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The Buffalo Bills have influenced an AFC East arms race

One of the best divisions in football continues to grow stronger through the first wave of free agency

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Buffalo has owned the AFC East three seasons in a row. The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots aren’t willing to just roll over to the Bills, despite Buffalo’s success. The division proved to be tough last year with a combined 37-30 record — just one game back of the AFC North for the best division record in the conference. The Dolphins and Jets both captured wins over the Bills, accounting for two of Buffalo’s three total losses on the season.

Together, quarterback Josh Allen the Buffalo Bills have gone 21-9 all time against AFC East teams in the regular season and playoffs since Allen entered the league in 2018. Buffalo’s now tasked with maintaining a roster that can win the division and capitalize on Allen’s prime years. Their chief rivals know they have to keep building to close the gap on the Bills. To this point, that’s what appears to have taken place so far in the offseason and the start of the new league year. Between adding players through free agency, waiver pickups, or extending their own players, a combined $336,087,500 has been spent on roster building thus far in the AFC East. More surely will be spent as the draft gets closer, but today I want to examine each division rival’s moves and see if this money was well spent in their task to catch the Bills atop the division.

Last-Place Finishers: New York Jets

If you haven’t heard the big news... Aaron Rodgers wants to be a Jet. Between the talk shows and the free-agent wish list he sent the Jets, Rodgers is setting the table to follow Brett Favre’s legacy — to the Big Apple after years with the cheese heads.

This move is fascinating to me because according to Spotrac, the Jets have between $8 million and $12 million in salary cap space and Aaron Rodgers has a $31 million cap hit. Money has to come out of New York’s roster and who they choose to package in a trade could significantly alter their roster. Do they have to trade defensive captain (but highest-paid-player) C.J. Mosley to get Rodgers... plus draft capital? I hope they do it, for the sake of watching Allen vs. Rodgers. I would also love to watch them go all-in for a player who retires in a year or two and they still fail to beat the Bills in the division.

Other notable moves the Jets have made so far include:

  • Resigning LB Quincy Williams
  • Signed WR Allen Lazard
  • Signed FB Nick Bawden
  • Signed P Thomas Morstead
  • Signed K Greg Zuerlein
  • Signed G Wes Schweitzer
  • Signed C Trystan Colon-Castillo

Obviously the Jets had to add Aaron’s buddy Lazard. Besides that, The Jets have talent. Despite where I’ve placed them in this ranking, if they can add a strong draft class and not give up the farm for Aaron Rodgers, the Jets will be in the race for the division late into the season.

Third Place: New England Patriots

Mac Jones didn’t have the year-two jump expected of superstar quarterbacks. He’s still not a bad player in this league, but it’s clear Jones will need a strong roster around him to take on this tough division.

New England has added talent around him early in 2023, including:

  • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • TE Mike Gesicki
  • RB James Robinson
  • OT Calvin Anderson
  • OT Riley Reiff
  • LB Chris Board

The Patriots were tasked with replacing wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and tight end Jonnu Smith, which they did while upgrading at the same time. The 2023 NFL Draft will be a critical one for head coach Bill Belichick to find young talent that can step up big, elevating this roster to compete with the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets. But as it appears right now on paper, I expect a last-place finish for New England this season. They won’t bottom out — I expect competitive games, but without a game-breaking talent on the roster, they won’t keep pace with the rest of the division.

Runners Up: Miami Dolphins

A busy time for general manager Chris Grier, who’s been the most aggressive general manager in the division so far. He started by adding new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Grier followed that up with a blockbuster trade, landing cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams. Pairing him in a secondary with Xavien Howard is what you have to do with players like Stefon Diggs and Garrett Wilson in the division. This follows up his trade-and-sign for defensive end Bradley Chubb, which even though it happened in-season during 2022, is another big piece of the puzzle in catching Josh Allen and the Bills.

Other notable additions include:

  • LB David Long
  • DB DeShon Elliott
  • WR Braxton Berrios
  • TE Eric Saubert
  • QB Mike White
  • OL Dan Feeney

Braxton Berrios will fit great in Miami’s offense. He’s someone I wish Buffalo could have brought to Orchard Park, NY. The Dolphins also picked up the fifth-year option on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, showing confidence he’s their franchise guy going forward. Just in case things go astray, the signing of backup quarterback Mike White should provide stability. I love the addition of David Long for Miami’s defense.

The Dolphins have done a great job of identifying talent and fortifying holes on their roster. They appear to be tuned-in to the needs required to compete in a tough division, and I look for them to be the biggest challenger for the division title next year. If Miami can add a couple of impactful rookies, they should build on what they did last season. The Bills and Dolphins should make for some entertaining, meaningful football this coming season — and they could very likely meet in the playoffs again next January.

Don’t sleep on the Dolphins.

Division Winners: Buffalo Bills

Buffalo was in new territory this offseason. Faced with the idea of losing two core members of their defense, Josh Allen, Von Miller, and Stefon Diggs restructured their contracts to provide cap room for the team to maneuver. Buffalo parted ways with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, but were able to re-sign safety Jordan Poyer and extend linebacker Matt Milano. Other additions include:

  • G Connor McGovern
  • WR Deonte Harty
  • QB Kyle Allen

These are the kind of moves a team has to make when paying a top-end quarterback. Not anything flashy, but strong solid moves. I love Harty’s speed and ability to get separation as a receiver. Buffalo will still have the opportunity to add more talent around Allen and fill the hole Edmunds left on defense with the NFL Draft mere weeks away.

The Bills still boast a top roster in the league, and until another division rival has an elite top-five quarterback to rival Allen, the Bills will be my AFC East Champions pick.

Am I crazy to think Miami could give Buffalo a run for their money — and will the division be closer this season? What do you think has been the best move so far this offseason?