AFC East: News and Notes

As free agency continues, more teams are making deals. The Buffalo Bills look to JP Losman to be "the guy". The Dolphins are dealing with QB issues... again. The Patriots have more secondary concerns and the Jets believe Kenyon Coleman can be a big help.

Division Report as of 4/07/07

Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

    BUFFALO BILLS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Preseason games aren't something NFL players with some job security look forward to but quarterback J.P. Losman will circle Buffalo's Aug. 10 game at New Orleans on his calendar.

The Bills' preseason opener, which will be televised nationally, marks Losman's return to the city and the Superdome where he starred in college for Tulane University from 2000-03.

A year ago, Losman was beginning an off-season competition for Buffalo's starting job with Kelly Holcomb and Craig Nall, a competition he eventually won during training camp. He went on to start all 16 games, leading the Bills to a 7-9 finish, passing for 3,051 yards and 19 touchdowns with a very respectable 84.9 rating.

With their quarterback issue resolved in their minds, general manager Marv Levy and coach Dick Jauron have gone about tearing apart the rest of their lineup and are in the process of putting it back together.

After free agent defections and trades, five starting holes need to be filled. On offense, they include finding a new starting running back after Willis McGahee was traded to Baltimore. The line, meanwhile, will have at least two new starters: free agent Derrick Dockery at left guard and free agent Langston Walker at right tackle.

Veteran left guard Mike Gandy was allowed to defect as a free agent, signing with Arizona. With so many holes to fill on defense where Buffalo must find two linebackers and a cornerback, Levy and Jauron likely won't be able to upgrade Losman's receiving corps significantly at wideout and tight end.

The team's eight draft picks will go fast.

Still, Losman is optimistic that Buffalo's 30th-ranked offense will be better.

"I am excited," he said. "For the first time here, I get to start the season as the starting quarterback with the same offense, with basically the same players. We get to critique some things as opposed to just learning this huge offense of ideas. Now I get to critique exactly what we did wrong last year and amplify what we did right."

The line upgrades can't be overstated, Losman said. He was sacked 47 times last year.

"It makes a quarterback happy, of course," he said. "It's also a sad time, because you see some friends go. You know they are not going to be here, playing with them after you built some relationships, but it is time to move on. We have some new guys and they'll bring some new excitement here. They're going to help things out and get things rolling on the offense and help all phases of it."

NOTEBOOK

--The Bills are dealing with a serious leadership drain after parting ways with players like Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher. Those departures mean young players like J.P. Losman, Lee Evans and Angelo Crowell will have to assume those roles, along with some new veterans. New LG Derrick Dockery, who played for Joe Gibbs in Washington and has played 64 NFL games, is ready to take on more responsibility, he said. "Coming from Washington, I had a great opportunity to play with a veteran offensive line, veteran coach, learned a lot of things," he said. "Hopefully I can help this young line in any way they need it. I'm here to do whatever it takes."

--Former Bills RB Thurman Thomas, the club's all-time rusher, said he wishes he could've spoken with Willis McGahee before the controversial ball carrier was traded to Baltimore. McGahee was not happy playing in Buffalo's small market, but Thomas loved it. "I wish I could have talked to him," Thomas said during a recent Buffalo Sabres game. "I know Buffalo is not a glamour place to play, but you can make it glamorous by having a good football team. That's what we did when we were here, even though we didn't win a Super Bowl. If Marv (Levy) would have called me and asked me to talk to him, I would have."

--Tickets for Thomas' induction ceremony into the Pro Football Hall of Fame are now available through the Hall of Fame's website (www.profootballhof.com) or by calling 1-800-913-9788. Floor seats are $52 and stadium seats are $26. Also on sale are all-inclusive fan packages.

--CB Ashton Youboty on what he got out of his rookie season: "Just being able to play with guys like Troy Vincent, Nate Clements, (Terrence) McGee and seeing what their work ethic is and how hard they practice and work after practice. And learning our defense and seeing how consistent I can be."

