2021 Offseason Team Needs: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

     

Thanks for checking out our 2021 Offseason Team Needs previews. Consider this a primer for the goals each team has to accomplish this offseason and the resources they have to work with. 

A couple of notes. Salary cap projections are from Over The Cap and based on a cap of $180.5 million. That number could ultimately be different depending on what the NFL and NFLPA figure out before free agency. Compensatory picks are also from OTC’s projections, which are historically the most accurate in the industry. Their methodology is outlined here.

With that, let’s get into it:

Bills

Projected Cap Space: -$202,851

Draft Picks: 7

  • 1st (No. 30)
  • 2nd (No. 61)
  • 3rd (No. 94)
  • 5th (No. 145, from LV)
  • 5th (No. 158)
  • 6th (No. 189)
  • 7th (No. 200, from CAR)

Notable Free Agents: LB Matt Milano, OT Daryl Williams, OL Jon Feliciano, G Brian Winters, WR Isaiah McKenzie, CB Levi Wallace (RFA), CB Josh Norman, TE Tyler Kroft, DE Trent Murphy, OT Ty Nsekhe, QB Matt Barkley, WR Andre Roberts, RB T.J. Yeldon, S Dean Marlowe, CB E.J. Gaines

  1. Offensive Line

The Bills will need to do a little bit of mixing and matching up front depending on which of their pending free agents walk and if they move on from someone like C Mitch Morse. But in addition to reinvesting in overall depth, Buffalo likely needs a starter at either guard, right tackle or center depending on what they do with Feliciano, who has played guard and center and seems more likely to be brought back than Williams, and 2019 second-round OL Cody Ford who has played both guard and tackle. 

  1. Cornerback

The AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs made it abundantly clear the Bills don’t have anyone really who can lock down Kansas City’s fearsome complement of weapons. Tre’Davious White is superb but the Bills keep him on one side of the field, allowing for teams to pick on the No. 2 and slot corners. While Buffalo likely brings back Wallace and has talked hopefully about 2020 seventh-round CB Dane Jackson‘s potential to compete for that role after a year on the practice squad, more competition for them and slot CB Taron Johnson is likely incoming. 

  1. Linebacker/Nickel Defender

Bills GM Brandon Beane specifically mentioned tight end as a position he’d like to address, as it’s the type of piece that could take an explosive offense like Buffalo’s over the top. The hard part is elite tight ends are truly rare because there just aren’t many humans on the planet who are that big, that agile and that smart to execute all the different responsibilities of the position at a high level. So that leaves linebacker, where the Bills are about to have a huge hole if Milano signs elsewhere in free agency as is expected. Having linebackers with range who can cover a lot of ground underneath is absolutely vital in the Bills’ defensive scheme. They’ve also been searching for a couple of years now for a “Buffalo nickel” — a sort of hybrid defender who is big and agile enough to match up with those tight ends and still hold up in run defense. 

Dolphins

Projected Cap Space: $26,004,465

Draft Picks: 7

  • 1st (No. 3, from HOU)
  • 1st (No. 18)
  • 2nd (No. 36, from HOU)
  • 2nd (No. 50)
  • 3rd (No. 82)
  • 4th (No. 114)
  • 6th (No. 183)

Notable Free Agents: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, C Ted Karras, DT Davon Godchaux, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, RB Matt Breida, LB Vince Biegel, LB Elandon Roberts, P Matt Haack, S Kavon Frazier, RB DeAndre Washington, WR Mack Hollins, OT Julie’n Davenport

  1. Running Back

Given how devalued the running back position has become, it feels a little weird to be listing it as the Dolphins’ top need. But on a roster without a ton of glaring holes, running back sticks out as a position without a lot of investment or proven production for Miami. Myles Gaskin was solid in 2020 but he really profiles as more of a complementary back than the lead role he played this past season. The Dolphins have the cap space and draft picks to really swing on a top option who will help take pressure off of the quarterback in 2021, whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa or someone else. 

  1. Wide Receiver

The Dolphins were a good team in 2020 that just needed to mature and develop a little more as they progressed out of a pretty heavy rebuild. Tagovailoa is among the young players Miami is working to develop as building blocks for the future and in order to do that, surrounding him with better weapons has to be a priority. There are pieces there with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and even Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson and a few of the other guys the Dolphins are trying out as slot receivers. But none of them have shown they can consistently stay healthy. Finding some reliability for Tagovailoa is paramount. 

  1. Safety

Just to reiterate, the Dolphins really don’t have many needs. Perhaps center if they’re unable to re-sign Karras. But that shouldn’t be too difficult. Good teams focus on keeping their strengths strong and the strength of the Miami defense is undeniably its secondary. The talent level there allowed the Dolphins to execute the zero-blitzes that dismantled teams like the Rams. Miami’s current safety group is pretty good but guys like Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe are potential cap casualties. Adding more potential matchup pieces to that group could help the Dolphins get younger, cheaper and better in that particular area. 

