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Choosy Bills shine in evaluation of AFC East offseason moves

Vic Carucci

The NFL's business season is about two weeks old.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the process of signing free agents and making trades, teams continue to function and add and subtract players.

The following is a closer look at how each of the clubs in the AFC East have done so far:

Buffalo Bills

Key additions: DE Mario Addison (Carolina), DT Vernon Butler (Carolina), WR Stefon Diggs (traded from Minnesota), CB E.J. Gaines, OT Quinton Jefferson (Seattle), RB Taiwan Jones (Houston), LB A.J. Klein (New Orleans), LB Tyler Matakevich (Pittsburgh), CB Josh Norman (Washington), OT Daryl Williams (Carolina).

Key losses: CB Kevin Johnson (Cleveland), DE Shaq Lawson (Miami), DT Jordan Phillips (Arizona).

How they've been helped: The Bills desperately needed a No. 1 receiver and Diggs gives them one. He has game-changing skills that no one else in the team's pass-catching corps consistently provides. If Josh Allen takes another step forward in his development, Diggs should be able to make a significant impact. The rest of the team's offseason shopping has been modest, with General Manager Brandon Beane staying true to his word that the Bills wouldn't be fishing in the deep end of the free-agent market as they did last year. They were choosy about the players they wanted to keep, re-signing OG Quinton Spain and extending the contract of S Jordan Poyer while allowing Lawson and Phillips to go, and didn't break the bank on signings mostly to boost depth.

How they've been hurt: Some critics say believe Bills gave up too much with the first- and three mid-round draft picks they sent to the Vikings for Diggs. The second-guessing is partly because next month's NFL draft is widely considered to be exceptionally strong at wide receiver, which raises the question of why not fill the hole with the 22nd overall choice? Another reason the Diggs trade is being questioned is his well-documented reputation for being moody and essentially forcing his way out of Minnesota because he didn't like having Kirk Cousins as his quarterback. What happens if Allen doesn't consistently connect with Diggs on big-play throws? Also, despite his strong production during five NFL seasons, Diggs has yet to receive Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition.

Miami Dolphins

Key additions: S Clayton Fejedelem (Cincinnati), OL Ereck Flowers (Washington), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (Philadelphia), RB Jordan Howard (Philadelphia), CB Byron Jones (Dallas), OL Ted Karras (New England), DE Shaq Lawson (Buffalo), DE Emmanuel Ogbah (Kansas City), LB Elandon Roberts (New England), LB Kyle Van Noy (New England).

Key losses: None.

How they've been helped: If trying to rebuild "The Patriot Way" on a team that looked to have lost its way is a good thing, then a case can be made that the Dolphins might very well have made at least some improvement. Coach Brian Flores, a former Patriots assistant coach, had that in mind with the acquisitions of Van Noy and Elandon Roberts on defense, and Karras on offense. Until the Dolphins' uncertain quarterback situation is resolved, it's hard to tell the true impact of the signings. Van Noy was important to the Patriots having the NFL's top-ranked defense, although his career-best 6.5 sacks in 2019 was a modest total for the four-year, $51 million contract he received. Perhaps the best singular move was getting Howard to help fix the NFL's worst rushing offense in 2019.

How they've been hurt: With no free-agent losses, it's fair to say the Dolphins avoided any real damage to their roster. Cue the wise guys who would be quick to add, "How much worse could it get?" Where the Dolphins have left themselves open to criticism is with seemingly using their tremendous amount of cap space, about $90 million, as an excuse to spend recklessly. Jones' five-year, $82.5-million deal makes him the NFL's highest-paid cornerback, and critics question whether that was an overpayment. The same goes for the $75 million in contracts for Flowers, Lawson and Ogbah.

New York Jets

Key additions: OL Josh Andrews (Indianapolis), CB Pierre Desir (Indianapolis), WR Josh Doctson (Minnesota), OT George Fant (Seattle), C Connor McGovern (Denver), LB Patrick Onwuasor (Baltimore), WR Breshad Perriman (Tampa Bay), OL Greg Van Roten (Carolina).

Key losses: WR Robby Anderson (Carolina), LB Brandon Copeland (New England), OT Brandon Shell (Seattle).

How they've been helped: Nothing dramatic here. Working free agency for the first time since taking over as general manager just under a year ago, Joe Douglas has been prudent with his moves. He clearly made an effort to take the opposite approach than those who previously ran the Jets' front office. Desir, Fant, McGovern, Onwuasor, Perriman and Van Roten fall into the mid-tier category, at least. The same is true for players the Jets re-signed. For the most part, it has been a sound, but blah, offseason.

How they've been hurt: Anderson's departure will hurt, even if he didn't prove to be quite as hot a commodity in the open market as some analysts projected.

New England Patriots

Key additions: DT Beau Allen (Tampa Bay), WR Damiere Byrd (Arizona), LB Brandon Copeland (Jets), QB Brian Hoyer (Indianapolis), FB Danny Vitale (Green Bay).

Key losses: QB Tom Brady (Tampa Bay), LB Jamie Collins (Detroit), WR Phillip Dorsett (Seattle), DB Nate Ebner (Giants), DB Duron Harmon (traded to Detroit), OL Ted Karras (Miami), DT Danny Shelton (Detroit), LB Kyle Van Noy (Miami).

How they've been helped: That's nowhere to be found. The Patriots' offseason has been an unmitigated disaster. They failed to figure out a way to keep the greatest quarterback in the game and the lone reason they have remained a Super Bowl contender for so long. They've lost other key pieces as well. If the idea here is to see how good a coach Bill Belichick is without Brady, then, well, perhaps that's something. Until, of course, it's discovered how much having a great QB can elevate a coach's IQ.

How they've been hurt: Start with Brady. Parting ways with him simply made no sense, especially when there wasn't a viable replacement. Seeing this team go from the G.O.A.T. to Jarrett Stidham or Hoyer could very well go down as one of the NFL's all-time head-scratching decisions. The defense also took some notable hits by losing Collins and Van Noy. Additionally, the Patriots raised some eyebrows by re-signing guard Joe Thuney to a contract befitting a left tackle.

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