--The Bills continue to talk with the San Diego Chargers about a possible deal for restricted free agent RB Michael Turner. After tendering him a $2.35 million contract, the Chargers are entitled to draft pick compensation of a first- and third-round pick in 2007. Buffalo would have no problem giving up a third-rounder -- it has two this season -- but its first round choice is No. 12 overall. That is way too valued to give up for Turner. If Buffalo somehow were able to trade down into the lower portion of the first round, obtaining more picks or a veteran player they could use to address their many needs, then deal that lower first-round pick for Turner, it would factor out better. Stay tuned. Turner, just 25, has great speed and power and could blossom as a starter after three years backing up LaDainian Tomlinson.

THEY SAID IT: "All I know is that I want to come in and make the team better. I think with my experience and going to championship games in Philadelphia, and also being in a defense where we've had some success, hopefully I can help our defense in Buffalo have some success." -- New Bills DT Darwin Walker, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for LB Takeo Spikes and QB Kelly Holcomb.


    MIAMI DOLPHINS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

Like the Houston Texans with recently released quarterback David Carr, the Dolphins could have opted to quickly cut Mare after the franchise had signed former New York Giants kicker Jay Feely as a replacement. Mare, whose 10 years with the franchise ranked him second in seniority on the current roster behind linebacker Zach Thomas (11), also had publicly asked for his release by saying, "It's frustrating ... I just want to get it over with."

But Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller wouldn't budge because he believed that Mare had trade value. Mueller was proven right by finalizing a deal with the Saints, who were seeking a replacement for 42-year-old John Carney.

"We had a lot of discussions with several teams," Mueller said. "We were waiting until the right deal was there. We felt this was the right time."

Mueller now has to hope that he made the right decision by opting for Feely over Mare, who had a career-low 72.2 field-goal percentage last season but led the NFL with 24 touchbacks. Feely only had 12 touchbacks but he was playing home games in Giants Stadium, where wind conditions usually hinder long-distance kicking.

Feely also ranked 11th in the NFL in field goal percentage at 85.2, making 23 of his 27 attempts.

"The things we like about Jay were a mental toughness, toughness of kicking in the cold," Mueller said. "We go to some tough places -- Buffalo, New England, New York -- and he's comfortable in that arena."

Mueller wouldn't detail the exact reasons Mare was replaced. But with a slew of other Dolphins being jettisoned or allowed to leave via free agency this off-season, it's obvious Miami is in the midst of a roster makeover.

"Sometimes change is a part of this business," Mueller said. "We elected to take a different route. It's nothing bad about Olindo. We all like and respect him. It's no different when you have to release players. Some change is good sometimes."

NOTEBOOK

--A national television appearance and home games against Florida's other two NFL teams highlight Miami's preseason schedule.

The Dolphins will play August 16 at Kansas City in a game that will be televised by ESPN. The game could have an interesting twist if the Dolphins manage to complete a trade for Chiefs quarterback Trent Green.

Miami's preseason opener is August 11 against Jacksonville. The other home game is August 25 against Tampa Bay.

Miami's final preseason game is August 30 at New Orleans.

--Jason Allen is expected to receive playing time at cornerback and safety as the 2006 first-round pick tries to rebound from a disappointing rookie season. Allen fell hopelessly behind in training camp following a 10-day contract holdout and saw most if his action on special teams with some playing time as a dime safety in the second half of the season.

THEY SAID IT: "I think it's good for everybody. This (New Orleans) was one place Olindo wanted to go and kick. They're a really good team and you know how kickers are. They like to get indoors. Good for him." -- Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller on the trade of kicker Olindo Mare to New Orleans for a 2007 sixth-round draft choice.


 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

All is not well in New England. After a great off-season so far, things took a downward spiral when cornerback Asante Samuel told the NFL Network that he isn't happy with the way negotiations have been going regarding a long-term contract with the Patriots and if things don't change soon, he wants to be traded.

Samuel tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions last year and added two more that he returned for touchdowns in the playoffs. The Patriots assigned the franchise tag to Samuel on Feb. 16 and at the time both parties appeared to be happy.

