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Is the power shifting in the AFC East?

Posted by Albert Breer  March 8, 2010 09:43 AM

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The Jets and Dolphins were both active over the first weekend of free agency.

Miami has Karlos Dansby in the fold
, and it looks like Ryan Clark could soon join him in aqua. Meanwhile, New York dealt for a player with All-Pro ability, in Antonio Cromartie, and a little less in the maturity department, while dealing off Kerry Rhodes and whacking Thomas Jones and Lito Sheppard.

I went over why the Jets think Cromartie will return to form -- New York's scheme fits him, and the locker room is strong -- in my Sunday Notes. Another thing I talked to Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum about on Saturday was the team's approach of giving up draft picks, like they did for Cromartie, and as they have in trades for vets Kris Jenkins, Brett Favre, Braylon Edwards and Jones, and in dealing up in the draft for Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene.

“Draft choices are very important,” said Tannenbaum, who grew up in Needham. “But I’ve always believed that quality over quantity is what gives you a chance at sustainable success. I’ve never been fixated on coming out of the draft with eight or 10 picks. That’s irrelevant, because you can make up for it with undrafted free agents and at the end of the summer with waiver claims. … It’s a year-round approach for us.”

Tannenbaum points to Mike DeVito (a Nauset High and UMaine grad signed after going undrafted) and David Clowney (a fifth-round pick of Green Bay who was released his rookie year) as examples of guys the Jets found that made up for lost draft picks. The Jets actually did a study on this in the past and found that, in many cases, you can find the same value on the undrafted market as you can in the sixth and seventh rounds of the draft.

k_dansby_blog.jpgGive the Jets credit for getting creative and finding a way to improve. They were seriously limited by the "Final Four Rules", which meant they could only pick up a UFA as they lost one of similar financial value (Marques Douglas and Tony Richardson were their only '09 starters who were UFAs), and they still found a way to make a serious improvement to an already nasty defense.

The Dolphins shouldn't be dismissed here, either. Of the big names, Dansby might have be the surest thing on a pretty barren market, and teaming him with Channing Crowder at ILB makes the Dolphins better. If they can get Clark done, then they'll have fixed two pretty substantial holes on defense, and be able to turn their focus to finding a couple playmakers on offense in the draft to help young QB Chad Henne.

Is it time to declare the Patriots' dominance over the division a thing of the past? No, not by a long shot. I mean, we're four days into the new league year, and a lot of things can happen. But it's hard to argue that, at this point, the Jets and Dolphins aren't substantially better than they were a few days ago. And it's tough to say the same about New England.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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