AFC East Post-Free Agency Reset: Patriots Load Up For Super Bowl Title Defense

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The 2017 NFL season won’t begin for another five months, but teams have been hard at work reshaping — and, in some cases, rebuilding — their rosters. With the league year now a month old and the 2017 NFL Draft still a few weeks away, we’re taking a division-by-division look at each team’s offseason thus far. 

First up: the AFC East.

New England Patriots
It’s hard to knock any move the Patriots have made since they hoisted their fifth Lombardi Trophy in February. That includes signing Stephon Gilmore, Rex Burkhead and Lawrence Guy, trading for Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen, and re-signing Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch and Duron Harmon. Their few notable departures (Martellus Bennett, Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long) all have been replaced, though New England still could benefit from adding another pass rusher or two through the draft. If the Patriots can bring back restricted free agent Malcolm Butler, this truly would be the perfect offseason.

Buffalo Bills
Gilmore signing with the Patriots didn’t just make New England’s defense better. It also made the Bills a whole lot worse. Though he’s not always the most consistent player, Gilmore was Buffalo’s top cornerback, and going from him to new No. 1 corner Ronald Darby represents a significant step down. The Bills also lost two of their top three receivers in Robert Woods (Los Angeles Rams) and Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers), as well as late-blooming linebacker Zach Brown, who signed with the Washington Redskins after ranking second in the NFL in tackles last season. This spring hasn’t been all bad for Buffalo, however, which added a new head coach in Sean McDermott, restructured quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s contract and signed versatile defensive back Micah Hyde away from the Green Bay Packers.

Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have enjoyed a solid offseason after returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They bolstered their linebacking corps by signing former Pittsburgh Steeler Lawrence Timmons, added a tight end by trading for Julius Thomas and took a chance on former Rams safety T.J. McDonald, who is suspended for the first eight games of the 2017 season. Miami also cut ties with defensive end Dion Jordan, who never lived up to expectations after the Dolphins drafted him third overall in 2013. The Dolphins’ to-do list now includes securing some help at guard and locking up star receiver (and 2018 free agent) Jarvis Landry to a contract extension.

New York Jets
The Jets … still are the Jets. They haven’t added anyone of consequence since free agency opened last month, unless you want to count former Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Kelvin Beachum and much-maligned kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Their most significant moves have been releasing veterans Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall, the latter of whom quickly signed with the New York Giants. The Jets enter the 2017 NFL Draft with holes aplenty across their roster, including at quarterback, where Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg currently are set to compete for the starting job. The good news: The Jets own the sixth overall pick and should be able to nab an impact player to help in their rebuilding effort.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images

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