"We don't look at it as a bad thing," Samuel's agent Alonzo Shavers said shortly after his client received the franchise tag. "This is a step in the process in working toward a long-term deal."

However, after two months of negotiations, Samuel has changed his tune.

"This is to let everybody know that I'm not happy anymore and things are not going well," Samuel told the NFL Network's Adam Schefter. "At first I thought it was going well, but it's not."

Samuel is set to receive a one-year salary worth $7.79 million under the franchise tag. However, since he was franchised, Nate Clements signed an eight-year deal with the 49ers that includes $22 million in bonuses and guarantees, while Dre' Bly agreed to terms with the Broncos for a five-year deal worth $16 million in bonuses and guarantees.

Samuel and the Patriots have been working towards a long-term deal but after Clements and Bly's lucrative contracts, the Patriots are going to have to shell out a lot of money to keep Samuel in New England.

According to Samuel, right now he and the team don't see eye-to-eye on his monetary value.

"We have a difference of opinion in my value," he said. "They (Patriots) think I'm worth one price and other teams think I'm worth a lot more. If a long-term deal can't be done at fair numbers for me and New England, then I want to be traded."

Samuel did say in his interview with the NFL Network that he hopes a deal with the Patriots will still get done. However, if they're not willing to up their offer, he's ready to move on.

"I'm prepared to do what's best for my family," he said. "It's not what I want to do, but what I have to do. They're handling their business the way they feel they have to and I'm going to do the same."

Samuel can still negotiate with other teams but the Patriots have the right to match any offer he receivers. If Samuel signed an offer sheet with another team and New England decided not to match it, they would receive two first-round draft picks.

"The rest of the league knows I'm worth more than New England is offering but they're scared of that compensation (giving up two first-round selections)," Samuel said. "But I want to get this over with bad enough that I'm willing to work with any team to get a fair long-term deal done.

"I've been patient, haven't said anything bad and haven't said anything negative. But my patience has run out. Business is business. They handled their business their way and I'm handling my business my way. I hope not but it's looking more and more like it could be time to move on.

And for the Patriots, it's looking more and more like the Deion Branch fiasco all over again.

NOTEBOOK:

--Patriots LB Mike Vrabel was in Dorchester, Mass. recently to help Bank of America honor community service workers in the Boston area. Vrabel gave a speech in which he recognized the "Worker Bees", a community service club of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from the Broad Meadow School in Quincy. The "Worker Bees" volunteer with the Cradles to Crayons program. Currently, the program has helped over 40,000 under-privileged children.

--WR Troy Brown hasn't let it be known what his plans are for 2007 but coach Bill Belichick said recently that the 14-year veteran still has a place on the team.

"I expect Troy to have a role with us this year as far as I'm concerned," Belichick said. "He's part of the plan for next season."

--Adalius Thomas' coach with the Ravens, Brian Billick, had nothing but good things to say about his former player at the NFL owners meeting. Billick believes that Thomas will continue to shine under Belichick in New England.

"I think with coach Belichick, you could see that would be a team that would covet Thomas because they are one that shows a certain level of innovation in being able to use a guy like that," Billick said. "Coach Belichick is a brave coach. New England is certainly a team that will utilize him well."

--Former Patriots WR Darryl Stingley passed away on April 5 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. He was 55.

Stingley was found unconscious in his apartment, authorities said. The person who took care of Stingley called the police and he was taken to Northwestern. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Stingley's life changed forever on Aug. 12, 1978 in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. He was the victim of a vicious but legal hit by Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. The blow broke Stingley's neck and left him a quadriplegic for life.

The two never talked after the incident and Stingley never really forgave Tatum for what he thought was a cheap shot.

"There was no penalty called on the play and there was a lot of controversy about it," Stingley told the Chicago Tribune in 2004. "The best thing that resulted is that the game changed in terms of officiating and what they call excessive violence. It has opened the game up to allow receivers to get downfield. And it has made the game more exciting."

