Breaking down the AFC East

This is the first in a series about the NFL Draft, which will be held April 26 and 27.<br> <br> Today: <b>The AFC East</b>

Buffalo: No team has had a better offseason than the Bills, who have pumped up their anemic defense by acquiring Cincinnati linebacker Takeo Spikes, Oakland defensive tackle Sam Adams, linebacker Jeff Posey from Houston. Sure, they traded Peerless Price to Atlanta, hurting the potent offense, but they picked up a first-round pick in exchange, making up for the one they dealt to New England in exchange for QB Drew Bledsoe. They also signed Bobby Shaw from Jacksonville to help soften the blow, while second-year man Josh Reed, last year's top pick, will move into the starting lineup.

Adams will help on the defensive line, but last year's No. 2 pick Ryan Denny has thus far been a bust.

Having addressed it's biggest need - outside linebacker - the Bills will look to the defensive line or tight end position, now that Jay Riemersma, who was released, has signed with the Steelers.

Tennessee's Jason Witten is a first-round possibility, as are defensive ends Michael Haynes or Cory Redding.


Miami: The Dolphins have been pretty quiet this offseason, signing only backup cornerback Terrell Buckley from New England and wide receiver Derrius Thompson from Washington. Miami is considered the frontrunner, however, in the Junior Seau sweepstakes, which would help solve the Dolphins' biggest offseason need, finding an outside linebacker. Seau is definitely on the downside of his career, but probably has one more decent season left in his aging legs.

That's good news for the Dolphins, who are without a first round draft choice, having shipped it to New Orleans in the Ricky Williams trade.

Because of that, the Dolphins don't have a pick until the 49th-overall choice. If it does indeed acquire Seau, the Dolphins will look to grab a young offensive tackle after being spurned by former Steelers' left tackle Wayne Gandy. Georgia's Jon Stinchcomb is one possibility, as is Hawaii's Wayne Hunter.


New England: The Patriots have been busy in the free agent market, signing prize linebacker/defensive end Rosevelt Colvin from Chicago, safety Rodney Harrison, who was released by San Diego, cornerback Tyrone Poole from Denver and Cleveland safety Chris Atkins.

Colvin should help the Patriots' pathetic pass rush, while head coach Bill Belichick seems to have a fondness for collecting defensive backs.

The Patriots own two first-round picks this year as part of the Drew Bledsoe trade and despite having addressed their biggest need with Colvin, they may take another of the talented big men in this year's draft.

The Patriots will also be looking at the cornerback position carefully as Otis Smith is long past his prime - if he ever had one - and Ty Law is on the downside of his career.

Wide receiver is also a priority as they attempt to find a big-play guy to line up opposite Troy Brown.

With two first round picks, the Patriots could be major players on the draft's first day, possibly trading up to grab wide receivers Charles Rogers or Andre Johnson, or cornerbacks Terrance Newman or Marcus Trufant.

If the Pats stay where they're at - 14 and 19 - they would love for Johnson to fall. If not, wide receiver Taylor Jacobs and while corners Dennis Weathersby or Andre Woolfolk are possibilities.


New York Jets: The Jets have had a tough offseason as the Washington Redskins for some reason targeted them as the team from which to grab free agents from. The Redskins signed free agent guard Randy Thomas away from New York and then signed restricted free agents Chad Morton and Laveranues Coles to offer sheets. The Jets matched the offer sheet to Morton, a running back and return man, but did not to Coles and will receive Washington's first round pick after offering the wide receiver a high tender as a restricted free agent.

The Jets have also signed punter Dan Stryzinski and guard Tom Nutten from St. Louis to help ease the loss of Thomas. But finding a good young guard in the draft will be a priority as neither Nutten or the team's other guard, Dave Szott, are all that great. Replacing Coles and finding a run-stuffing defensive tackle and an outside linebacker.

Armed with the 13th and 22nd picks in the first round, the Jets have the means to acquire the players they need.

Outside linebacker Boss Bailey is a definite possibility with the 13th pick, as are defensive tackles Dewayne Robertson and Jonathan Sullivan. At the 22nd pick, there are no outside linebackers worthy of the pick after Bailey is off the board. But if the Jets get their defensive tackle at 13, they could go for guard Eric Steinbach. A wide receiver like Taylor Jacobs would also be a possibility.

Dale Lolley
SteelCitySports.com




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