Sixteen years later, and it doesn't feel like anything has changed in the AFC East. We're on the eve of another draft and in the middle of another offseason, and the Patriots -- despite the clusterfudge of the pending Tom Brady suspension and the possibility of having to start their backup quarterback over the first month of the season -- appear to be the only team in the division with a clue at the most important position in the game.
It's staggering. The Jets still don't have a quarterback. The Bills don't really have a quarterback. The Dolphins have one in name (and paycheck) only.
There will be player movement across the league over the next few days and QBs will be a prominent factor. Colin Kaepernick may be back on the table. Sam Bradford, too. For all we know, both could be headed to the AFC East. Then there's the draft, where the division always seems on the verge of welcoming the next Geno Smith or EJ Manuel (or Mark Sanchez, or J.P. Losman, or John Beck . . . we could go on).
Quick quiz: Who's the second-best QB in the division right now? Ryan Fitzpatrick is unsigned, so he doesn't count. It's down to Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Garappolo. Call me crazy, but I'll take Garappolo, especially when you factor in coaching and surrounding cast. Tannehill will never be anything more than Mr. Average (his rankings in passer rating the last four years: 21st, 14th, 24th, 27th). His upside has been established. We still don't know on Garappolo. I'll take my chances there.
But I'm more intrigued by how the Jets and Bills screw it up in the next few days.
Maybe the Jets go with Kaepernick and ruin him further. They have been smart so far in not over-paying Fitzpatrick, but that's the easy part. The hard part is finding the next guy. If you're a Jets fan, how can you have any faith they'll get it right?
Then there's the Bills. They've been quiet, but Tyrod Taylor's agent hasn't been. The Taylor camp is unhappy with his $1 million salary next year and they want a deal commensurate with other young starters like Brock Osweiler ($14 million per year). Again, like the Jets, the Bills haven't made the ultimate mistake the Dolphins did with Tannehill and given Taylor that money. But they still need a solution. What's your confidence level in Rex Ryan coming up with one?
Bottom line: As bad as it feels potentially having to start your backup quarterback over the first month, as bad as Deflategate has been -- it could be worse.
You could be the rest of the division.
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