The AFC East continues to be the New England Patriots division to dominate and the early free agency signings have done little to give reason for that changing anytime soon. Miami has thrown the most money around and made some serious waves in the realm of IDP football as they look to catch Tom Brady and company.
NEW YORK JETS: The Jets defense is in a state of disarray as salary cap issues forced the release of some veteran (if underachieving) talent and limits the options that they can afford to bring on board. Gone are LaRon Landry, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Mike Devito, Yeremiah Bell, Eric Smith, Aaron Maybin, Sione Pouha and Bryan Thomas.
So who have the Jets been able to go out and get to replace the plethora of players they released? Look west young man. To date they have signed two former San Diego Chargers defenders in OLB, Antwan Barnes and DT, Antonio Garay.
Garay is 33 years old and will assume the same rotational, reserve role that he filled in San Diego last season. His career high in single season tackle numbers was 57 in 2011 and he has amassed 9 1/2 sacks in 56 regular season games played. Garay will not see enough playing time to offer any substantial fantasy production and is not worth drafting.
OLB, Antwan Barnes should finally receive the opportunity to fulfill on the fantasy promise he has flashed during his time with the Chargers. Barnes has always been an above average pass rushing threat off the edge and has racked up 23 career sacks on limited defensive snaps.
In 2011 for San Diego he posted 11 sacks with two forced fumbles while playing a career high 483 snaps. All the promise for what may lie ahead for Barnes was for naught as the Chargers used him on merely 189 defensive snaps and he was relegated back to mainly a special teams role last season.
The Jets desperately need to improve their pass rush and while Barnes is considered a bit undersized to be an every down OLB, he should get the chance to surpass the snap count he amassed in 2011. There is no need to draft Barnes but he is a name to keep a close eye on early in the season to determine how he’s being utilized.
Barnes could be a waiver wire pick up that owners who like to swing for the fences could roster and use when the match up is juicy enough.
MIAMI: The Dolphins jumped in the free agent pool with both feet as they brought on board two of the top linebackers on the market. ILB Dannell Ellerbe and SLB Philip Wheeler are heading to South Beach to replace the released duo of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.
It’s certainly a bold move as it’s uncertain as to just where Ellerbe and Wheeler will line up for the Fins but they definitely got younger and more aggressive on their defense. Ellerbe (27) and Wheeler (28) are both coming off of career years in 2012 and the Dolphins are gambling on their upside as opposed to standing pat with the older Dansby (31) and Burnett (30).
Ellerbe and Wheeler are both aggressive pass rushing linebackers, Ellerbe posted 4 1/2 sacks last season from the inside of the Ravens defense while Wheeler racked up three sacks for Oakland. Burnett and Dansby recorded 42 more total stops than their replacements but managed only 3 1/2 sacks combined.
The Dolphins are obviously looking to put more pressure on opposing QBs as their new acquisitions were credited with 27 combined QB hurries and 21 QB hits according to Pro Football Focus 2012 stats. By comparison Burnett and Dansby were credited with only 15 QB hurries with seven QB hits.
The Dolphins are serving notice to Tom Brady and whoever ends up under center for the Jets and Bills in 2013 that getting to the quarterback is priority one for their defense. Cameron Wake returned to his familiar DE position last season and posted 15 sacks so offensive lines will absolutely have their hands full in picking their poison when scheming to stop the Miami defense.
My gut feeling is that Ellerbe mans the MLB position and Wheeler the WLB spot making them both very attractive IDP options for 2013. Over aggressiveness may sometimes leave them out of position but both Ellerbe and Wheeler are high motor guys that will amass very nice tackle numbers as well as sacks.
Both are solid LB2 options with Ellerbe possessing low-end LB1 upside if they line up where I’m anticipating they will. Keep an eye on preseason updates to make certain the Dolphins share my opinion.
Former Atlanta CB, Brent Grimes has also been signed to bolster the Dolphins secondary after the departure of CB, Sean Smith. Grimes missed nearly the entire 2012 season after tearing his Achilles in week one. When he is healthy Grimes is a solid fantasy producer who excels in press coverage and isn’t afraid to help out against the run. In 59 regular season games played Grimes has averaged 4.2 tackles per contest while intercepting 13 passes. Healthy Brent Grimes is a solid DB2 for the 2013 season so monitor practice reports out of Miami during training camp to make sure Grimes is good to go.