The NFL offseason has been on a steady pace thus far, but things will escalate to a whole new level on Tuesday with the onset of free agency. The new league year begins, which brings with it the official start of free agency at 4 p.m. Thanks to a three-day negotiating window beforehand, the first day of free agency usually begins with a bang.
Before that frenzied period begins, let's go over which players are set to hit the market in the AFC East. The Patriots ruled the division once again, and the three teams behind them were erratic at best. But given the nature of the NFL, a lot can change in one offseason. We'll start with the division champs.
The Patriots cruised to another division title despite a plague of major injuries. Getting guys like Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer back healthy will help, but they have a handful of key free agents coming up and not much salary room to work with.
CB Aqib Talib
Talib will be one of the most sought-after players on the market. New England chose not to apply the franchise tag, instead opting to allow Talib to hit unrestricted free agency. Talib hit the open market last season, only to eventually return to the Patriots. There appears to be a better market for cornerbacks this season, making a similar result unlikely. New England isn't flush with salary cap space and may not be able to outbid other teams for Talib's services. Washington is one team named as a possible destination.
WR Julian Edelman
One of the biggest beneficiaries of New England's depleted receiver corps, Edelman exploded with 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. He's unlikely to repeat those numbers again, so he'll be looking to cash in on a career year, reportedly asking for Danny Amendola money. Since the Patriots are already paying Amendola, they'll likely let Edelman go elsewhere.
RB LeGarrette Blount
Blount emerged as a workhorse for the Patriots down the stretch, piling up 361 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his last three games, including the playoffs. Now 27 years old, Blount's lack of involvement in the passing game could deflate his market value.
Other FAs of note: LB Brandon Spikes, DE Andre Carter, C Ryan Wendell, LB Dane Fletcher
Team needs: OL, DL, CB
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The Jets exceeded all expectations in 2013, finishing 8-8 in a year when many people expected them to be drafting in the top five. Part of that can be attributed to an excellent defense that's still young and cheap. Their cap situation looks much better than it was last year. After releasing Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets have an estimated $40 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.
The Jets don't have a lot of vital players hitting free agency, but there are some solid role players they might like to keep as they try to build on a surprising season.
OLB Calvin Pace
Playing under a one-year deal in 2013, Pace had one of his best seasons yet, recording 10 sacks for the first time in his career. Age is not on his side -- he turns 34 in October -- so he'll probably have to settle for another short-term deal.
OT Austin Howard
A restricted free agent last offseason, Howard signed his one-year tender and had another adequate, if unspectacular, year at right tackle. Run blocking is one of his big strengths, and he gave up only two quarterback sacks while playing all 16 games for the second year in a row.
Team needs: WR, OG, CB
In Week 16, the Dolphins controlled their own destiny for a playoff spot. They only needed to beat either the Bills that week or Jets in the season finale to get in. They lost both games, missed the postseason and now have a new front office. New general manager Dennis Hickey doesn't have a bare cupboard to deal with, but he does have several crucial free agents scheduled to hit the market and might not be able to keep all of them despite a friendly cap situation.
DT Randy Starks
The Dolphins put the franchise tag on Starks in 2013, and he was reportedly not happy about it. Starks responded with another excellent year, recording four sacks and grading out as the seventh-best defensive tackle on Pro Football Focus. Now 30 years old, Starks could be angling for a long-term deal.
DT Paul Soliai
Soliai has spent his entire career in Miami, and has indicated that he's willing to take a discount to stay. The Dolphins may not be able to keep both Soliai and Starks, and Soliai looks like the better bet to come back for now. Talk Monday said Soliai was a possible target for the Falcons, who could be moving to more of a 3-4 defense.
Team needs: OT, OG, DT, RB, LB, CB
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"Rebuilding" is a phrase Bills fans are all too familiar with, but that's what the team is committed to once again. With a young offense trying to find its legs and a solid-but-expensive defense, 2014 appears to be another transitional year in Buffalo. The Bills have some cap room to operate with, nearly $22 million in fact, but may opt for smaller moves.
Case in point, the Bills' 2013 franchise player and one of the top safeties in the league. Byrd held out of training camp before signing his tender and missed five games with a foot injury, but he's only 27 and his past resume speaks for itself. Buffalo opted not to tag Byrd for a second straight season. He will now hit the open market, possibly as the No. 1 free agent.
TE Scott Chandler
Chandler had a decent year by tight end standards, finishing with 53 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns. However, he's never shown much as a real difference-maker and turns 29 in July. The Bills could let him walk and attempt to get younger at the tight end position.
LB Arthur Moats
Despite being overshadowed by rookie Kiko Alonso, Moats had another solid year at inside linebacker, recording 54 tackles. He's still relatively young, as he turns 26 on Friday, so he could garner some interest on the market if the Bills let him walk.
Team needs: OT, TE, WR, LB, DE