AFC Notes: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

     

Bills

Bills QB Josh Allen has seen major improvement each year of his professional career, making huge strides from his rookie year to his second season and then from his second season to his breakout third year in 2020. Allen is almost a completely different player from his rookie season, going from a 52.2 completion percentage to nearly 70 percent this past year and just 10 passing touchdowns to almost 40. It makes the thought of what could be next intoxicating if you’re a Bills fan. 

“Since we’ve drafted him, every year we’ve seen him evolve,” Bills owner Kim Pegula said via Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “We’ve seen whatever kinds of areas that we felt he needed to improve upon, we saw him really work on that and to come to fruition in the next season. I’m just looking forward to seeing what that is going to be next year and how Josh evolves.”

Pegula noted how the Bills’ playoff loss in 2019 and the role Allen played in it fueled him this entire season. She expects falling short in the AFC title game this past season to have a similar effect on him. 

“I think that really helped this year as we went even further in the playoffs,” she said. “The loss in the championship game, how does that fuel him and what are we going to see out of that next year?”

Dolphins

  • Although Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that it is not necessarily true that the Dolphins won’t spend on high-priced free-agents due to their salary cap limitations, GM Chris Grier has mentioned a preference “two or three good players” over a splash signing. 
  • Salguero writes that the Dolphins may also want to address internal signings, including looming negotiations with CB Xavien Howard, LB Jerome Baker, TE Mike Gesicki, TE Durham Smythe and DE Emmanuel Ogbah.
  • Salguero believes another “false narrative” is that the Dolphins cannot pursue Texans QB Deshaun Watson due to their limited cap space and not having enough talent to form around him. 
  • Salguero notes that the Dolphins can create $24 million in cap space by restructuring contracts for CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, G Ereck Flowers and S Bobby McCain
  • Salguero also writes that Miami can create $2.85 million by cutting WR Albert Wilson and $1.4 million from S Clayton Fejedelem.

Jets

  • Per Fansided’s Matt Lombardo, opinions across the NFL are split on the viability of Jets QB Sam Darnold as a reclamation project. One AFC scouting director not in the market for a quarterback told Lombardo: “Sam Darnold has far more upside than Carson Wentz. He also has less money on his contract. Plus, Wentz’s injury history is a major concern, and in that regard, Darnold has far less risk involved.”
  • However, one NFC coach said: “Some team might look at Sam as a ‘buy low’ option and think they can fix him. But the reality is, Sam played very poorly last year. We haven’t evaluated the rookies completely yet, but I’d be inclined to look to the draft rather than to trade for Darnold.”

Patriots

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe acknowledges the Patriots don’t have as strong of a recruiting pitch to free agents as they used to but points out that HC Bill Belichick successfully recruited a number of free agents before he had Brady. 
  • Howe could see the Patriots offering the Jaguars a late-round pick for QB Gardner Minshew to compete for the starting job, adding that adding Minshew wouldn’t preclude New England from making other moves at the position. 
  • Howe notes that there’s no official word on whether LB Dont’a Hightower will be back but there’s no chance of the Patriots cutting him even though it would save almost $10 million. 
  • As for the other opt-outs, Patriots S Patrick Chung should be safe, but Howe says RT Marcus Cannon, FB Danny Vitale, RB Brandon Bolden, TE Matt LaCosse, WR Marqise Lee and OL Najee Toran will all be competing for spots and most could be cut for cheaper or better options. 
  • Howe writes if the Patriots do trade CB Stephon Gilmore, which would happen if they can’t come to terms on a new contract, a second-round pick is probably realistic compensation. 
  • SI.com’s Todd Karpovich mentions the Patriots as a potential free-agent fit for Ravens OLB Tyus Bowser as they usually monitor Baltimore for defensive free agents. 
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