NFL free-agency grades: AFC East
With the most important transactions now complete, theScore's NFL editors hand out their initial grades for how teams fared during free agency.
|WR John Brown||TE Charles Clay|
|WR Cole Beasley||G John Miller|
|C Mitch Morse||RB Chris Ivory|
|RB Frank Gore|
|OT Ty Nsekhe|
|CB Kevin Johnson|
|TE Tyler Kroft|
|OL Spencer Long|
|OL Jon Feliciano|
|CB E.J. Gaines|
|OT LaAdrian Waddle|
The Bills went with a quantity-over-quality approach in free agency, but that's certainly not a bad thing in this case. Buffalo needed an infusion of talent across the board, and spending big at just a few positions wouldn't have moved the needle enough in 2019 to justify the investment. This measured strategy to address a lack of offensive talent is all about boosting quarterback Josh Allen's chances of making a significant second-year leap.
Brown and Beasley headline the Bills' free-agent haul, and the former is a particularly exciting addition due to his elite speed and Allen's love of the deep ball (no QB threw downfield more in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus). Both deals didn't break the bank, either. A rebuilding team adding a 35-year-old running back seems counterproductive, but not if that player is Gore, who averaged his highest yards per carry (4.6) since 2012 last year. He's a consistently solid pass-protector who almost never misses time, a valuable asset with such a raw player under center.
The Bills' offensive line additions are arguably their most impactful moves. Morse, a savvy veteran who was PFF's No. 6 pass-protecting center, should lessen Allen's responsibilities at the line, while Nsekhe has looked similarly proficient in pass protection in limited action. Buffalo didn't make any flashy moves, but the team smartly focused on improving its roster without overspending and hurting its long-term outlook.
|QB Ryan Fitzpatrick||QB Ryan Tannehill (trade)|
|CB Eric Rowe||OT Ja'Wuan James|
|TE Dwayne Allen||DE Cameron Wake|
|WR Danny Amendola|
|RB Frank Gore|
|G Josh Sitton|
The Dolphins have been the NFL's poster child for sustained mediocrity over the last decade, finishing at .500 or within one game of it in six of the past 10 seasons. If any team needs to kickstart a complete overhaul by tanking for a year, it's the Dolphins. Which is exactly what they're doing.
This does, however, make grading the Dolphins' free-agency period difficult. It's hard to praise their rebuilding process when the results are so far off and uncertain. Miami has made shrewd moves, though. Trading Tannehill and paying most of his salary to facilitate the transaction with the Tennessee Titans unburdened the team of his contract for 2020 - which will elapse along with Ndamukong Suh's deal - and netted a fourth-round pick for that same year.
Though signing Fitzpatrick could backfire - he's a high-variance player who has a history of producing short bursts of great play - it's hard to fault Miami's tanking strategy. Only one other team is projected to have more cap space in 2020, the losses of Wake and James should net the team compensatory picks, and Robert Quinn and his $13-million cap hit will likely soon be traded for more future assets. The fish know how to tank.
New England Patriots
|DE Michael Bennett (trade)||TE Rob Gronkowski (retirement)|
|CB Jason McCourty (re-signing)||DE Trey Flowers|
|WR Phillip Dorsett (re-signing)||OT Trent Brown|
|WR Maurice Harris||WR Cordarrelle Patterson|
|WR Bruce Ellington||DE Adrian Clayborn|
|DT Mike Pennel||CB Eric Rowe|
|TE Matt LaCosse||OT LaAdrian Waddle|
New England lost significant talent to free agency this year - Flowers and Brown were two major reasons why the Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. However, the team was never going to hand out the huge contracts the two ended up receiving. That's just not how the Patriots operate; they've let far better players walk in the past and found efficient, affordable ways to replace them.
In the last five years, no other team has gained more draft value from compensatory picks than the Patriots, according to a study by Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com. And for losing Brown and Flowers, the Patriots are projected to receive two third-rounders in 2020. Bennett should fill the Flowers void while only costing a swap of late picks, while Brown's replacement was already on the roster in 2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn.
Draft picks in 2020 won't help 41-year-old Tom Brady, though, and the need for playmakers skyrocketed after Gronkowski retired. He was a unique mismatch due to his combination of elite receiving and blocking skills; there simply isn't a way to plug another player into his role. The Patriots knew Gronkowski probably wasn't returning, and now that he's gone, they deserve more criticism for their failure to land Jared Cook and Adam Humphries. Bill Belichick always finds a way, but as it stands, Brady could be working with one of the league's worst receiving groups.
New York Jets
|RB Le'Veon Bell||RB Isaiah Crowell|
|WR Jamison Crowder||G James Carpenter|
|LB C.J. Mosley||CB Buster Skrine|
|G Kelechi Osemele (trade)||DT Mike Pennel|
|DT Henry Anderson (re-signing)||K Jason Myers|
|CB Brian Poole|
|K Chandler Catanzaro|
|QB Trevor Siemian|
The Jets are clearly emulating the Bears and Rams, who've aggressively built their rosters around young quarterbacks and their affordable first contracts. However, New York opted to sink its resources into two non-premium positions - running back and inside linebacker - a questionable tactic despite the fact the team landed two perennial Pro Bowlers.
Mosley, especially, was a significant overpay. The Jets blew away the rest of the competition, giving him $4.5 million more annually than Luke Kuechly, the previous best-paid inside linebacker. Mosley's a highly effective veteran, but he's no Kuechly or Bobby Wagner; it'll be almost impossible for him to have an impact that matches his enormous salary. New York gets credit for the Bell deal, though. While Bell received more fully guaranteed money than Todd Gurley, his average salary is over $1 million less. It's a major win after Bell's long-known desire to reset his position's market, and Sam Darnold couldn't hope for a better security blanket.
Bell, Mosley, and Crowder will all make the Jets better. It's hard to criticize Gang Green too harshly for taking advantage of the league's most valuable resource - a rookie starter under center. But the Jets may end up wishing they'd spent more wisely, especially as they failed to fill their biggest hole on offense - at center - despite a host of talented options.