AFC East Roundtable: Offseason Issues

Breaking down the biggest offseason topics for the Miami Dolphins and the other AFC East teams
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Throughout the offseason, Fan Nation will conduct an AFC East Roundtable discussing various issues involving each team in the division, with publishers Nick Fierro of Bills Central, Alain Poupart of All Dolphins, Devon Clements of Patriot Maven and Max Goodman of Jets Country.

In this edition, we examine three major offseason topics for each team.

BUFFALO BILLS

1) What is the biggest question mark on the team in the offseason?

Their running game. Despite not having much of one in 2020, the Bills still produced the second-highest scoring offense in the league. They will look to upgrade at running back but are staring at the possibility of losing two starting offensive linemen, Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams, to free agency. Tough situation.

2) Who is the one big name on the team who could leave this offseason, and why?

There's more than one, but it looks like linebacker Matt Milano will test the free-agent market without much resistance. He's been a valuable player for them. But his four-year rookie deal is up and at the very least the decimal point on his $665,000 salary in 2020 will be pushed one space to the right in 2021, a season in which the Bills don't have a lot of flexibility under the salary cap.

3) How active would you expect the team to be in free agency, and is there one player you figure they’ll target?

The Bills don't have a lot of money to throw around this offseason. But they definitely were interested in high-priced defensive end J.J. Watt. So now they are widely expected to target the Broncos' Von Miller if he hits the market. This year's draft crop is supposed to be low on quality pass rushers, so if the Bills are going to shop anywhere but the Dollar Tree for free agents this offseason, this would be the position they'd open their checkbook for and spend a little more.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

1) What is the biggest question mark on the team in the offseason?

This absolutely has to be the quarterback position, both in terms of the starter and the backup. GM Chris Grier did say a couple of days after the end of the regular season that “Tua is our starter,” but it’s difficult to envision the Dolphins not making a push to get Deshaun Watson if the Houston Texans make him available via trade. Beyond that, the Dolphins also have to find a backup quarterback given the high likelihood that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be moving on in search of a new starting opportunity.

2) Who is the one big name on the team who could leave this offseason, and why?

The Dolphins already have made the decision to move on from linebacker Kyle Van Noy one year after they signed him to a four-year, $51 million contract, but there are other big (bigger even) names on which to keep an eye. The first is cornerback Xavien Howard, who is fresh off the first 10-interception season in the NFL since 2006 and could look to revisit a contract extension he signed just two years ago after hiring a new agent. Another is wide receiver DeVante Parker, the 2015 first-round pick, who carries a big cap number and wasn’t able in 2020 to build on his breakout campaign of 2019.

3) How active would you expect the team to be in free agency, and is there one player you figure they’ll target?

The Dolphins certainly won’t be as active as they were last offseason when they signed a whopping 11 UFAs, but they figure to make some moves nonetheless. While Green Bay running back Aaron Jones has been mentioned as a potential target, the feeling here is they might be more inclined to pursue his teammate Corey Linsley, the All-Pro center. The Dolphins also might be in the market for a top wide receiver in free agency, though who they pursue (Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson perhaps) will come down to who gets tagged and who doesn’t.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

1) What is the biggest question mark on the team in the offseason?

The biggest question for the Patriots this offseason is undoubtedly the quarterback position. It might have been easier to narrow down the option as their starter in 2021 if they had little cap space to work with this offseason. However, because they are near the top of the league with over $60 million, this leaves many options available for New England in free agency. The trick will be to gather talent quickly when the free agency window begins and convince a free-agent quarterback shortly after that they can turn things around after a lackluster 2020 season.

2) Who is the one big name on the team who could leave this offseason, and why?

Joe Thuney, who played the 2020 season on the franchise tag, will hit the market this offseason and is in line to earn a large contract from another team. Thuney is one of the best guards in the NFL and showed his ability to play multiple positions this past season, which makes him an incredibly valuable piece. That puts him in line to be one of the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, offensive linemen in the NFL. The Patriots could very well be in the bidding war for him, but given what their roster looks like it makes sense for them to spend money elsewhere.

3) How active would you expect the team to be in free agency, and is there one player you figure they’ll target?

I expect the Patriots to be very active during free agency. Given how the team finished last season and the fact that they have over $60 million to spend this offseason, expectations are high for New England in 2021. That means spending money over the next month is priority No. 1 in my eyes. One player I think they will target is Bears wideout Allen Robinson. Robinson can do everything on the football field, which would be very helpful to a receiver room in New England that's one of the worst in the league. However, just because they will target him doesn't mean he will be wearing a Patriots uniform in 2021. Robinson will command a hefty contract this offseason, which may be more than Bill Belichick is willing to spend at the position. Nevertheless, if the Patriots want a quick turnaround, Robinson makes plenty of sense.

NEW YORK JETS

1) What is the biggest question mark on the team in the offseason?

The biggest question mark is New York's quarterback situation. Will the Jets stick with Sam Darnold entering his fourth season in the NFL? Will they start over, drafting a top prospect with the No. 2 pick? Is there any chance New York can swing a trade for a star like Deshaun Watson? Fans will have to be patient, though. The organization has made it clear they aren't rushing things this offseason, taking their time to evaluate all possible options at the position.

2) Who is the one big name on the team who could leave this offseason, and why?

It would be easy to talk about Darnold here as a player who could leave this offseason — and it's certainly possible — but let's go with Jamison Crowder. The slot receiver led the Jets in receiving yards (699), catches (59) and touchdowns (6) last season. Even if he's a solid wideout, he's due over $10 million in 2021 and could be a cap casualty. Every dollar counts, even with New York's surplus of cap space, so if the Jets think they can add more weapons at wide receiver elsewhere and in free agency, perhaps Crowder's tenure in green and white will come to an end.

3) How active would you expect the team to be in free agency, and is there one player you figure they’ll target?

Joe Douglas has reiterated several times since his tenure as general manager began that he wants to build this team through the draft, supplementing through free agency. That said, it's hard to imagine the Jets keeping quiet this offseason. New York has plenty of cap space to make a big signing (or two) and can make several different upgrades on both sides of the ball. I anticipate the Jets to target a wide receiver, get some help on the offensive line as well as a veteran or two on defense (either an edge rusher or someone in the secondary).