Free Agency Needs: AFC East
With the 2020 NFL season finally over, the preparation for the 2021 season has finally begun. The 2021 NFL salary cap will be at $182.5 million, and will likely be making strategic moves to make sure they are under the cap before the season starts. The Tactician analyzes which positions each team should target and what free agents are affordable and can fit that role. We will cover the AFC East in this article.
New York Jets:
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.116 (32nd)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank):0.106 (27th)
Draft Position: 2nd
Team Needs: QB, CB, Edge
Simply put, Sam Darnold is not the long-term answer at QB, and with a new coaching staff, his time in New York could be over.
By the end of the season, the Jets had a fifth-rounder and two UDFA’s starting at corner, meaning they need to heavily invest in that position as Robert Saleh needs good corners to make his cover 3 scheme work.
The Jets got a cornerstone player in Quinnen Williams on the interior defensive line but now must find an impact edge rusher to pressure the QB. They finished last year with a 21.7% pressure rate which ranked 25th last year.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.004 (21st)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.075 (22nd)
Draft Position: 15th
Team Needs: WR, TE, Edge
Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd were the Patriots top two WRs this past season. That needs to change. N'keal Harry has not produced the past 2 years. If not QB, the Pats must use their first-rounder on a WR like Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman, or Kadarius Toney.
Overall, the Patriots need more talent on offense and should spend big money to go get a game-changing TE or multiple WR in this stacked FA class.
The Patriots have traditionally built their defense through the secondary and have spent late-round picks on the trenches. However, this is a relatively strong edge class and the Patriots have a good amount of money to spend in FA so they should make a run at one quality edge rusher.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.027 (18th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.023 (7th)
Draft Position: 18th
Team Needs: WR, OT, RB
DeVante Parker has proven to be a reliable receiving option over the past two seasons topping over 1,900 yards and 13 TD’s combined. Beyond DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, their next leading receiver was running back Myles Gaskin. The Dolphins should be on the hunt for viable WR 2 to stretch the field vertically to help their developing quarterback.
Between both quarterbacks, the Dolphins were sacked 34 times which ranks 16th in the NFL. These numbers aren’t glaring but still a cause for concern moving forward. The inability to move the line of scrimmage and run the ball is another issue along the Dolphins offensive line.
As mentioned above, the Dolphins struggled to run the ball effectively as a team as they finished 25th in EPA/rush this season. Myles Gaskin has done well in the passing game but could not reach 1,000 total yards from scrimmage as the lead back. Running back should be addressed using a Day 2 with Najee Harris/Travis Etienne available.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.151 (4th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.048 (18th)
Draft Position: 30th
Team Needs: IOL, CB, RB
The Bills had a great season last year and it started with everything coming together on offense. The acquisition of Stefon Diggs and better play from Josh Allen really improved the passing game. This offseason the Bills will need to keep as many parts of their offense together to build on their performance. With 4 O lineman that played more than 50% of snaps, the Bills will need to try to re-sign their RT Daryl Williams and pick the LG and RG they want to keep.
While the Bills have one of the best Corners in Tre’Davious White, they’ll want to upgrade at one of the most important positions on that side of the ball. However, the Bills are losing their starting corner Levi Wallace and need to find a starting-caliber CB in FA to be able to guard the top offenses of the AFC.
With the last major need, we could have gone with a Running Back or Wide Receiver here. The Bills could open up some cap space by cutting John Brown or Cole Beasley, in which case they’d definitely need to find a replacement. But should they leave those contracts alone, the easiest upgrade is at the Running Back position.
Contributors: Arjun Menon, Ray Matera, Anthony Molina, and Sam Mattson.