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Offseason report: AFC East
BETTER: From losing standout left guard Andy Levitre in free agency (Tennessee) to signing quarterback Kevin Kolb as a stop-gap starter, I hated everything about Buffalo’s offseason until the draft. That’s when the Bills scored major brownie points by using the No. 16 pick on Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
If he’s handled properly — and there’s no guarantee with a franchise that has Buffalo’s dreadful track record — the Bills will finally have a long-term answer under center for the first time since the Jim Kelly era.
Buffalo still isn’t a playoff-caliber team in 2013, but the future is brighter than in some time.
BETTER: While this doesn’t bring a Lombardi Trophy, the Dolphins have a legitimate claim to being the NFL’s paper champions of the offseason.
Miami addressed areas of need in free agency at wide receiver (Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson), tight end (Dustin Keller) and cornerback (Brent Grimes) while also upgrading the linebacker corps with the signings of Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler.
The Dolphins also made the boldest move of the draft when leaping nine spots in the first round to No. 3 and nabbing Oregon outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan, who could be the second coming of Jason Taylor. Miami isn’t ready to catch New England atop the AFC East quite yet, but the Dolphins are much closer than in February.
WORSE: Even with the free-agent signing of replacement Danny Amendola, losing wide receiver Wes Welker to Denver is a major blow to New England’s offense.
The ongoing medical issues plaguing tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are another potential concern. And why the Patriots refuse to invest money in a proven outside pass rusher or selecting one high in the draft remains one of the NFL’s great mysteries. Despite all this, the Patriots remain the team to beat in the AFC East.
Re-signing right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and both starting cornerbacks (Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington) were positives while newcomer Adrian Wilson will provide a Rodney Harrison-like veteran presence in the secondary.
Oh yeah —Tom Brady is back, too.
WORSE: The Jets did embattled head coach Rex Ryan no favors this offseason as the team began to rebuild under new general manager John Idzik. The boldest move was trading New York’s best player — cornerback Darrelle Revis — to Tampa Bay.
New York then swapped one media circus for another by releasing Tim Tebow three days after drafting quarterback Geno Smith in the second round. Even if he isn’t ready for NFL action after playing in West Virginia’s spread offense, the public pressure is already on the Jets to start Smith with Mark Sanchez and David Garrard the only other viable options.
All this is par for the course for one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises.