An unintended consequence of the recently concluded NFL lockout has been one of the most exciting free-agency periods in league history. With little time to fill out rosters and get players into camp, teams have moved briskly. Here is a recap of how the AFC East’s teams reshuffled their rosters for 2011.
New England Patriots
The Patriots doubled down on their ability to make any troubled player follow the Patriot Way by trading for DT Albert Haynesworth (left) and WR Chad Ochocinco. The Pats didn’t give up many assets — a 2013 fifth-rounder to Washington for Haynesworth, a 2012 fifth-rounder and 2013 sixth-rounder to Cincinnati for Ochocinco. Haynesworth will be valuable as a pass rusher for 30-40 snaps per game. Ochocinco is basically a possession receiver even though he works on the periphery of the field. The re-signing of RBs Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris, OT Matt Light and 2010 All-Pro G Logan Mankins maintains continuity for a fine offense. Grade: A-
All-world CB Nnamdi Asomugha spurned the Jets to join Philadelphia. Re-upping CB Antonio Cromartie to a four-year, $32 million deal was a desperation move to save face after the failure to land Asomugha. Cromartie’s inconsistency in coverage often neutralizes the impact of the plays he makes. WR Plaxico Burress is a premier middle-of-the-field and red-zone target, but how the 33-year-old’s body reacts after missing two seasons in prison will determine his effectiveness. Re-signing WR Santonio Holmes to a five-year, $50 million deal ensures that Mark Sanchez won’t be over-reliant on Burress. Grade: B-
Buffalo’s signing of ex-Jet WR Brad Smith, a do-everything type, was well-intentioned: Stealing a valuable player from a division rival is usually clever. Yet the four-year, $15 million deal the undermanned Bills gave Smith is too pricey. New rules pushing kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line and prohibiting kickoff teams from getting a five-yard head start will minimize Smith’s kickoff return and coverage prowess. Losing ILB Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville hurts, but adding the more athletic ILB Nick Barnett in a three-year deal will help, especially given Buffalo’s 3-4 defense. Grade: C+
The trade for RB Reggie Bush — Miami dealt S Jonathon Amaya and swapped undisclosed draft picks with New Orleans — is one of style over substance. Bush’s name appeals to marketing-savvy owner Stephen Ross, but his inability to identify holes between the tackles doesn’t justify a two-year, $10 million deal. Miami replaced ILB Channing Crowder with speedy ILB Kevin Burnett, who inked a four-year, $20 million contract. OLB Jason Taylor was brought back for pass-rushing situations. QB Matt Moore won’t make incumbent QB Chad Henne feel the heat. Grade: C