Patriots, Bills get high marks for offseason moves

USA Today has taken a division-by-division look at each NFL team’s offseason moves and graded them based on free-agency pickups and losses, the draft and coaching changes.

Not surprisingly, the Patriots and Bills earned the highest grades for the AFC East. Both received an A-minus.

The Dolphins were given a B-minus and the Jets a C-minus.

Here’s the opinion on the Patriots:

New England Patriots (A-): Bill Belichick’s bunch was oh-so-close to its fourth Lombardi Trophy in 11 seasons. But the Pats have been busy since their four-point loss in Super Bowl XLVI. Six of their seven draft picks were devoted to a defense that finished last in the AFC. Rookie DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower should be impact players in short order, though second-round S Tavon Wilson was questioned by some as a reach. Much will be expected of Jones after the team chose not to re-sign Anderson and fellow DE Andre Carter, who combined for 20 sacks in 2011. Seventh-round CB Alfonzo Dennard has the talent to make a difference, and a secondary that still seems unsettled might need him.

A scoreboard-shattering offense said goodbye to longtime LT Matt Light, who retired, and steady RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Nate Solder, a first rounder in 2011, should thrive in Light’s role while the tailback-by-committee approach promises to endure with Stevan Ridley taking a leading role with ex-Colt Joseph Addai in the mix. Watch a saturated receiver group. Wes Welker and free agent signee Brandon Lloyd, who knows offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ playbook well, should start. But it could be a spirited battle with Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte’ Stallworth and special teams ace Matthew Slater vying for jobs. Bottom line: New England is loaded for another Super run.

Buffalo got high marks for its “boldness” for signing top free agent, DE Mario Williams, and signing former New England pass-rusher Mark Anderson, who along with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams give the Bills “arguably the best defensive line in the AFC East.”


The Dolphins’ offseason was saved by a strong draft, writes Nate Davis, while the Jets, a team with “multiple deficiencies coming off a disastrous season” seemed focused primarily on quarterback, first extending Mark Sanchez and then acquiring Tim Tebow.

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