I wanted to get a snapshot of which teams in the AFC east have the most potential to improve in the 2013 season based on cap room, draft picks, team needs that can be filled and the teams 2012 performance/coaching and carryover momentum from 2012. I compiled the data and made my own rankings from various news sites on the internet. I did my best to use multiple news sources to compile the information for each part. Please feel free to disagree with the rankings as I am sure some of you will. None of this is scientific and much of it is objective.
Salary Cap Room
Dolphins: around 37 Million under / My AFC East Rank: #1
Most reports indicate the dolphins will be between 30 - 44 million under the cap. The median of those figures is 37 Million. The Miami dolphins should be in a great position cap wise which should allow them to re-sign players and add depth or starters in free agency. The dolphins score the highest in this category with significantly more projected cap space than the bills and patriots.
Bills: around 20 Million under / My AFC East Rank: #2 (by a tiny margin vs Pats)
Three reports I found all show the bills to have around 20 Million in cap space. They also only have a few key free agents to lock up comparatively. The bills are in a good position cap-wise this off season.
Patriots: around 18 Million under / My AFC East Rank: #3 (by a tiny margin vs Bills)
The Patriots are also in a good position financially going into 2013 with most sites showing the figure at 18 Million under the cap. They have several key free agents including Wes Welker that need to be sorted out.
Jets: around 19 Million over / My AFC East Rank: #4 (Last by a huge margin)
John Clayton says the Jets are in the worst cap situation in the league. The Jets are a league High 19.4 Million over the cap for 2013. The Jets will have some hard decisions this off-season They are reportedly looking at cutting Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Jason Smith and Calvin Pace which will clear up about 31 million but will leave the team with 10 returning starters. After they make those cuts the Jets then will only have a small amount of money left over (around 10-15 million) to use for free agency and signing draft picks to replace those players.
Dolphins: 9 Picks, #12 overall in 1st round / My AFC East Rank: #1
The dolphins have 9 Picks, pick #12 overall in the first round and they hold 5 picks in first 3 Rounds. This puts them in the strongest position in the AFC East. The Dolphins got a 2nd round pick for the Vontae Davis trade but did not end up getting the extra 6th round pick from the trade because he was injured for 6 games. Their picks are as follows (1st,2nd,2nd,3rd,3rd,4th,5th,6th,7th)
Bills: 6 Picks, #8th overall in 1st round / My AFC East Rank: #2 (pick right before jets with similar needs)
The bills have 6 picks, one for each round except the 7th. In the first round they will pick #8 overall.
Jets: 7 picks, #9th overall in 1st round / My AFC East Rank: #3
The jets have 7 picks, one for each round. In the first round they will pick #9 overall. They share some similar needs with the Bills and pick right after them.
Patriots: 5 picks, #29-32 in 1st round / My AFC East Rank: #4
The Patriots are still playing so this has not fully sorted itself out but overall they are unusually low on draft picks this year with 5 total picks. They will pick no lower than 29 after their recent playoff win vs Houston. Their picks are as follows (1st,2nd,3rd,4th,7th) They are in the weakest position in the AFC East draft wise from a purely numbers standpoint and will have one of the weaker positions in the draft in the entire NFL.
Major Needs to fill (and the ability to fill them)
Patriots: / My AFC East Rank: #1
(They are still in the hunt for the SB which says it all)
According to all the info I gathered the patriots donít have as many extremely pressing needs as the rest of the AFC East. Having an Elite QB like Brady probably masks other issues on the team but here are some of their needs according to a few sites and forums.
-Cornerback - Upgrade to play opposite of McCourty
-WR - some of this need depends on if Welker re-signs but many say the patriots want to add youth to the WR
-Right Tackle - depending if 28 year old Vollmer is retained or franchised
-Some say another Pass Rushing DT
-Some say a better Coverage LB
-Some Say upgrade at safety
Dolphins: / My AFC East Rank: #2
(set at QB for training camp, lots of needs, have plenty of money and picks, young team)
The dolphins have many needs this year but one position is set; quarterback. It is a bit early to say that Tannehill will be an excellent franchise quarterback. It is not too early to say that he has convinced the coaches and most fans that he will be the undisputed starter coming into training camp this year. The fact that the dolphins know who the starting QB is for 2013 is the one major advantage from a needs perspective over the Jets and Bills. Having a set QB coming into training camp is one reason why I ranked the dolphins ahead of the Bills(and Jets) because other than that teams are very close from a needs standpoint. The other reason that the dolphins are ranked ahead of the bills and jets is that they simply have more money to throw at FA if they choose to do so. The following are some of the needs for the 2013 Dolphins in no particular order.
-WR, Dolphins need at least 2 Solid WR's for RT to throw to. The dolphins need Speed, Explosiveness,YAC and a receiver that can score touchdowns.
-Cornerback, this may be one of our weakest positions. Alot of this depends on what the coaching staff/GM decide to do about Sean Smith.
-TE, A speed guy with good hands and the ability to catch the ball in the end zone would be Ideal
-O-line competition, much of this depends on what we do with Jake Long.
