Now that the initial cash grab of free agency is over and teams have settled into an off-season game plan, it's a little easier to see where everyone in the AFC East is heading as we count down the days to Draft 2008. With that in mind, we thought we'd review what's taken place in terms of player movement and try to train our sights on the things that the Jets, Patriots, Bills and Dolphins will likely try to accomplish in the coming weeks, before diving headlong into the draft fray.
Today: the Jets and Dolphins.
New York Jets
The Jets' moves in the off-season clearly point toward a desire to win now. The signings of LG Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, who we believe will ultimately end up at RT, address the team's most glaring needs on offense.
But those moves have to be accompanied by continued development from C Nick Mangold and T D'Brickashaw Ferguson. The Faneca signing has as much to do with sparking Ferguson's development as it does with improving the LG spot. The additions of RB Jesse Chatman and TE Bubba Franks give the Jets depth at both positions, and FB Tony Richardson is a solid blocking back and a sure-handed receiver, giving New York more options in the passing game.
The defense was in need of a big boost. Playing a 3-4 front with players who didn't really fit the scheme, it appears Dewayne Robertson's days as a Jet are over and will be replaced by the bigger Kris Jenkins. LB David Harris has established himself on the inside at LB, and the signing of Calvin Pace gives the team another OLB who can stand up or play with his hand down in passing situations, much the way Bryan Thomas has.
So with all of those needs addressed, expect the Jets to be looking for speed in the draft. The offense currently lacks a gamebreaker, so Arkansas' Darren McFadden could fill the bill at pick No. 6. He is a powerful runner and a strong receiver and has even taken snaps from center and filled in as a passer during his college career.
Another receiver is a priority as well. The Jets love to throw the fade down in the red zone despite lacking a 6'0" receiver. Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly is 6'4" and could be a big scorer in green. But the Jets' receiving corps consists of possession receivers, so a field-stretcher like LSU's Early Doucet, Florida's Andre Caldwell and Cal's DeSean Jackson are all good possibilities if they slide at all in this draft.
Don't be surprised to see the Jets take a QB early, either. Chad Pennington doesn't seem to be Eric Mangini's preferred plan of action, and there is word circulating now that Kellen Clemens may not be the guy they thought he could be. Delaware's Joe Flacco and Michigan's Chad Henne are both good Round 2 options.
On defense, the Jets need a cover man with speed opposite Darrelle "Baby Lockdown" Revis. Troy's Leodis McKelvin is that type of player and would give the Jets an added bonus as a top return man.
Bill Parcells didn't wait long to roll up his sleeves once he got to South Florida. In true Parcells fashion, he immediately started to build his new team with back-end players and an emphasis on special teams. Players like RB Boomer Grigsby, WR Tab Perry, former Jets TE Sean Ryan, LB Charlie Anderson and former Cowboys Keith Davis and Nathan Jones are all top ST contributors.
Parcells has also used the free agency period to bring in his famed "hold the fort" guys, players who know his system and way of doing things. Jason Ferguson may be headed toward the end of his career, but he knows what Parcells wants and has the ability to pass on his knowledge of the Parcells Way to the younger players on the roster.
Other players like QB Josh McCown and WR Ernest Wilford will immediately fill needs and provide upgrades at their positions, and they'll get every chance to show what they can do. For both of these players, it could be their last chance to prove they can be NFL starting-caliber players.
In typical Parcells fashion, there have been a couple signings that could yield a long-term starter or two. G Justin Smiley is 26 with tremendous upside and seems like a Parcells type of player. DT Randy Starks has been a bit of an underachiever with Tennessee, but if there is anyone who can motivate an underachiever, it's Parcells. And his handpicked head coach, Tony Sparano, is by all accounts an apple from the same tree.
So where does that leave Miami in terms of draft needs? Unfortunately for 'Fins fans, the team has so many needs, it could go in a number of directions. But it seems a foregone conclusion that the Dolphins will come out of this draft with a couple of good players who will get a chance to contribute right away.
Parcells would love to trade out of the first pick, but as we've mentioned in this space before, there aren't many buyers at this point. He's in the process of trying to talk up several prospects to drum up business for his pick, but short of that, expect him to build a foundation at the line of scrimmage, on either side of the ball.
Chris Long's recent workouts have bolstered his stock and he has shown the type of versatility that Parcells likes. Michigan's Jake Long is more likely a right tackle but could develop into an LT before long. Whichever need is not addressed, expect Miami to be looking that way in Round 2, and secondary and WR will have to be priorities on draft weekend as well.