the controllable variables should be well under control in 2023. 

The Patriots’ 4.3 yards per rushing attempt in 2022 equaled the Cowboys and Dolphins (and more worryingly the Cardinals). They were 1.1 yards behind the league leading Bears though so they may need to improve their run blocking. A run blocking tight end or fullback would help on that front. 

On defense only three teams allowed fewer yards per rushing attempt than New England. They only conceded seven rushing touchdowns in 2022, the fewest in the league alongside the Steelers. That’s a slightly misleading statistic though. teams didn’t have to throw many touchdown passes because their run defense was so porous in the red zone. The 28 passing touchdowns they allowed were the third highest number in the league. Only two teams made more sacks than the Patriots did in 2022 so that issue is definitely on the back end. If they could trade for Jalen Ramsey and re-sign Jonathan Jones that would definitely solve that problem. 

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