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What Do You Make of the Changed Landscape in the AFC East?

WRs Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis No Longer with Bills; Dolphins Defense Will Look Different in 2024

Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) in action against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL wild-card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Maria Lysaker)

Throughout the offseason, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will give their responses to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: What do you make of the changed landscape of the AFC East?

EA: While the picture won't be complete until after the draft, this division feels wide open. The Jets won 7 games last season and GM Joe Douglas has made several moves to improve his roster on both sides of the ball. The trade acquisition of Haason Reddick gives a very good defense a prolific pass rusher who can close games. This should be an elite unit and the offense, which will be bolstered by Aaron Rodgers' return, also will benefit from an experienced backup QB, three new starters on the OL and a big-play machine in WR Mike Williams. Health is key, but this is a very talented roster. The Bills have captured the past four division titles, but they are cutting costs around superstar QB Josh Allen. A lot of familiar faces like Stefon Diggs are gone and they are essentially entering what they hope is a second Allen window. Miami has a new DC in Anthony Weaver and they have significant questions on that side of the ball following several departures including DT Christian Wilkins (Las Vegas). The Pats have started a new era under Jerod Mayo and likely need time to return to postseason contention.

EG: The Jets have a good shot to compete for the division crown. The Bills have won the AFC East each of the last four seasons, but they've lost important starters on both sides of the ball headlined by WR Stefon Diggs. Josh Allen remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and there's plenty of time to add to the roster, but the Bills, who have split the season series with the Jets each of the last two seasons, will look different this season. Miami's defense also lost multiple starters such as DT Christian Wilkins, OLB Andrew Van Ginkel and CB Xavien Howard as well as their coordinator Vic Fangio. The Dolphins offense remains explosive while the Patriots are a team in transition with first-year head coach Jerod Mayo. Football is not played on paper, but the Jets roster is debatably, top to bottom, one of the best in the AFC let alone the division.

RL: I like it for the Jets. Buffalo traded Stefon Diggs to the Texans. Miami parted ways with defensive starters Xavien Howard and Andrew Van Ginkel. The Patriots are rebuilding. Now does losing one or two players in free agency knock a team down a peg in the AFC East hierarchy? Not necessarily, but with the Jets seemingly having rebuilt what they needed to rebuild, on the O-line, D-line and wideout and with perhaps just a few questions still needing to be answered, they have a window of opportunity to rise up the standings. As some have noted, Josh Allen and the Bills still rate as favorites and the Dolphins are always dangerous with Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. What the Jets need — no secret — is a return to wellness for Aaron Rodgers and his line and in fact great health for the entire team, especially their top-five defense. And the Jets also have to buy into Robert Saleh's mantra for the coming season: "All the hype and all the excitement, as far as I'm concerned, we haven't done anything yet. ... We have to win games."

CH: The AFC East is going to look drastically different than it did last season, which is exciting to me. The Bills are without key players like Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Jordan Poyer, and Leonard Floyd the Dolphins no longer have Christian Wilkins, Roberts Hunt, Andrew Van Ginkel and Jerome Baker. The Patriots have a new head coach for the first time in 24 years in Jerod Mayo and could look for a rookie quarterback to accompany veteran Jacoby Brissett. I think the Jets are in a great place to make capitalize on all the changes throughout the division and make a run. GM Joe Douglas was deliberate with the players he added during free agency. Now it's just a matter of keeping everyone healthy and on the field.

JP: It may seem difficult to believe because the Buffalo Bills have won four straight AFC East titles, but the division feels more wide open than ever heading in the 2024 season. The Bills spent the offseason purging their roster of big-money contracts, moving on from S Jordan Poyer, C Mitch Morse, CB Tre'Davious White and, most notably, All-Pro wideout Stefon Diggs. Miami let Pro Bowl DT Christian Wilkins, G Robert Hunt and LB Anderw Van Ginkel walk. While the Patriots may to be focusing much of their time on the NFL Draft with the No. 3 overall pick, they were moderately active in free agency. They re-signed OL Mike Onwenu to a long-term deal and added QB Jacoby Brissett. The Jets approached the offseason with an alternate philosophy. Jets GM Joe Douglas utilized every method of player acquisition this spring by signing All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, WR Mike Williams and trading for Pro Bowl pass rusher Haason Reddick and RT Morgan Moses. The Jets (7-10) finished four games behind the Dolphins (11-6) and Bills (11-6) last season without QB Aaron Rodgers for almost the entire season. After the early part of the offseason, the division could be a wide-open race.

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