Buffalo Bills 8--8
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue
TOP PRIORITY: PASSING-GAME PLAYMAKERS
In his first year as a starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor did some nice things but also showed his limitations. Besides so-so accuracy, he consistently held the ball a beat too long, waiting to see a receiver break open rather than anticipating it. It's a problem not uncommon with young QBs, but it's also not that easily fixed. If an upgrade over Taylor is available, the Bills will pounce; if not, they'll settle for a wideout to play opposite Sammy Watkins. (Percy Harvin was supposed to be that but flamed out for his usual reasons.) In a scheme that's simplified to help the quarterback, having playmaking receivers is critical.
ALSO: DEFENSIVE END. Mario Williams does not fit Rex Ryan's system and must be replaced.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 12--4
TOP PRIORITY: FRONT-SEVEN DEPTH
Not counting veteran ILB Jerod Mayo, who has a $11.4 million cap number and will probably be dropped, only two players from New England's D-line and linebacking unit are under contract past 2017: tackle Malcom Brown and hidden-gem pass rusher Geneo Grissom. (Both were drafted in 2015.) The impending free agents can't all be retained, so the Pats must draft and develop depth. Their scheme is versatile in terms of fronts and gap concepts, leaving Bill Belichick a larger pool of options to choose from.
ALSO: A NO. 2 TIGHT END. Incumbents Scott Chandler and Michael Williams aren't dynamic enough to fill an important role in the Pats' attack.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 6--10
TOP PRIORITY: CORNERBACK
Top cover artist Brent Grimes is nearing his end at 32 and can't shadow No. 1 receivers anymore. He could probably last one more year in a lesser role, but that wouldn't justify his $9.5 million cap number; don't be surprised if he gets cut. Opposite Grimes, Brice McCain reminded onlookers that he's best suited for the slot—and even that's a bit of a stretch. There are some rosters McCain wouldn't make. With 2013 second-rounder Jamar Taylor yet to blossom (he's heading into a make-or-break season) and 2015 fifth-rounder Tony Lippett being so raw, the Dolphins could pursue as many as four new corners. Now, exactly what type they get will depend on the scheme of first-time defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
ALSO: LINEBACKER. It's an almost equally thin position.
NEW YORK JETS 10--6
TOP PRIORITY: TIGHT END
No team in 2015 got less from its tight ends than the Jets. That's one reason they used a 4-WR, 1-RB set on a third of their snaps, by far the most in the league. The absence of second-year flex tight end Jace Amaro (torn left-shoulder labrum in the preseason opener) may have been a factor, though he was unimpressive as a rookie and might not have beaten out possession receiver Quincy Enunwa anyway. A tight end who can run-block and work the middle could open up New York's spread scheme while providing more passing lanes for receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to operate.
ALSO: RUNNING BACK. Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley are free agents. At least one has to be replaced.