For every team, in every season, there’s a new guy that can make a huge difference. Here are my picks to change the fortunes of all thirty-two teams. Today’s focus – AFC East
Impact Addition: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs
Buffalo Arrival: Trade- Minnesota Vikings
It took their first-round pick to do it, but the Bills have the deep threat that can make their offense click. Everyone knows that quarterback Josh Allen has a cannon for an arm, the problem for Buffalo has been that he didn’t have a real top-tier threat to connect with.
Diggs changes all that.
Diggs has been electric in Minnesota, hauling in over 1,000 yards the last two seasons including a career-high 1,130 on only 63 receptions last year. That’s 17.9 yards per catch, people. He’s got plenty of wiggle after the catch to make big plays into huge ones and has great poise in small windows, especially at the sidelines. Diggs led the league in receptions greater than 40 yards last year, and defenses will be forced to account for that. He has the speed to open up the middle of the field for slot receivers and Buffalo’s running game.
It’s a tremendous fit.
Diggs is uniquely suited to help make the most of Buffalo’s raw young quarterback if they’re going to contend in the AFC East after two decades of dominance by New England.
Impact Addition: Offensive Lineman Ereck Flowers
Miami Arrival: Free Agency- Washington
The offensive line. That’s what matters in Miami right now. And it’s not even close. With the arrival of Tua Tagovailoa, Miami has the chance for a franchise quarterback for the first time in forever. But if he’s not on the field, he’s completely irrelevant.
The big risk with Tua is obviously that he’s injury prone, but let’s take a step back…to Ryan Tannehill. The former Miami starter who has only played four complete seasons out of eight (the first four) and missed all of 2017. The guy just got beat up, and he wasn’t exactly a dual-threat type quarterback that was getting popped on designed runs a dozen times per game. He got beat up in the pocket and being chased out of it.
Sure, Tannehill had moved on to Tennessee, but Miami’s cadre of QBs got sacked more than any group in the league in 2019, and if they want Tua to be functional for more than a few weeks, they need to correct that mess right now.
Enter Ereck Flowers.
The former Giant has jumped around the league a bit but was very solid in pass protection for Washington last season. Paired with draft additions Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt, Miami’s O-line will have an all-new look to keep their new star safe and sound…we hope.
New England Patriots
Impact Addition: Quarterback Cam Newton
New England Arrival: Free Agency- Carolina Panthers
Not much suspense here. The Patriots went from a team with a gigantic question mark at quarterback after Tom Brady’s departure to a team with a former MVP under center for pennies on the dollar.
Yes. The deal is team friendly and incentive based.
Yes, it’s a paltry sum, even at its potential maximum, for a player of Newton’s caliber…if he’s healthy.
And there’s the rub, fans of other teams who feel like this is some sort of cheating by the Hoodie. Newton could be amazing, or a complete non-factor. Cam Newton was likely going to sit out the season or get a mid-year roster shot on an injury-plagued team. Instead, Newton has the chance to prove his value on a team that can contend for a Lombardi Trophy if he’s anything like he was prior to the slew of injuries that slowed him.
Putting aside the MVP season in 2015, Newton has consistently been a middle to upper tier passer with plus athleticism. At age 31, coming off the surgeries, I doubt that New England would be using him as a dual threat QB, instead plugging him into the system that has worked for Brady for all these years and seeing if he can become the guy who threw 35 TDs in a year again. Either way, this deal should show the rest of the AFC that New England isn’t ready to go gently into that good night just because Tom Terrific jumped ship for his final act.
New York Jets
Impact Addition: Wide Receiver Denzel Mims
New York Arrival: Draft- Second Round- 59th Pick- Baylor
Everything I said about Stefon Diggs going to Buffalo holds true here for Denzel Mims. The Jets think they have the best QB in the division with Sam Darnold. Now that they have a field-stretching deep threat in Mims, we’re going to see what he can really do. More importantly for New York, the threat of Mims going to the house at any second should keep opposing defenses on their heels enough to open of the front and create some holes for Le’Veon Bell to run through.
Opposing defenses knew that Bell was option A for the Jets last year and they defended like it, holding the former All-Pro to the worst statistical year of his career. Bell might still be option A, but if Mims starts piling up twenty-yard receptions, all that’s going to evolve really, really quickly. I toyed with the idea that first round pick Mekhi Becton could be the biggest impact player in the Big Apple, because he’ll have something to say about Bell’s success as well, but in the end, the potential for game-breaking plays gives Denzel Mims the edge here.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images