This year’s free agency signings have not been as newsworthy as those of past years, but there are clear cut winners and losers. We’ll start with the bad news first because I’m in that kind of mood and also because it’s straight out of New York.
The biggest loser this year is the AFC East. With the exception of the New England Patriots, the rest of the division has performed abysmally this offseason.
The Patriots by no means performed admirably, but at least they replaced the players they lost with players of equal caliber. True, $31 million over five years may be a little steep for recently acquired wide receiver Danny Amendola, who played in only 12 of his last 32 regular season games due to injuries, but the Patriots also picked up former Buffalo Bills receiver Donald Jones as a form of insurance. Switching out change-of-pace runningback Danny Woodhead for former Seattle Seahawks running back Leon Washington was also an OK move. The Patriots weren’t brilliant, but they weren’t the Bills.
The Bills are the worst of the bunch. They lost guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart to the Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers, respectively. They lost Donald Jones to the Patriots. They lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Titans, which leaves them with Tarvaris Jackson as quarterback. The only free agent they brought in was former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Manny Lawson, and that isn’t anything to celebrate. The Bills stink, as usual.
The New York Jets didn’t really come out of the free agent signing period any better off than the Bills, but at least they did something. Most of the actions I’m referring to were negative, like losing workhorse running back Shonn Greene to the Titans, safety LaRon Landry to the Indianapolis Colts, and tight end Dustin Keller to the Miami Dolphins, but they also picked up former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Willie Colon and Oakland Raiders running back Mike Goodson.
Then there is Miami. Miami didn’t fight to retain veteran tackle Jake Long, who went to the Rams, or running back Reggie Bush, who the Lions added to their roster. They also let cornerback Sean Smith go to the Kansas City Chiefs even though he was coming off his best year. Miami also overpaid for receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson.
Now for the winners. The first-place team has to be the Denver Broncos. Besides strengthening their defensive line by signing the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who racked up 32 tackles and two sacks last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars picked up Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had three interceptions last season. However, the icing on the cake was, of course, the signing of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
Honorable mention goes to the Chiefs. They used the available free agents to begin the construction of a new offense. The smartest thing the Chiefs did was rid themselves of quarterback Matt Cassel and acquire former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith. Former Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery and former Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano were added to give Smith some more reliable targets. The addition of former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson also was not a bad idea.
The AFC West appears to be dominating the AFC East so far this offseason, but will that translate to regular season ass kickings? That is the question.
Ondo is a member of the class of 2014.