Miami Dolphins 2015: AJ Hawk, free agency, draft issues

The Miami Dolphins may have just had their linebacker prayers answered. AJ Hawk has been cut by the Green Bay Packers, as the perennial contenders seek to keep themselves under the salary cap and get younger at the position. The Dolphins have the opposite problem. With free agent busts like Philip Wheeler about to be jettisoned, Miami is falling back to a young linebacker core, and needs to throw at least one solid veteran into the mix in order to balance things out. But will they bite?

The Dolphins are betting that at least some of their young linebackers like Jelani Jenkins, Chris McCain and (if he moves there permanently) Dion Jordan can serve as a core going forward. The team has other areas of greater need, making it a tricky decision whether to invest high 2015 draft picks into the position. But by adding a known quantity like AJ Hawk via free agency, Miami helps ensure a smoother transition as well as a failsafe in case one or more of the prospects doesn’t develop as hoped.

AJ Hawk will attract broad interest on the market, and may not come cheap. But with the Miami Dolphins needing to use their draft picks on offensive guard, nose tackle, cornerback, and possibly wide receiver and running back, solving the linebacker position via free agency would be considered a win.

New England Patriots: DeflateGate, Tom Brady, Super Bowl 2015 odds

The New England Patriots will spend all of 2015 hearing about DelfateGate from naysayers no matter what the NFL concludes regarding its conduct in the matter, but the team itself is far more interested with the issue of whether it can repeat as champions in Super Bowl 50. The Pats have to face the usual salary cap issues, the concerns about Tom Brady’s advancing age, and how the rest of the AFC will stack up against them in the postseason. Here’s a breakdown.

Tom Brady showed in these most recent playoffs that when he’s healthy he’s lost very little despite approaching the age of forty. The only concern would be whether he’s now more injury prone as a result of age. The season will have to tell that tale, though the Patriots believe they have a winner in young backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Of greater concern may be that, when Brady wasn’t playing his best earlier in the 2014 season, the rest of the offense looked like a mess around him. The team needs to boost its wide receiver corps so it doesn’t always come down to Brady playing his best, among other personnel concerns.

As for the competition, The Colts have gotten better every year of the Andrew Luck era but showed they’re still not that close to the Pats. The Broncos are a bit of a wildcard with Peyton Manning having a new head coach. And the Ravens can never be fully counted out. But there will be little competition in the AFC East in 2015, giving the New England Patriots a good shot at a strong record and home field advantage again – which just may be the key to making to back to the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks 2015: Marshawn Lynch vs Todd Gurley vs Melvin Gordon

The Seattle Seahawks face a quandary: they can’t keep making it back to the Super Bowl without a running back as dynamic as Marshawn Lynch, and they just don’t know how much longer he’ll stick around. Lynch is already talking retirement, which means even if he does return for 2015, it’ll likely be his last season. That means the Seahawks might as well find his replacement now, and that leaves them eying Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

In fact the surest way to keep Marshawn Lynch around longer may simply be to lighten his load. Bringing in a younger running back to split the carries might be the smartest move the Seattle Seahawks could make this offseason. The catch: it has to be someone who is just as special, at a time when NFL running backs are increasingly viewed as plug-and-play commodities. Melvin Gordon was so dominant in college that he broke records. Todd Gurley could have done the same if not for a limited number of carries, then a suspension, and then an injury. The question becomes whether either of them falls to them near the bottom of the first round.

There would also become the issue of which running back would get the ball in crucial situations. Marshawn Lynch would continue to be the logical answer, but as Seahawks fans are all too painfully aware, the team doesn’t always get him the ball in the instances where it matters most. But having the likes of Gurley or Gordon on the roster would ensure that Lynch stays fresh for those moments.