AFC East Buzz: Xavien Howard, Patriots spending power, plus Bills, Jets cut candidates

Dolphins, Bills, Patriots and Jets face major decisions as the new 2024 NFL league year approaches.

Xavien Howard
Xavien Howard / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

With 2024 NFL free agency approaching, the AFC East teams are making some moves to improve their chances of winning the division in 2024.  While the Miami Dolphins cut a couple of their key players, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have some roster decisions to think about.

As far as the team that finished last in the division, the New England Patriots have spending power this offseason to go along with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.  Could that lead to a quick turnaround in Foxborough? 

Let’s take a spin around the division and look at some of these decisions facing that could impact who will control the AFC East.

Dolphins releasing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard

One of the big stories in the AFC East this week was the announcement by the Miami Dolphins that they will be releasing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard at the start of the NFL’s new league year.  That will make Howard one of the top cornerbacks hitting the open market in NFL Free Agency.

The release opens some cap space for the Dolphins as Howard still has three years remaining on his five-year, $90 million contract.  With the move, Miami saves $18.5 million which will allow them to lock up some of their pending free agents and perhaps extend quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

As part of a top cornerback duo, along with Jalen Ramsey during the end of the 2023 NFL season when Ramsey was health, Howard was a lockdown corner in the Dolphins secondary since signing the five-year deal with the team.  It is the health and presence of Ramsey that allows the Dolphins to make this move.  It also allows Howard to explore his worth around the league, which could have him possibly landing with an AFC East rival like the Bills.


New England Patriots with top 3 draft pick and the second most cap space in the NFL

With the salary cap set at $255.4 million for the 2024 NFL season, the Patriots spending power went up even more as they will have the second most cap space in the league at $82.9 million.

In releasing veterans like Lawrence Guy and Adrian Phillips this past week, that number did increase.  They could potentially take over the No. 1 spot at over $97 million if they release disgruntled cornerback J.C. Jackson. 

Obviously, the Patriots have some internal free agents like Mike Onwenu, Kyle Dugger and Hunter Henry that they would like to take care of, but the spending power, along with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft sets the Patriots up for a big offseason if the right decisions are made and the money is spent wisely.  To make that jump back into relevancy, the team will have to spend, and the check book should be open for new head coach Jerod Mayo and front office executive Eliot Wolf to be competitive on the open market.


Could the Buffalo Bills also cut their top corner?

With Howard set to be released by the Dolphins, another AFC East cornerback could be headed towards the same fate. 

In a list of AFC cut candidates by NFL.com, Bills cornerback Tre-Davious White could be a player the team cuts to secure cap space.  In the article, NFL.com’s Matt Okada writes:

Could Tre'Davious White be cut by the Bills?
Tre'Davious White / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

“When the Bills extended White heading into the 2020 season, he was coming off a year in which he led the NFL with six interceptions and was named first-team All-Pro. Over the last three regular seasons, he's missed 30 games and has three interceptions ... in total. The Bills are also currently projected to be more than $50 million over the cap and would save $6 million against the cap by cutting White pre-June 1 (or $10.2M post-June 1).”

White again ended his season on the injured list and the Bills could see it as an opportunity to move on and perhaps instead target someone like J.C. Jackson if he is cut by the Patriots or perhaps it’s possible White come back on a cheaper deal.  Another player in the AFC East potentially on the move.


C.J. Uzomah a cut candidate to watch for the New York Jets

The Jets also have a cut candidate on that list as tight end C.J. Uzomah could be a player they look at to free up some cap space.  Per NFL.com:

“After two unproductive seasons with the Jets and with a $11.2 million cap hit on the horizon, Uzomah is a prime candidate to be cut for the space needed to reinforce more important positions. He was more impactful back in Cincinnati and doesn't offer the upside to consider keeping at that price tag in New York.”

The Jets are a team that could be in on a top free agency target like Mike Evans.  That could make cutting Uzomah, who hasn’t lived up to the hype, expendable.  As far as the tight end position, the Jets could also target Patriots tight end Hunter Henry or use their top 10 pick on a talent like Brock Bowers.  With Aaron Rodgers returning, the Jets will do their best to provide the veteran quarterback with the commodities he needs to compete.

Whoever comes out on top in the AFC East in 2024 could very well depend on which team makes the right moves this offseason.

feed