AFC EAST ROUNDTABLE: Free Agency Begins AFC East insiders review the early moves in free agency within the division. Why did some teams go after big names, while others stood pat? How much of an impact will T.O. have in the Bills passing attack? What is Ryan up to in New York? Answers to these questions and more...

Tyler Dunne ( It was the text message heard ‘round Western New York.

When Terrell Owens was released by the Dallas Cowboys, Trent Edwards sent a text to his boss, chief operating officer Russ Brandon.

What about T.O.?

Terrell Owens, Buffalo's new weapon
The rest is history. Buffalo shocked everyone a week ago by signing arguably the biggest diva in the history of the NFL, Terrell Owens. The Bills were desperate. Owens was desperate. So the two sides decided to join hands in a summer fling. If history is any indication, the inevitable breakup will be gory and leave lasting scars for this young team.

Owner Ralph Wilson – having been held out of the playoffs for nine straight seasons – surely envisioned a marketing explosion. It’s estimated that the Bills will refill the $6.5 million they’re paying Owens in jersey sales alone. No joke.

On the field, Owens is precisely what Buffalo needs: a big-bodied playmaking receiver to relieve pressure off Lee Evans. Also, it’s just a one-year trial run. Apologists say he is traditionally a choir boy in the first year with new teams. Still, it’s awfully difficult to envision an egomaniac like T.O. quietly going about his business in this small, blue-collar market that many stars like Willis McGahee have shunned. Trent Edwards isn’t nearly as established as Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo when Mount T.O. erupted on them. And this isn’t exactly a take-no-bull organization i.e. Marshawn Lynch’s hit-and-run last year.

Time will tell. Maybe Owens’ play isn’t declining as his 33 drops last year suggest. Maybe he’ll lift Buffalo’s offense to a new level. Either way, the Bills will finally be exciting to watch for a change.

Elsewhere, the Bills officially kaboshed the J.P. Losman Era by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick. The former Bengal will one of the richest backups in the league. If he plays all three years on his deal, Fitzpatrick pocket $8.25 million. Considering Edwards’ flurry of injuries through his first two seasons, this hefty contract was a necessary evil. And heck, now Buffalo has Stanford and Harvard grads under center. That has to count for something.

Maybe the most important signing for the Bills also was center Geoff Hangartner. He’ll help combat the 3-4 defenses in the AFC East. The biggest reason Buffalo went 0-8 in the division last year were disruptive 3-4 nose guards Kris Jenkins, Jason Ferguson and Vince Wilfork. Hangartner is a major upgrade over Duke Preston. Drayton Florence figures to be a nickel corner. He’ll help alleviate the loss of Jabari Greer, who signed with New Orleans.

Alain Poupart (Dolphin Digest): The Dolphins haven't exactly made a big splash in free agency, instead focusing on keeping their own players.

Before the market opened on Feb. 27, the Dolphins re-signed three of their five starters scheduled to become UFAs — offensive tackle Vernon Carey, safety Yeremiah Bell and linebacker Channing Crowder. The signings of Carey and Bell were particularly significant because both would have been tough to replace in free agency. As for Crowder, he's been a solid starter but he might not remain in the starting lineup much longer if he doesn't start making some big plays.

Eric Green is going to be busy in 2009

In terms of free agents from other teams, the Dolphins signed second-tied free agents Jake Grove, Joe Berger and Eric Green. Grove and Green were come to Miami with something to prove after earning the tag of underachievers in Oakland and Arizona, respectively. Both should be in line to start for Miami. The Dolphins also signed safety Gibril Wilson after he was cut by the Raiders, and he also should be a starter.

What the Dolphins haven't done in free agency is go after the big-money, high-profile players, such as center Jason Brown, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, even wide receiver Laveranues Coles after he restructured his deal with the Jets and became a free agent.

The Dolphins established their blueprint last year and they've followed it this spring: Build through the draft, look for bargains in free agency.

Dan Leberfeld (Jets Confidential): The Jets two free agent signings shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They went out early in free agency and signed two players Rex Ryan loved from his days in Baltimore, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard.

These two will not only provide the Jets two solid players, but leaders for the Front Seven (Scott) and secondary (Leonhard), who come in knowing Ryan’s system. They can be traffic cops for the defensive players as they learn the new playbook.

Bart Scott instills confidence

Ryan feels Scott’s take-no-prisoners approach will rub off on a Jets defense that needs to get a little tougher. In the ILB combo of Scott and David Harris, Ryan feels he has one of the best duos in football.

Also added was long-time special team’s standout Larry Izzo, a favorite of assistant Mike Westhoff from his days in Miami. Westhoff lost a few of his favorite charges this off-season, so this should help fill the void.

It has been reported that the Jets have also signed free agent defensive end Howard Green, who has the requisite size to play on the line in the 3-4 defense. No official announcement was made on this one yet.

One of the Jets toughest decisions in free agency was in picking a field goal kicker. Mike Nugent was hurt most of last year, so the they signed Jay Feely to replace him. Feely did a solid job, and both were free agents after the season. So the Jets have a difficult choice between the two of them, and went with Feely. Though it is possible the decision was somewhat financial (who would take less money), since they are comparable kickers.

Jon Scott (Patriots Insider): The Patriots had a big question at quarterback heading into free agency: What should they do with Matt Cassel? That answer came in early February when the team placed the Franchise tag on him. The decision then became whether to trade him or keep him as an expensive insurance policy for Tom Brady.

No insurance policy needed it turns out. New England fixed the lack of cap space (due to the franchise tag) and avoided a quarterback controversy by dealing Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs in the first week of free agency. In addition, the team unloaded veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel and his $4 million cap number. The moves set the table for a short spending spree.

Baker helps Patriots build much-needed depth at TE

By clearing Cassel’s $14.65 tender and $3 million of Vrabel’s cap cost, the Patriots made it possible to sign tight end Chris Baker (Jets), running back Fred Taylor (Jaguars) along with cornerbacks Leigh Bodden (Lions) and Shawn Springs (Redskins).

Cassel wasn’t going to be the starter in New England with Tom Brady progressing in his rehab. And Vrabel was getting along in years. The curious part of the deal was the questionable value the Chiefs surrendered for two proven players – just a second round pick.

The addition of Baker shores up a problem area at tight end, addressing the injury concerns with a solid veteran. The signing of Taylor gives New England a proven veteran in place of LaMont Jordan (who left for Denver) and the oft-injured Laurence Maroney (who has yet to prove he was worth a first round pick). Bodden and Springs will replace Deltha O’Neal and Lewis Sanders who aren’t expected to return.

Other moves included signing free agent long snapper Nathan Hodel to replace Lonie Paxton (Mr. Snow Angel) who bolted to Denver, and trading a draft pick to the Eagles to acquire wide receiver Greg Lewis who will replace Jabar Gaffney (another Denver acquisition).

It remains to be seen if safety Rodney Harrison will return for another season. If not, New England will require more safety help despite re-signing James Sanders to a three-year deal.

New England still needs to address their lack of depth at outside linebacker with Vrabel gone. Another receiver and some help on the offensive line are also in order.

With five picks in the first three rounds, the Patriots can stockpile some youth in April’s Draft. That strategy may be the way they go now that they’ve addressed some of their needs.

Dan Leberfeld covers the New York Jets for Jets Confidential Magazine
Alain Poupart covers the Miami dolphins as the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest
Tyler Dunne covers the Buffalo Bills for the Buffalo Football Report
Jon Scott covers the New England Patriots for Patriots Insider

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