--The Patriots re-signed exclusive rights free agent OT Wesley Britt. Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed. Britt, 25, played in 10 games with one start for the Patriots last season after spending the entire 2005 season on New England's practice squad.

THEY SAID IT: "To win a championship, you've got to come in and play at a high level. If you're not going to be a part of it then you need to leave. But I think Thomas is going to be on board and we're excited about the opportunity of having him." -- Patriots LB Rosevelt Colvin on the addition of Adalius Thomas.


 NEW YORK JETS     Bills :: Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

It's quite obvious that former Cowboys (and Giants and Patriots and Jets) coach Bill Parcells and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum are still pretty tight.

Why else would the Jets give a $20 million contract over five years to a career backup? Former Dallas defensive end Kenyon Coleman, who was signed earlier this off-season, obviously got a good recommendation from Parcells.

But it's not as if the Jets were the only ones bidding for Coleman, as the Cleveland Browns also made a serious offer to the unrestricted free agent. The fact is that defensive ends suited to the 3-4 rather than the 4-3 are hard to find, and are becoming more in demand as more teams switch to the 3-4.

(Currently, there are seven teams that play the 3-4 all or most of the time-San Diego, Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, Pittsburgh, New England and the Jets.)

Coleman has only 6.5 sacks in 57 career games, but he came on strong last season, especially late in the year. He had four sacks in 2006, including two in the Cowboys' final three regular-season games.

Coleman, who was originally drafted by Oakland in the fifth round in 2002, didn't see much playing time in his first two seasons with the Cowboys because of the presence of such ends as Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban and Marcellus Wiley. But he started to see more playing time in 2005 before his 2006 campaign, which the Jets hope is just a sign of things to come.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Coleman underwent off-season shoulder surgery, but is said to be progressing well in his rehab and the Jets hope to have him ready to participate in spring mini-camp and organized team activities, a.k.a. voluntary mini-camp.

Coleman figures to push for a starting job and would appear to be in line to start opposite Shaun Ellis, with older veterans Kimo von Oelhoffen and Bobby Hamilton in reserve. Of course, the Jets could still pick up a rookie defensive end in the draft, but they have other pressing needs.

Cornerback seems to be at the top of that list, considering the Jets didn't pursue any of the big-ticket corners available in free agency.

NOTEBOOK

--The NFL released its preseason schedule, and the good news for the Jets is they won't have to live up to their nickname until the regular season begins, as it won't be necessary to get on a plane until the games count.

Of their four preseason contests, two are home games and the longest road trip is to Philadelphia for the annual preseason finale between the teams, and the Jets could very well take a train there. The other road trip isn't a trip at all, as they "visit" the Giants for their annual game.

The schedule begins with a home game against Atlanta, with the date to be determined. Then the Jets will host Minnesota at Giants Stadium on Friday, Aug. 17 in a game televised nationally by FOX. Their final two games will be at the Giants and Eagles, with the dates to be announced later. The Philadelphia game likely will be on Aug. 30, to give both teams maximum time to prepare for their respective season openers.

--The Jets announced they are hosting "draft parties" at three Dave & Buster's locations in the New York area on April 28, the first day of the draft. But perhaps the Jets also should host draft parties on April 29, considering they recently have picked up some standouts on Day Two. Jerricho Cotchery (2004), Kerry Rhodes (2005) and Leon Washington (2006) all were fourth-round selections.

--New England coach Bill Belichick was at the NCAA championship game in Atlanta to watch Billy Donovan's Florida team win the title for the second straight year. Donovan had brought Belichick in as a motivational speaker for the players, and he talked about what it takes to repeat as champions.

Jets coach Eric Mangini is fond of bringing in boxers as motivational speakers for his team, so maybe Mangini will make an appearance at the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather bout in Las Vegas on May 5.

THEY SAID IT: "This is a much better defense for Kenyon (Coleman)." -- Then-Dallas coach Bill Parcells in 2005 training camp, referring to the Cowboys' switch to the 3-4

Related: Bills Report | Jets Confidential | Dolphin Digest | Patriots Insider


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