NFL Free Agency: How the Dolphins and Patriots Trades Shake Up AFC East

Chris Dela RosaContributor IJuly 29, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Chad Ochocinco #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals at the completion of  the NFL season opener at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 38-24. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

One day after the Jets improved their roster by reaching an agreement with their top priority in Santonio Holmes, the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots went out and made some moves of their own.  These moves may set up a repeat of the 2008 season where there was a three team playoff race, which ended in the Dolphins winning the division after the Jets and Patriots collapsed down the line.  

First, it was the Dolphins who traded for former New Orleans running back Reggie Bush.  Bush will be a great addition to the Dolphins because of his ability to help a team mix things up.  While Bush is a running back that can produce, the Dolphins could easily use him as a receiver, spreading out defenses and causing mismatches that will result in big plays.  

Shortly after the Dolphins got Bush, reports surfaced that the Patriots traded a 2013 fifth-round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for Albert Haynesworth.  If he plays the way he will be payed, he will be a problem for opposing offenses, especially when paired up with Vince Wilfork. I doubt that Haynesworth will cause problems while in New England, Bill Belichick is not the kind of coach that will allow some of the nonsense Mike Shanahan put up with in Washington.

Following the Haynesworth trade, the Patriots came to a two year agreement with Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco.  Ochocinco will be another threat the Patriots can throw to along with Wes Welker and Deion Branch.  While he is a good receiver, it is unclear as to how much Ochocinco will play since his antics may make Bill Belichick unhappy.  Belichick is known for not messing around when it comes to trash talking as he exemplified during the playoffs last year when he benched Wes Welker for making a foot comment to reporters in regard to Rex Ryan's foot fetish video.

As of right now, the Patriots have the slight edge as to who will win the division.  Last year they had a great regular season and finished with a 12-4 record.  Most of their players are returning and they have made two quality additions to the team. They also have the dynamic duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  But even though the Patriots have Brady and Belichick, the Jets have Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez.  The two have been able to reach the AFC Championship Game in the first two years of being with one another, and hopefully for them, the third time is the charm.  If the Jets finish this free agency period with a few more key acquisitions like Randy Moss or Nnamdi Asomugha they could easily finish at the top of the division in January.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins will need to work a little bit harder as there are still question marks surrounding Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall.  Henne has been a quality quarterback over the years and the pressure is on him and head coach Tony Sparano to produce this season.  Earlier this offseason when the lockout was still in effect, wide receiver Brandon Marhsall was involved in an altercation that ended with him being stabbed and in the hospital.

It is hard to tell which of these three teams will win the AFC East, but there is no doubt that this will be an interesting season as all teams are trying to improve so they can achieve their goal of winning the Lombardi trophy in Indianapolis in February.