After a dominant run that has seen 12 AFC East division titles since 2001, one thing has been made perfectly clear during the 2015 offseason: The rest of the AFC East is sick and tired of watching Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
For starters, Ndamukong Suh is reportedly going to sign with the Miami Dolphins for a guaranteed $60 million, $10 million of which is sure to get lost in fines. Though the Dolphins are going to wildly overpay Suh, the defensive tackle is still one of the more terrifying men to ever step foot on the gridiron. Suh is a three-time first team All-Pro and will pair well with pass rusher Cameron Wake. Add this to a division that already features terrific front sevens in Buffalo and New York, and Brady would be wise to stock up on ice.
The Bills made a head-scratching move when they shipped their stud linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia for running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy has been one of the best running backs in the NFL, but is approaching that certain age where players at his position start to decline. In the immediate future, Buffalo has more than enough pieces to replace Alonso. But five years and $26.5 million for a back such as McCoy is tough to justify. What’s clear is that Rex Ryan is ready to win now and to kill Belichick’s rings.
The Jets are probably the team furthest away from contending right now, but New York has still probably made the best move of all the Patriots’ rivals in signing Brandon Marshall. Marshall is a top-tier wide receiver who averaged 93 catches and over 1,000 yards in his three years in Chicago. The Marshall signing allows Eric Decker to shift to where he belongs as the No. 2 option. It’s a shame that Percy Harvin had to be a causality of the salary cap because those three players have game-breaking potential. Head coach Todd Bowles will pick up where Ryan left off with a very physical defense that seems to give New England fits at least once a year.
Back in New England, the Patriots’ offseason has focused more on retaining than upgrading. News broke on Sunday that Devin McCourty will be back in the fold in 2015. Darrelle Revis is set to become a free agent, but Belichick always gets his man.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the AFC East could become the league’s toughest division. It wasn’t too long ago that the NFC West was looked at as a laughing stock after the Seattle Seahawks sneaked into the playoffs with a 7-9 record. This season, the 49ers, who have made three of the last four NFC Championship games, are the popular pick to finish last in the division.
It’s the nature of the modern NFL. Parity allows teams to rebuild faster and more effectively than ever before while simultaneously allowing the loss of pieces of the roster. This is what has made New England’s run of excellence so impressive. Its been a great run but it’s about to get a lot harder to cruise to 12 wins every season. If the Patriots can extend their dominance, then these next few years might be their most impressive feat yet.