Another trade rocks AFC East power structure

2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl

The possibility of the Patriots trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall was a hot topic on Musket Fire during the past week, but that possibility flew south when the Miami Dolphins traded for the highly-talented and controversial pass catcher. The Dolphins traded this year’s and next year’s second-round picks for Marshall, who originally carried the first-round pick compensation with his restricted free agent tender. I think the Fins stole Marshall not having to give up a first-round pick, and they can now use their first this year to address other needs.

The Dolphins joined the Jets this week in making a blockbuster trade for a topnotch wide receiver. The Dolphins also made a blockbuster free agent signing at the outset of free agency when they signed linebacker Karlos Dansby. Patriots fans continue to grow uneasy in their seats as teams in the AFC East continue to add stars to their rosters while the Patriots’ roster remains mostly similar to the one that got walloped in the first round of the playoffs, with a few additional holes through free agent departures. Players on the roster like to talk about “good on paper doesn’t always mean good on the field,” and Bill Belichick and Tedy Bruschi echoed those sentiments today.

Every team is going to improve by next weekend,” Belichick said. “Whatever teams draft, and whatever moves they make, they’ll be a better team than they are right now. That’s obvious. I think the big thing for us is to focus on our team. We all know that teams make moves in the offseason to bring players on to their team, and how those work out, a lot of times we don’t know ourselves until all those pieces come together and everything gets put in and you actually have a body of work to evaluate — preseason games, practices, some regular season games. I think right now, for anybody to try to project how all that is going to turn out – other than how it looks on paper – it’s stretching it quite a bit.”

The Patriots don’t feel like they need to catch up, ” Bruschi said in an online chat. “They’re happy with where they are. Their philosophy in the offseason was to re-sign key veterans and they did that. Now they need to focus on the draft. After that, the team should be set, minus a few small moves. Just because the Jets sign every guy out there doesn’t mean they’re the one to beat in the AFC East.

“I think the Jets are making a one-year run. They feel like they’re close to being the championship team, so they’re hoping all of these outcasts can get it together for one more year to make a run at the Super Bowl. That’s a big if. I’m anxious to see how that locker room will react when they’re in the middle of a losing streak.

“They’ve had one of the most successful offseasons, but offseason signings don’t equal championships. The first thing they have to worry about is winning the AFC East and they haven’t done that since 2002. With players in that locker room with questionable character, their biggest test will come when they face adversity.”

While all of that may be true, if Rex Ryan can hold the Jets together, they are going to be an extremely tough team to beat. The Dolphins do not have a collection of challenging personalities, but they do have a few more holes than the Jets do. However, the Fins did come back to beat the Pats the last time they played 22 – 21. It’s still too early to pick a winner of the AFC East, but the Jets and the Dolphins are certainly the most improved thus far and are moving and shaking. That moving and shaking could very well be bumping around the power structure currently (and possibly formerly) dominated by the Patriots. A good draft and some other moves could certainly flip things back to the Pats, so Pats fans need to relax. However, they should certainly no longer take a division title for granted.

It looks like the AFC East may reclaim its former title of the NFL’s most competitive division.

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4677285/quick-hits-from-bill-belichick-2

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