The balance of power has completely shifted in the AFC East. It is no longer the New England Patriots at the top but who is going to take over as the division champion this season?
The one constant in the AFC East is that the New York Jets are at the bottom at 0-7. There is a real chance that they make it all the way to 0-16 this season. The Patriots are coming off a 33-6 beatdown at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Cam Newton has not thrown the ball well all season and the defense is looking like a shell this season.
At the top, the Buffalo Bills are 5-2 but seem to be going through a rough patch. It took six field goals to beat the Jets 18-10 in Week 7. They are still the favorites to win the division. The Miami Dolphins are going to be the most exciting team in the division down the stretch of the season. They are 3-3 in 2020 and have made the decision to start Tua Tagovailoa under center.
Like any division, there will be players moved at the deadline in the AFC East. Here are five options that could go quickly when the time comes.
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Fitzpatrick has played for eight teams around the league during his years as a journeyman quarterback. Now that Tagovailoa has been named the starter in Miami, could Fitzpatrick make it nine teams?
Fitzpatrick has started 19 games since the beginning of the 2019 season with the Dolphins. It seems like odd timing to sit Fitzpatrick but it makes sense. It is clear that the Dolphins wanted to wait until the bye week so Tagovailoa had two weeks to prepare. Fitzpatrick has thrown seven interceptions this season. He is exciting to watch but he is a career backup who has had some good moments. Moving forward, Tagovailoa is the best option.
Keeping Fitzpatrick in town gives the young rookie a mentor. On the other hand, there are teams who could use a quarterback to finish the 2020 season. The Dallas Cowboys immediately come to mind.
4. Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots
Gilmore was named the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. No one expected his name to show up in trade rumors just one season later but here we are. With the Patriots at 2-4, Bill Belichick could be looking to make some big moves. It does not get much bigger than Gilmore.
Gilmore’s base salary is $7 million in 2021 and he carries a $16.7 million cap hit. He will become a free agent following the 2021 season. This seems like it is going to be a lost season for the Patriots. Trading Gilmore now gives a team another year under contract which will get New England an even bigger return. The value for Gilmore is high already considering he is one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
Nothing is guaranteed, especially in New England, but there has definitely been a conversation about trading away Gilmore. Since he will not be on the team following the 2021 season anyway, this is something that could make sense for the franchise.
3. Ty Nsekhe, Buffalo Bills
If there is one area where the Bills have tremendous depth, it is at the offensive line. Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams have been starting at the tackle positions this season.
Cody Ford and Ryan Bates are also strong offensive lineman in Buffalo. Nsekhe has played some valuable snaps for the Bills over the last couple seasons but was a name mentioned prior to the season in the trade market. In Washington, Nsekhe was a starter before coming over to the Bills. There are plenty of teams in need of an offensive lineman in a crazy season like this.
Buffalo is a tough team that wins games in the trenches. They are more than comfortable along the offensive line which means they can flip Nsekhe for some help in other areas.
2. Joe Thuney, New England Patriots
Thuney has been a dominant offensive lineman in New England. He is playing under the salary cap in 2020 paying him $14.7 million. It might seems crazy to trade a player like Thuney but it could make sense right now for the Patriots.
First of all, it does not seem likely that Thuney stays in New England long-term. If this is the case, they need to trade him because he has great value. There are options, such as Larry Warford, available to replace Thuney next season. Warford has opted out of the 2020 season. The Patriots do not look like they will be competing this season. Sending Thuney away could land them a tight end or wide receiver. They have been in need of help at the skill positions for awhile now.
For the first time in at least 20 years, the Patriots could look to be sellers at the trade deadline. This is where a Thuney-deal comes into play.
1. Chris Herndon, New York Jets
Herndon is in his third year with the Jets and is extremely underwhelming. He emerged as a promising talent as a rookie with 502 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, Herndon played just one game due to injury and he is part of a bad offense in New York this season.
Through seven games, Herndon has just 13 catches for 98 yards and no touchdowns. He is a low risk option for teams considering his contract situation. Herndon carries a $1.09 million cap hit for the 2021 season. This is a chance for Herndon to play with a capable quarterback in a system not run by Adam Gase. The Jets definitely did not put him in a position to succeed, but Herndon has also struggled with drops and needs to improve his route running.
At 24-years old, Herndon is still young enough to gain interest from teams around the league in need of a tight end. He has played just two seasons so it is possible that he could turn into a weapon for another team if used correctly.