The 2013 offseason is officially underway. All the AFC East teams are scouting and looking to get better for next season. Our community had a lot of offseason questions this week. Let’s dig in.
Derek from Austin, Texas, writes: James, what are your thoughts on the Miami Dolphins situation with Jake Long. Will they re-sign him to a top dollar deal knowing his has been injury-prone over the last few years or will they take a chance with Jonathan Martin?
James Walker: I think Long is long gone in Miami unless he takes a home-team discount. Despite his drop in play the past two seasons, Long is still better than a majority of left tackles, and that will be enough to make Long one of the NFL’s highest-paid lineman. However, Miami knows better than anyone that Long is not the player he used to be. He has a lower value to the Dolphins, who had his prime years. Long is on the decline, and it would be a mistake for the Dolphins to pay Long for what he was in the past as opposed to what he will be in the future. Martin may not be the answer at left tackle unless he improves his strength, but the Dolphins will have more affordable options.
Kevin from Chicago writes: What are the chances of Miami signing receiver Greg Jennings?
Walker: Miami is certainly a favorite in the Jennings sweepstakes. It’s well-documented that Jennings played under Dolphins coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay and runs a similar offense. Jennings would have the easiest learning curve of the big, free-agent receivers like Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe. But a lot of this will come down to money. If Jennings prices himself significantly higher than Bowe or Wallace, then Miami could look elsewhere. But I expect the Dolphins to land one of these three receivers.
Jake from Baltimore writes: I understand that the Jets are seriously over the cap, but is it really impossible for the Jets to find a way to keep safety LaRon Landry?
Walker: The Jets had all the leverage with Landry last year. He was coming off a season-ending injury and needed to prove his durability. Landry did his part by staying healthy all year and having a Pro Bowl season. Now it’s time to pay up. I don’t blame Landry for wanting a multi-year extension this time around. The problem is the Jets, who are about $19 million over the cap, probably can’t provide it. New York will make significant cuts and won’t be able to keep some of its own players. In addition to Landry, the Jets also have to worry about keeping tight end Dustin Keller and tailback Shonn Greene, who are looking for multi-year extensions.
Stephen from Glastonbury, Conn., writes: How many seasons do you think it will take for the Jets to become a playoff caliber team, like they were two seasons ago?
Walker: I only take things year to year, Stephen. And right now, I don’t see the Jets in contention in 2013. This is a bad team that will gut its roster. The Jets also don’t have a viable quarterback. Let’s see what happens in the offseason. Maybe new general manager John Idzik can work some magic.
Walker: Tough question, Brian. Both are good players, and both are underrated. For Buffalo, I would lean toward Byrd being the more important player to the Bills. For one, Byrd’s a Pro Bowler. Secondly, he’s one of the few playmakers Buffalo has on defense. Levitre also is a very good player and very versatile. I think the Bills need to find a way to keep both players.
Michael from Apex, N.C., writes: With the Bills current needs and the fact that QB draft stock always gets inflated during the draft process, do you think the Bills should "reach" with their first pick and get the QB they want?
Walker: No, Michael. The Bills should not reach for a quarterback at No. 8. Obviously, things can change. But I don’t see a quarterback Buffalo should consider with that pick at the moment. The Bills should take the best available player that fits a need. This year’s quarterback class will have a lot of players available in the second round. I wouldn’t be shocked if Buffalo looks to free agency first to see what veterans are available.
Kyle from Rhode Island writes: Should the New England Patriots draft a quarterback?
Walker: Some teams like to draft a quarterback every year, just because finding the right guy is so difficult. I expect Tom Brady to play at a high level for at least the next 2-3 years, so it’s not pressing. Ryan Mallett appears to have some promise and can remain the developmental quarterback.
Ken from Montreal writes: What do you think about a team and its players who just drops out of the Pro Bowl like the Patriots? I think it’s a classless act.
Walker: People are harsh on the Patriots this week. I didn’t think much of it, because I don’t take the Pro Bowl seriously. The honor is legit, but the actual game is kind of a joke. Last year's Pro Bowl was probably the least competitive football game I've ever seen. There’s really no need for it anymore unless the NFL finds a way to make it competitive. Star players do not want to go into the offseason injured, so everyone goes half speed. Major changes need to be made if players are to take this game serious.
Comment and complain department
John from San Diego, Calif., writes: So, basically I’ve been looking at all these mock drafts and there is no consistency among the picks for the Dolphins in the first round. I got one guy saying DE another saying WR and a third saying CB. I was wondering if you could shed any light on who they would be going for?
Walker: John, I hate to bring you bad news but the reason there is no consensus is because the Dolphins don’t even know what they will do at this point. It’s too early. Mock drafts are fun and create a lot of chatter. But truthfully, it’s not really an exercise in accuracy -- certainly not in January. Teams are still scouting and making their draft boards.
Thomas from Minnesota writes: There are teams that haven't even appeared in a Super Bowl yet. The sport is a team game and Tom Brady isn't a defensive player. They had solid defenses when they won the three Super Bowls. But Brady is probably the only player still on the team that was from the team that they won the Super Bowls and they have probably had low round draft picks the last 10 years with winning records every season and an undefeated regular season.
Walker: Thomas, I understand you sticking up for Brady. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. However, Brady performed poorly in last week’s AFC Championship Game. He was unusually inaccurate on many of his throws. Brady grossly mismanaged the clock before halftime. He threw two interceptions, although one was tipped. The Patriots scored a season-low 13 points. None of that had anything to do with a poor defense or low draft picks. Brady doesn’t have bad games often, but he deserves some blame for the team coming up short against Baltimore.
Lee from Vancouver, B.C., writes: Hey James, just looking back into the past in 2006, when the Pats last lost in a conference final. It seemed to ignite Brady and Co. to have a great 18-1 season. Could you see the Patriots having that same fire in the offseason and into next season?
Walker: It’s an interesting thought, Lee. But I think losing in the AFC title game again won’t have much to do with future success. The Patriots lost in the Super Bowl last year and was just as motivated in 2012.
JR from Tampa Bay writes: The Jets' situation just seems to be getting worse and worse as far as I can tell. They are starting a major overhaul, but now they have a coach on the hot seat. So how do you start rebuilding a team for the long term in 2013 if in 2014 you pick up a new head coach with a totally different philosophy?
Walker: The stipulation Jets owner Woody Johnson put on the general manager job was to keep Ryan around for at least one more year. I think that was one of several reasons the Jets took so long to find someone to take the job. New general manager John Idzik sounds excited, but he’s taking on one of the toughest jobs in the NFL. Next season may work out for Ryan or it may not. If the Jets have to pick a new head coach in 2014, it will feel like a wasted year for the Jets.