The New England Patriots have been one of the most successful teams in the NFL since winning Super Bowl XXXVI in 2001. They've won three more Super Bowls since that time, including Super Bowl XLIX this past season. While the Patriots terrorize most of the NFL with sustained success thanks to some of the best roster-building the league has ever seen, they're especially hard on the AFC East.
New England has won the AFC East 11 times since they won it in 2001, the only breaks being 2002 when the New York Jets managed to snare a spot and 2008 when the Miami Dolphins were good for that one year. But by and large, the Dolphins, Jets and Buffalo Bills come up short and can rarely depend on getting a win over the rival Patriots.
That's not for lack of trying. Each team, specifically the Dolphins and Jets, have been big spenders in free agency to try and remain competitive over the years. That hasn't necessarily worked out, but that didn't stop both teams from reloading and trying again this offseason. This time, the Bills got in on the action as well.
Each of the three teams have made moves to position themselves within the division. That essentially means they've put up an awful lot of money to sway a free agent in their direction. But did any of them actually get more competitive when it comes to the Patriots, who re-signed Devin McCourty and seem fairly content otherwise this offseason?
Let's take a look at the deals done and how this could affect the AFC East ...
To start, the most significant deal may be the signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis by the New York Jets. They gave him almost $40 million guaranteed and a contract with a total value of just under $80 million. That could wind up hurting them a few years down the line given the fact that Revis is 29 years old, but in the here and now, it bolsters their secondary considerably.
More than that, it hurts the Patriots, who had Revis a season ago. New England has found sustained success namely through quarterback Tom Brady, but New England's defense played a huge role in the team's success last season, and Revis was one of the most-important players for them. New York offered substantially more than New England was able to, so that's a fairly high-profile move.
Another big move comes from the Miami Dolphins. They went out and signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, widely considered the top free agent to hit the open market. Miami signed him to a six-year deal worth $114 million, with $60 million heading his way over the first three years. Of course, it's a record-breaking contract and it's hard to justify any time that kind of thing happens.
But make no mistake about it, Suh is a game-changer. He can start for any team in the NFL and he's going to stop the run, harass the opposing quarterback and generally move people around a lot more than they can move him around. That's his job and he's one of the best in the league at doing it, so the Dolphins have made their defense immeasurably better with just that one signing.
Buffalo didn't make a splash in free agency in regards to bringing in someone new, but the team did give defensive lineman and impending free agent Jerry Hughes a massive contract extension. Hughes was looking at strong interest on the open market, but the Bills brought him back on a five-year deal worth $45 million and $20 million guaranteed.
The Bills weren't content beyond keeping Hughes in Buffalo, however. The team, confident in its defense but worried about the offensive side of the ball, traded linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for running back LeSean McCoy. In fact, Buffalo may have made the best moves of all the teams in the AFC East because they're addressing a weakness.
Buffalo ranked 25th in rushing yardage last season, but third in pass defense and 11th in rush defense. They were pretty set on defense. But the Jets and Dolphins both made significant moves addressing the defensive side of the ball ... which wasn't their biggest issue in 2014-15.
The Dolphins aren't necessarily set on the defensive side of the ball, but they had capable defensive linemen before bringing in Suh and have more concerns with the passing game, which ranked 17th in the NFL last season. The Jets had the worst passing offense in the league a season ago, but ranked 14th in pass defense and fifth in rush defense.
The AFC East will certainly not lack for storylines next season. Rex Ryan stayed in the division, joining the Bills and that rivalry with the Patriots -- and maybe a new one for the Jets -- should continue. The Revis signing creates an interesting dynamic with the Patriots. The NFL Draft is still to come and there's some big-name players with big-dollar contracts who will be under the microscope in 2015. Should be interesting!