Buffalo Bills: DE, LB, OT, TE/WR, DL Depth, CB
After managing to get off to a fast start, the injuries began piling up and the Bills were exposed as a team ill-equipped with adequate depth to compensate. After committing the big bucks to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the Bills will need to take every precaution to ensure the offensive line remains strong even if a starter or two go down. With strengths of timing and rhythm, Fitzpatrick can be rattled with pressure up the middle. The organization appears committed to re-signing Stevie Johnson which will be pivotal to keeping the passing offense afloat. Several younger guys at the position emerged as possible players throughout the season potentially lowering the need for a wide receiver, but a pass-catching tight end could really help open up the offense. However, the majority of the team's needs lie on the defensive side. The Bills managed only 29 sacks all year (3rd worst) and will need to improve in that department before they can begin to see any real gains from the most talented unit on the team—the secondary. With a switch to the 4-3, perhaps they will find more luck than they did under a 34 front. Adding to the list of issues in the front seven, the run defense still hasn't made much of an improvement despite the addition of Marcell Dareus last year. With the switch in fronts, depth on the defensive line will be sought after. The team will also find it important to tailor their linebacking corps around the scheme. Barnett is at his best inside, but has the versatility to play all 3 LB positions which should give them some flexibility this offseason.
Miami Dolphins: 4-3 DE, QB, OL, DL Depth, TE/WR, FS
It's no surprise that the Dolphins are in the market for a franchise quarterback this offseason. While Matt Moore improved by leaps and bounds by the end of the year where the Dolphins caught somewhat of a hot streak, it's pretty apparent that he's not a franchise quarterback. And generally with a new offensive-minded Head Coach will come a new starting quarterback. If they aren't in good position to vie for a young, franchise quarterback, it would make more sense to focus this offseason in building up a solid offensive program in place while delaying the inevitable search. Up front that means retooling the right side of the line. Vernon Carey had a solid season at right guard, but is a free agent. Marc Colombo was a disaster at right tackle and will not return. At receiver, Brandon Marshall has lobbied for the team to sign Matt Flynn in free agency, but the team would be just as well off in bringing in another explosive receiver or tight end opposite Marshall to help shift the spotlight slightly off of him. Defensively, the shift to the 4-3 will be an interesting one with only a handful of defensive linemen still under contract for the team. Re-signing standout nose tackle Paul Soliai seems like a no-brainer, but he may seek to go to a team running the 34 front. Depth up front will become crucial, but even more so with the retirement of Jason Taylor and the decision to keep Koa Misi at linebacker, the Dolphins will need to find strong starting defensive end help to take the pressure off of Cameron Wake who managed only 8.5 sacks a year ago. Some secondary concerns, particularly at safety will probably take a backseat this offseason as the combination of Yeremiah Bell and Reshad Jones could be given another year.
New England Patriots: S, WR, DE/OLB, Interior OL, DL Depth, CB depth
The Patriots were carried all the way to the Super Bowl on the shoulder of Tom Brady and two explosive tight ends. When they got there and had to do battle with a fractional Rob Gronkowski, they fell one receiver short of an explosive offense. While re-signing Wes Welker, the chain-mover, will be the team's biggest priority this offseason, finding a vertical downfield threat will alleviate a lot of the congestion underneath and help perfect the two-tight end offense. Additionally, shoring up the middle of the offensive line will be important as the Patriots look to extend Tom Brady's career. At right guard, Brian Waters turned out to be a better pick-up than anyone could have imagined, yet at 35 years of age, the team should have someone waiting in the wings. At center, both Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly are free agents. However, the biggest room for improvement within the organization lies on the other side of the ball. Looking at season numbers, the team finished with a horrid passing defense, but showed marked improvements over the last third of the season on, which will leave them optimistic about their chances this year. Still, the unit is thin at safety where James Ihedigbo could easily be replaced and depth at corner improved. In the front seven, the Patriots brought in a number of veterans to boost the pass rush, but injury and age slowed down the productivity of that unit as the season wore on. The Patriots have become known as a multiple front defense which should give them some flexibility to help them find the pass rusher they desperately need through the draft or free agency. Additional depth in the middle of the defensive line may also be pursued.
New York Jets: S, 3-4 OLB, WR, OL, DL Depth, QB, RB Depth
An offseason built in tumult, it's more crucial than ever that the Jets focus on building the strength of the locker room. With so many vibrant personalities, including that of the head coach, it's very possible that the Jets collapse if they don't make a conscious attempt to mend the issues. In terms of the 53-man roster, the Jets are clearly a defensive-oriented team and will continue to rely on their elite performance to carry them into the playoffs and beyond. If there's a weakness in the secondary, it's their inability to cover tight ends, which is an even bigger concern for the Jets whose main rival has the best tandem in the league. Eric Smith is an easy target to replace at safety, but after another leg injury for Jim Leonhard, even his spot no longer seems stable. Additionally, the inability of the pass rush to get to the quarterbacks has also burned the Jets on numerous occasions. The midseason pickup of Aaron Maybin has alleviated this need to some degree, but he doesn't yet have the resume of someone who can be counted on. Re-signing Sione Pouha will be important to keep the strength of the defensive line intact, but depth should also continued to be stockpiled this offseason. Offensively, this may very well be Mark Sanchez's make or break season. While it's unrealistic to think the Jets will spend a lot of resources to push him, there are a number of free agent options that may help breed success through competition. More importantly, the team should look to build the offensive line into the team's strength. They have many of the requisite pieces, but weak depth and a right tackle in Wayne Hunter who hasn't played to his contract are holding the unit back. It would be nice to think the Jets can easily upgrade the receiver position to aid Mark Sanchez even more, but Santonio Holmes' massive salary is tying up resources and ego. Depth at running back behind Shonn Greene may be pursued at the right value, but Joe McKnight has started to come on as a potential playmaker.
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