You can make a serious case that this has been the wildest offseason in NFL history. It seems like with each passing day there is a surprise signing or a seismic trade that is topping the previous move and completely shaking the league to its core. While a lot of those moves have occurred in the AFC West, the AFC East has seen plenty of fireworks that should set the stage for an extremely interesting regular season in 2022.
With the first initial wave of free agency now behind us, we're going to run down what each of the teams in the division has done to this point and hand out our grades accordingly.
Buffalo Bills: A
Additions: QB Case Keenum (Browns), TE O.J. Howard (Buccaneers), OG Rodger Saffold (Titans), DE Shaq Lawson (Jets), DT Tim Settle (Commanders), DT DaQuan Jones (Panthers), OLB Von Miller (Rams), WR Jamison Crowder (Jets), DT Jordan Phillips (Cardinals), RB Duke Johnson (Dolphins)
Re-signings: WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie, CB Siran Neal, WR Jake Kumerow
Departures: CB Levi Wallace (Steelers), DT Harrison Phillips (Vikings), LB AJ Klein (released), OL Daryl Williams (released), OL Jon Feliciano (released), WR Cole Beasley (released), DT Star Lotulelei (released)
The Bills had already possessed a Super Bowl-caliber roster and have only raised their ceiling with the levers they've pulled to start the new league year. The stunner, of course, was being the "mystery team" in the Von Miller sweepstakes, inking the future Hall of Fame pass rusher to a six-year, $120 million contract. Buffalo's defense was already elite as they were the top-ranked unit in the entire NFL in DVOA last season, so inserting the likes of Miller, Shaq Lawson, and Jordan Phillips should only make them that much more dangerous.
Offensively, the addition of Jamison Crowder could prove to be one of the most underrated signings of free agency. Crowder is the ideal third receiver to place alongside Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis and is a clear upgrade over Cole Beasley. Meanwhile, the J.D. McKissic fiasco was a head-scratcher, but Duke Johnson should be a solid passing down back for Josh Allen. O.J. Howard is also a sneaky strong No. 2 option at tight end behind Dawson Knox.
New England Patriots: C
Key additions: LB Mack Wilson (Browns via trade), CB Terrance Mitchell (Texans), RB/WR Ty Montgomery (Saints), CB Malcolm Butler (Cardinals)
Re-signings: QB Brian Hoyer, RB James White, OT Trent Brown, OL James Ferentz, LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, S Devin McCourty, ST Matthew Slater, K Nick Folk
Departures: DL Chase Winovich (Browns via trade), CB J.C. Jackson (Chargers), OL Ted Karras (Bengals), WR Gunner Olszewski (Steelers), LB Kyle Van Noy (released), FB Jakob Johnson, (Raiders), RB Brandon Bolden (Raiders), OL Shaq Mason (Buccaneers via trade)
After an offseason in 2021 where they spent more money than they had in the team's history, the Patriots have largely hit the snooze button on free agency this year. New England did retain several key players in Trent Brown, Devin McCourty, and James White, but haven't made any major splashes like teams throughout the AFC.
The move that made the most waves in Foxborough was the departure of No. 1 corner J.C. Jackson to Los Angeles in free agency. The Patriots have yet to fully address replacing Jackson, but they did surprisingly reunite with Malcolm Butler after he infamously left the organization following his benching in Super Bowl LII. At this stage of his career, Butler shouldn't be counted on as a plug-and-play replacement for Jackson, but an intriguing addition nonetheless.
Another key departure that is worth watching to see how the team decides to fill his shoes is right guard Shaq Mason, who the team traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While there's plenty of time between now and Week 1, the Patriots have more questions than answers on their roster than they did before the free-agent action unfolding.
Miami Dolphins: A
Key additions: WR Tyreek Hill (Chiefs via trade), OT Terron Armstead (Saints), RB Chase Edmonds (Cardinals), QB Teddy Bridgewater (Broncos), RB Raheem Mostert (49ers), OG Connor Williams (Cowboys), WR Cedrick Wilson (Cowboys), FB Alec Ingold (Raiders), DB Keion Crossen (Giants), WR Trent Sherfield (49ers)
Re-signings: TE Mike Gesicki, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WR Preston Williams, TE Durham Smythe, LB Duke Riley, LB Sam Eguavoen, S Sheldrick Redwine
Departures: WR Mack Hollins (Raiders), QB Jacoby Brissett (Browns), RB Duke Johnson (Bills), OG Greg Mancz (Bills)
The Miami Dolphins are swinging big under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. Not only did they sign the top offensive tackle on the market in Terron Armstead, but they also pulled off a stunning blockbuster trade that landed them former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
After years of seemingly being half-in and half-out on Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are throwing the kitchen sink at the offense to surround their former first-round pick with as much protection and weapons as humanly possible. That's the right approach in this circumstance as Miami should finally be able to see what they truly have in him as he leads an offense that is loaded with speedsters.
On top of the headline-grabbers of Hill and Armstead, the team did solidify the backfield by bringing aboard running back Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. They also added fullback Alex Ingold into the fold which should further bolster the unit. Poaching Connor Williams from Dallas is also an underrated move that should further improve their pass protection. Defensively, retaining their sack leader from 2021 in Emmanuel Ogbah was also another strong move by the front office.
New York Jets: B+
Key additions: TE C.J. Uzomah (Bengals), S Jordan Whitehead (Buccaneers), CB D.J. Reed (Seahawks), OG Laken Tomlinson (49ers), TE Tyler Conklin (Vikings), DE Jacob Martin (Texans)
Re-signings: WR Braxton Berrios, RB Tevin Coleman, QB Joe Flacco, OL Dan Feeney, DT Nathan Shepherd, S Lamarcus Joyner, OL Conor McDermott, S Will Parks
Departures: WR Jamison Crowder (Bills), S Marcus Maye (Saints), LB Blake Cashman (Texans via trade)
Back in January, I wrote a story about how to fix the Jets heading into 2022 and not to toot my own horn or anything -- although I happily will/am -- but the team has largely followed that plan this offseason.
After ranking 32nd in the league against the pass in DVOA, the Jets went out into free agency and landed former Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead and former Seahawks corner D.J. Reed to deals. Both of these additions are young and ascending players that Robert Saleh can continue to build a defense around over the next few seasons. Whitehead should not only help against the pass but be a factor in stopping the run as well. Meanwhile, D.J. Reed was inside my top 25 defensive free agents list heading into the offseason is coming off a career year with 10 pass breakups. He's a bit undersized at 5-foot-9, but there's a lot to like about his game.
Another area that the club needed to continue to address was the offensive line and they did that by bringing in Laken Tomlinson to play right guard opposite for 2021 first-round pick and starting left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Adding a tight end was another box that New York did need to check in free agency and was able to do it twofold by signing both C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to deals. Uzomah is the bigger name of the two and was a solid outlet for Joe Burrow in Cincinnati a season ago, catching 49 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns. If he can bring that production to New York, it'll be worlds better than what they were getting from the likes of Ryan Griffin.
The only thing that keeps the Jets out of the A range here is that they've yet to find that No. 1 wide receiver for Zach Wilson. They were reportedly in on trying to acquire Tyreek Hill, but the receiver chose to head down to Miami. If they can address that need at the draft, however, New York's rebuild will be moving along nicely.