It's The AFC You Later Division For DBs In The East
For a division with teams who took pride in their defenses over the years, the AFC East has had problems keeping some key players around. Unfortunately, this trend has continued during this young offseason already. The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills are having the same problem of keeping the best defensive backs on their rosters. Last offseason, the Miami Dolphins lost cornerback Sean Smith and corner Darrelle Revis bullied his way off the New York Jets’ roster. This year, the New England Patriots are set to lose corner Aqib Talib and the Bills are probably going to lose safety Jairus Byrd.
Now what does this trend mean for the division? How do top defenses continually lose their best players? Talib is already considered the top defensive back on the market, while Byrd has been in discussion for the best safety in the league during certain times in his career. The Bills did not even put the franchise tag on Byrd before the deadline last week, making him free to hit the open market. Unless he ends up with one of the other three teams in the East, he will be on the long list of defensive backs that left this group.
This list includes:
Asante Samuel: New England for Philadelphia
Patrick Surtain: Miami for Kansas City (traded)
Antoine Winfield: Buffalo for Minnesota
Nate Clements: Buffalo for San Francisco
Vontae Davis: Miami for Indianpolis (traded)
Sean Smith: Miami for Kansas City
Darrelle Revis: New York for Tampa Bay (traded)
And the list goes on.
Some players, like Revis and Davis, forced their way out of town because they were unhappy or out of shape. In these cases, it made sense for the player to leave the division. On the other hand, some players left because they want to get paid (Clements, Samuel, etc.). These players were in it for the money or they wanted nothing to do with the AFC East anymore.
Amazingly, there is a possibility that the trend gained some momentum in the other direction this offseason. With the exception of Talib and Byrd, another top corner signed a long-term extension to stay in the division. Dolphins’ corner Brent Grimes signed a four-year deal this past week to keep him in South Beach. Could this be the start of a new trend? The Pats’ corner/safety Devin McCourty signed a five-year deal back in 2010. As the end of his contract draws near, it will be interesting to see if he decides to re-sign again.
While the AFC East does not have the defenses that the NFC West has produced, they do have solid defenses that have helped some of the teams (with a decent offense) stay in contention year after year. The cards already predict that Talib and Byrd will be added to this list. This means that a new batch of defensive backs will fight for the title of the best in the AFC East next season.