-pass rusher competition
Bills: / My AFC East Rank: #3
(Need franchise QB, Have good amount of money, young team)
Ryan Fitzpatrick did not play very well in 2012. He signed a long extension but is not performing as well as the Bills had hoped. The Bills defense improved on paper and was not really able to put it all together last season. New Head coach Doug Marrone is likely to follow GM buddy Nix's sentiment that the team must find a franchise QB this offseason. Here are some of the pressing Bills needs.
-QB ,as stated above, the bills will be looking for another QB to at least challenge Fitzpatrick.
-Cornerback, bills will be looking for another starting CB opposite Stephon Gilmore
-WR , The bills are also in need of competition at WR
Jets: / My AFC East Rank: #4
(Lots of needs including comp for Sanchez, team is getting old, and money will be tight)
The Jets Like the bills are most likely going to be looking for a QB this year to compete with Mark Sanchez. Mark had his worst year since 2009 throwing for 13TD to 18INT and a 66 Rating. What the jets do with Revis who was hurt this season is also a big question mark for this team. The Jets also still need a GM and have gone through a coaching exodus with many coaches leaving or taking lateral moves to teams such as the Bills. The jets bills and dolphins all have a similar amount of needs but the jets are in the worst position to fill them because money will be very tight.
-QB, Jets need a stop gap to compete with Sanchez until they get out from under Mark Sanchez's contract.
-DE/OL, 9 total sacks from edge rushers needs to improve
-RB, jets averaged 3.8ypc 23rd in the league and may look to add a RB
-WR, Jets would like to add depth at WR
-Replacements and depth from the significant amount of cuts they will need to make to get under the cap
2012 Performance/Coaching and Carryover
Patriots: / My AFC East Rank: #1 (by a wide margin)
The patriots were 12-4 and went 6-0 in the division. They are still in the mix with a chance at another Super Bowl. Not much else to say here, still the class of the division. In the regular season this year, they were one below their 2011 record of 13-3. It is possible that some coaches may get promoted to other teams after the season ends.
Dolphins: / My AFC East Rank: #2 (only team in AFC East to improve reg season record from 2011)
The Dolphins were 7-9 and went 2-4 in the division. We improved one game over last season with a rookie head coach and Rookie QB. The dolphins were ranked 30th in turnover ratio at -10 which really hurt the team in the W/L column. The dolphins were the only team in the AFC East that improved its record from 2011 (6-10) So far the dolphins also have retained the whole coaching staff and GM Jeff Ireland.(to many on FH's dismay)
Bills: / My AFC East Rank: #3 (ranked above Jets because their record did not get worse compared to 2011)
The Bills were 6-10 and went 2-4 in the division. Despite what many believed was an improved roster they did not improve in the Win Loss column and the 2012 bills had the same record as the 2011 squad. The bills also have a new coaching staff mostly in place and have poached the jets D coordinator in a lateral move.
Jets: / My AFC East Rank: #4 (2 games worse than 2011, need GM, lots of coaching spots to fill)
The Jets were 6-10 and like the Bills went 2-4 in the division. The jets record was worse in 2012 than their 2011 version. Going from 8-8 un 2011 to 6-10 in 2012. The jets fired their GM and OC and have so far been slow to replace them. The Jets have also seen somewhat of a coaching exodus- they will need to fill quite a few positions in the coming weeks.
Here are the rankings in a glance.
2012 Performance/Coaching and Carryover
Total aggregate off all metric's
(showing not which team is the best but which team has the most tools to improve based on these four things. This is not scientific. 1st place = 4 points 2nd=3 points etc.)
1)Dolphins 14 points (Not the best team but the team with the most tools to improve this offseason)
2)Patriots 11 (clearly the best team but they have a lousy draft position and amount of picks, Belichick will probably find some gems as he usually does though)
3)Bills 10 (right up there with the top two, more question marks than the Patriots and dolphins)
4)Jets 5 (They are going to be forced to be in a rebuilding type mode and make due without much money)
Going into next season it seems logical that patriots will still be the team to beat in the division. That said the Dolphins have all the tools to have a great off season and an improved year. Jeff Ireland really wonít have any excuses if these dolphins donít get better from a talent standpoint this off-season I think the Bills can also see some upward momentum. With the bills there are still a ton of question marks and this is why I think the dolphins will have a better record. The Jets will need some things to go their way for next season to be a success. They need to either find a stop gap QB or hope Sanchez improves. They need to cut a bunch of players and then sign players to replace them with a shoestring budget. They have the look of a team that was built to win at all costs but never quite made it. Now they are in the hangover stage.
My way way way too early 2013 Prediction (for fun)
Patriots 12-4 -the Pats are in a pretty good position to maintain their lead in the division.
Dolphins 9-7 -Much of this depends on RT. but the team has the money and tools to get him real weapons.
Bills 7-9 -Have money, young team, talent on D, low draft picks and lots of question marks, slight improvement.
Jets 5-11 -The jets on paper should be much worse in 2013, they will find a way to only look slightly worse.