It's chaos out there in the NFL this off-season. Each new year brings with it updated rosters and surprise acquisitions, but so far this year seems to be up there with the craziest that I've seen. Below you'll find some of the major gains and losses from each NFL team, but since the Patriots took home the title this year I thought I'd start with them and go a little more in-depth with the teams in the AFC East.
- New England Patriots (12-4)
The 2014 Patriots obtained the highest honor in the NFL by winning the Super Bowl last year. Starting off slowly, they gained momentum throughout the season and carried it right through to a victory in Arizona against the Seahawks. The team looks very similar offensively with the exception of losing Shane Vereen to the Giants and gaining Scott Chandler from the Bills.
Vereen’s loss will hurt, as he was often called upon to play the hurry-up offense and was a great pass-catching back with speed and agility. Stevan Ridley will also not be coming back in 2015 after suffering a torn ACL & MCL early in the 2014 season. Belichick should not have many issues, however, making do with LeGarrette Blount as the power back and James White picking up where Vereen left off as a pass blocker and picking up some short passing routes in the backfield (The Patriots also just acquired Travaris Cadet from the Saints who will be involved in the competition for Vereen's touches).
(Check out our NFL catch-up Podcast from 3/17)
Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray may also be joining the party in smaller roles, as usual obfuscating the fantasy relevance of the running back position on the Patriots. The acquisition of Scott Chandler provides depth at the tight end position and another redzone threat, but he will likely not see much work unless Gronkowski suffers an injury. Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola will all return as the receiving core in New England.
Surprisingly, Amendola was given a new, 3-year contract this year which may spell out a larger role for him in 2015 if he can remain healthy. Tom Brady remains his usual, snarky self with Jimmy Garoppolo waiting in the wings. May still be a few years, Jimmy. On the defensive side of the ball, The Pats lost key players Vince Wilfork and Darrelle Revis, who will both be nearly impossible to replace. The Patriots still have a strong, young defense that they have been building for a few years now but the absence of those specific players will definitely hurt.
- Buffalo Bills (9-7)
Kyle Orton is retiring again, this time likely for good. The battle for the starting QB spot in Buffalo will rage in 2015 between Matt Cassel (from the Vikings) and E.J. Manuel and I’m honestly not sure who deserves it more but most analysts are penciling in Cassel. One of the biggest offseason acquisitions so far this year was LeSean McCoy (from the Eagles) going to the Bills – he should provide a jumpstart to the offense and will likely pair well with Fred Jackson, both of which are multi-faceted (although Jackson just turned 34.. he doesn’t have much tread remaining on the tires).
Regardless of who is throwing the football this year, they have some good targets in Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin (from the Jets), not to mention Robert Woods who had a couple of great games his rookie year. This could be the youngest receiving core in football with an average age of 23. After tight end Scott Chandler left for the Patriots, the Bills landed former Dolphins’ tight end Charles Clay (they acquired Jordan Cameron from the Browns). The defense in Buffalo was good last year and looks to keep rolling in 2015. Success for this team depends on the maturity of the receiving core and the ability of the signal caller.
- Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Ryan Tannehill is an obvious choice for a quarterback that will be chucking the football around for a long time in this league. So far in his 3-year career in the NFL he has improved his stats each year and in 2014 enjoyed a top 5 completion percentage, at 66.4%. He found success last year with rookie Jarvis Landry and was able to use deep threat Mike Wallace to a good degree but Wallace clashed with Dolphins’ staff and was handed off to the Vikings this off-season.
A young team on offense, the Dolphins have gambled on another hotshot receiver in Kenny Stills (from the Saints) moving into Mike Wallace’s former position as well as Jordan Cameron (from the Browns) to start at tight end. I mentioned earlier that the Bills may have the youngest receiving core in the NFL, well the Dolphins actually average out to 23 as well so they are both gambling on their young talent.
The only controversy on the Dolphins offense could have been the running back position (with either Lamar Miller or Knowshon Moreno heading up a committee), but the word on the street is that the Dolphins will not be resigning Moreno to a new contract which means that Lamar Miller could be in for a very productive 2015. On defense, the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh (from the Lions) to a massive contract (six-years, $114 million) which should give the squad’s rushing defense a kick in the ass. Look for the Dolphins to surprise this year.
- New York Jets (4-12)
The Jets have been busy this off-season, and their new GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles have acquired a great deal of talent, possible transforming the Jets from one of the worst teams in the league to an immediate contender in what will more than likely be a tough AFC East division. They picked up both Darrelle Revis (from the Patriots) and Antonio Cromartie (from the Cardinals) to bolster their secondary (along with a few others) and secured Brandon Marshall (from the Bears) to head up the receiving core.
Although losing Percy Harvin to the Bills recently, that seems to have been in the plan all along for this new regime and the combination of Marshall and Decker should prove more than formidable. The only big issue left was at quarterback, as the Jets had to choose between two less than stellar options in either a Michael Vick past his prime or the inconsistent Geno Smith.
The Jets smartly traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick from Houston to reunite him with his former coach Chan Gailey (who is now the OC in in New York) and Fitzpatrick will have to win the gig but easily projects to have a good fantasy year, if so. The Patriots are going to have more trouble than normal in the East this year. Should be fun to watch!
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
-Lance Moore, James Harrison, Brett Keisel, *Troy Polamalu
Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)
Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Cleveland Browns (7-9)
+Josh McCown, Brian Hartline, Tramon Williams
-Brian Hoyer, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron
Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
+Frank Gore, Andre Johnson
-Trent Richardson, Reggie Wayne
Houston Texans (9-7)
+Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Cecil Shorts, Vince Wilfork, Rahim Moore
-Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andre Johnson
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
+Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick, Davon House, Dan Skuta
Tennessee Titans (2-14)
+Harry Douglas, Brian Orakpo, Perrish Cox
Denver Broncos (12-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
San Diego Chargers (9-7)
+Stevie Johnson, Jacoby Jones
Oakland Raiders (3-13)
+Trent Richardson, Roy Helu, Christian Ponder, Nate Allen, Rodney Hudson
-Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew
Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
+Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews
-Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy
New York Giants (6-10)
Washington Redskins (4-12)
Green Bay Packers (12-4)
-Tramon Williams, AJ Hawk, Brad Jones
Detroit Lions (11-5)
-Reggie Bush, Ndamukong Suh
Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
+Shaun Hill, Mike Wallace
Chicago Bears (5-11)
+Eddie Royal, Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle
Carolina Panthers (7-8)
-DeAngelo Williams, Michael Oher
New Orleans Saints (7-9)
+CJ Spiller, Brandon Browner, Max Unger
-Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas
Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
+Leonard Hankerson, Brooks Reed
-Steven Jackson, Harry Douglas
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)
+Chris Conte, Henry Melton
Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
+Mike Iupati, Lamarr Woodley
San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
+Reggie Bush, Torrey Smith
-Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Chris Borland
St. Louis Rams (6-10)