Jets

Projected Cap Space: $68,725,814

Draft Picks: 10

  • 1st (No. 2)
  • 1st (No. 23, from SEA)
  • 2nd (No. 34)
  • 3rd (No. 66)
  • 3rd (No. 87, from SEA)
  • 4th (No. 98)
  • 5th (No. 130)
  • 5th (No. 138, from NYG)
  • 6th (No. 162)
  • 7th (No. 215, from SEA)

Notable Free Agents: S Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, OLB Jordan Jenkins, CB Brian Poole, LB Neville Hewitt, S Bradley McDougald, LB Patrick Onwuasor, QB Joe Flacco, RB Frank Gore, DE Tarell Basham, OL Pat Elflein, LB Bryce Hager, CB Arthur Maulet, TE Ross Travis, DT Trevon Coley

  1. Quarterback

Sam Darnold still has a lot of fans in the NFL from folks who rated him as the top quarterback prospect coming out in the 2018 draft. The Jets might even be in that group. But the history of quarterbacks with the kind of start Darnold has had to his career is a rough-looking bunch. The odds are against Darnold ever becoming a competent starter at this point, though they look better when accounting for the Adam Gase effect of players suddenly rebounding after getting away from his system. Still, the Jets are probably better off trading Darnold for more pieces to help the rebuild and reinvesting in a top quarterback with the No. 2 pick. 

  1. Wide Receiver

The Jets need a lot of help. You don’t flirt with 0-16 without a roster full of holes and we could probably double the number of priorities listed here. Wide receiver isn’t the position that’s the sparsest in terms of talent for New York but it takes on added importance toward developing whoever the quarterback is in 2021. Currently, the Jets have slot receiver Jamison Crowder, if he’s not a cap casualty, and second-round WR Denzel Mims. Outside of that, there’s precious little to bank on long-term for the Jets. It wouldn’t be surprising to see New York make multiple additions here in free agency and the draft.

  1. Cornerback

If the season started today, the Jets starting trio of corners would probably be Blessuan Austin, Bryce Hall and Lamar Jackson (no not that one). That just doesn’t cut it at the NFL level. Those guys are fine developmental prospects. But counting on them as starters would get ugly. Expect new Jets HC Robert Saleh to look at bringing in a couple of his former defensive backs with the 49ers to help shore things up and install his new system. 

Patriots

Projected Cap Space: $62,778,756

Draft Picks: 10*

  • 1st (No. 15)
  • 2nd (No. 46)
  • 3rd (comp)
  • 4th (No. 111)
  • 4th (comp)
  • 4th (comp)
  • 5th (No. 142)
  • 6th (No. 171, from DAL)
  • 6th (No. 173)
  • 7th (No. 207)

*forfeited 3rd-round pick, No. 77, due to videotaping violations

Notable Free Agents: G Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, CB J.C. Jackson (RFA), QB Cam Newton, DT Adam Butler, DL Lawrence Guy, RB James White, CB Jason McCourty, DE Deatrich Wise, K Nick Folk, WR Damiere Byrd, QB Brian Hoyer, LB Brandon Copeland, OL Jermaine Eluemunor, OLB John Simon, RB Rex Burkhead

  1. Quarterback

There are a number of reasons why the late marriage between Newton and the Patriots last season didn’t work out the way both sides hoped. Newton might not be as cooked as many people seem to think, but he’s definitely not the player he was five years ago when he was the MVP and carried a supporting cast that was better, but not drastically, than what he had to work with this past season. If he comes back, which isn’t wholly out of the question, he’ll need a much better supporting cast. And if New England goes in a different direction, they’ll need to give the new starter a lot more help, too. 

  1. Wide Receiver

The Patriots have the worst receiving corps in the league right now. Hands down. Julian Edelman‘s body is failing him and it would not be surprising to see the Patriots move on. N’Keal Harry is treading closer to bust status. Jakobi Meyers is the team’s best receiver and he’s best-suited to be a No. 3 or No. 4 option. Same for Byrd despite his speed. New England’s offense has been notoriously hard for receivers to transition into, though some of that was how demanding Tom Brady was, and that has impacted how the Patriots have approached building the position. But they cannot have any sort of sustained success with the current black hole they have at the position and need to make major moves to fix it. 

  1. Tight End

For a team that did manage to finish 7-9, the Patriots have an awful lot of holes to patch. Offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and cornerback could all use reinforcements. But the void at tight end might rival the one at receiver, as New England has gotten essentially zero production from the position over the past two seasons. They double-dipped in the third round on Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene last year but rookies notoriously take time to transition at tight end. Adding a veteran who can provide reliable production and take the pressure off those two to develop would be huge for the offense. 

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B George
B George
12 days ago

Logan, you are on point again and again.