It has been an interesting offseason in the AFC.
Cleveland made excellent wholesale changes.
The conference champs made sure a key player stayed.
And there was sheer confusion.
In a two-part progress report on the NFL's offseason, we break down the AFC.
SCHEIN: NFC offseason progress report AFC East BILLS: Lot of work to do
The Bills have really done nothing in the free-agency period, though they get credit for cutting the cord with Terrell Owens. The big question in lovely Western New York is whether new coach Chan Gailey believes in Trent Edwards. I expect Buffalo to be in the quarterback business early in the draft, while still adding pieces on the offensive line and on defense.
DOLPHINS: Making progress
I predicted the Fish would sign Karlos Dansby, and the do-it-all linebacker is a perfect fit. It was time to cut Joey Porter, and Miami recognized it. Re-signing Chad Pennington gives Chad Henne a needed sounding board. Perhaps the best move was plucking Mike Nolan to run the defense.
PATRIOTS: Welcome home
Bill Belichick smartly made the great Vince Wilfork feel welcome again when he gave the nose tackle a long-term deal. Belichick also made sure the underrated Leigh Bodden stayed at cornerback after Bodden made the Patriots sweat with a trip to Houson. Wilfork and Bodden are two of the best players on defense. And "Mr. Clutch" Kevin Faulk comes back for another year.
JETS: Mixed bag
General manager Mike Tannenbaum stole Antonio Cromartie by trading a 2011 third-round pick. Call it a creative heist, as the Jets don't have their full complement of picks for this year's draft. While Cromartie is coming off a down season, the upside is for the Darrelle Revis/Cro combo at cornerback to be the best in the game. I have no idea why the Jets cut the physical Thomas Jones. Under the circumstances, LaDainian Tomlinson in Brian Schottenheimer's offense is a great fit. And I think L.T. will be a bit reborn behind the Jets offensive line. But again, why create the void by jettisoning Jones?
AFC North RAVENS: Predictably strong
The Ravens are one of the elite organizations in pro football and proved it on Day 1 of the free-agency period by trading for Anquan Boldin to help solve the receiver crisis. And by adding the speedy Donte Stallworth and re-upping Derrick Mason for two more years, Baltimore's biggest question mark suddenly turned into a strength.
WARNING: I am about to write something really nice about the Cleveland Browns. Linebacker Scott Fujita told me on Sirius NFL Radio that when he met with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, he felt the same way as he did when he signed with the Saints.
I like Fujita and Tony Pashos as veterans and leaders at areas of need, linebacker and offensive line, respectively. Cleveland smartly cut Derek Anderson and brought in Holmgren's guy, Seneca Wallace from Seattle. Cleveland signed Jake Delhomme last weekend, and I think it's a great fit. Sure, Delhomme was a turnover machine in Carolina, but he becomes an instant leader for a team that desperately needs it.
Delhomme and Wallace are upgrades over Anderson and Brady Quinn, who was traded to Denver for basically nothing. Give Holmgren credit for recognizing that Quinn and Anderson, fair or unfair, represented futility from a prior regime. It was time to get rid of them both. And I loved the Ben Watson pickup at tight end. Strong, solid building blocks from a great new brass
BENGALS: Oh, no
Some will argue the Bengals bolstered their surprisingly weak passing attack from last year by bringing in Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones. I argue they increased the knucklehead factor and potential for underachievement and disaster. I do like the Bengals bringing back Tank Johnson and Roy Williams.
STEELERS : Solid, yet alarming
Pittsburgh needed to beef up its special teams and secondary, the two worst areas on the team last year. Kevin Colbert added good players with WR/return specialist Antwaan Randle El, WR Arnaz Battle, S Will Allen and bringing back the underrated S Ryan Clark.
But all eyes are on Ben Roethlisberger. As a franchise quarterback, as the representative of the Steelers and the city, you cannot put yourself in these situations. This isn't about being guilty or innocent. This is about being smart and respectful. I believe this latest situation will signal the beginning of the end for Ben in Pittsburgh, as the hard-working people won't stand for it.
AFC South TEXANS: Wanted: Running back and defensive help
Give Houston credit for bringing back receiver Kevin Walter. But Houston has an organizational philosophy of avoiding the 30-plus running back after the Ahman Green disaster. That's too bad, as Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson made perfect sense. Letting Dunta Robinson go via free agency was expected as his contractual situation became perfect. But Houston needs to replace him and add to the secondary and defensive line to get over the hump and make the playoffs.
COLTS: Offensive O-line
That's not my take. That's the opinion of President Bill Polian, who cut starter Ryan Lilja. Polian knew what Gary Brackett meant to his defense as a linebacker and leader and paid him accordingly. Former first-round pick Marlin Jackson left for Philly, and his tackling and ball-hawking skills will be missed.
JAGUARS: Rush to improve
Last season, the Jags' pass rush was pathetic. It was rectified with the excellent signing of former Packer Aaron Kampman, who also brings needed leadership and credibility to the locker room and field. Special teams ace Kassim Osgood was a solid pickup.
TITANS: Lots of questions
Kyle Vanden Bosch left. Keith Bulluck remains unsigned. Kevin Mawae is likely headed elsewhere. That's a ton of productivity, toughness and credibility. Will Witherspoon was signed to play linebacker. Witherspoon is a great guy but a decent player at best. Tennessee gave guard Eugene Amano a really nice and deserved contract to stay put
AFC West BRONCOS: Savvy start
If Cleveland fans are stunned I am praising the Browns, Broncos fans might fall over. I love what Denver is doing on defense. Jarvis Green is a good player who gets to the quarterback and knows Josh McDaniels from New England. Jamal Williams isn't the same dominant player he was a few years ago with the Chargers, but he plugs the middle. And I love the effort Justin Bannan gives.
On offense, I love the flier on Brady Quinn. Quinn needed a change of scenery, and I've been screaming on Sirius NFL Radio that Quinn could thrive in McDaniels' system, similar to Charlie Weis' offense at Notre Dame. And they got Quinn, who could be better than Kyle Orton, for nothing in a trade from Cleveland. One year ago, if I asked you which quarterback had more potential, you would've said Quinn. I still think that holds true now. And I predict Brandon Marshall leaves Denver for a draft pick.
CHIEFS: The right moves
Scott Pioli is one of the best executives in the league and proved it once again. Thomas Jones gives the Chiefs one of the best running backs in the AFC and gives KC needed toughness and leadership. And Pioli kept midseason pickup Chris Chambers at receiver with a nice new deal.
RAIDERS: It is what it is
Oakland hired offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to maximize JaMarcus Russell. I love Jackson and think he is a great coach, but this project might be beyond anyone with Russell's poor attitude. Nice to see Russell not even bother to show up to Day 1 of the offseason workouts.
They finally cut Javon Walker, arguably the single worst move in the history of free agency. And only the Raiders would place a third-round tender on the dependable Kirk Morrison, inviting teams to make an offer. I did really like the Raiders' trade for Kamerion Wimbley for a third-rounder. I thought it was a steal. Talking to Wimbley on Sirius NFL Radio, he seemed excited to join Oakland. You poor, naive, silly man!
CHARGERS: Consistency is key
Darren Sproles and Shawne Merriman will return based on the high tenders A.J. Smith placed on them. It was time to say goodbye to LT, and the Chargers did it at the right time. Tomlinson was ready for the change.
SCHEIN: NFC offseason progress report You can watch Schein and Chris Carlin on Loud Mouths, weeknights at 6 ET on SNY (DIRECT-TV 639).
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