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Can this AFC East roster compete against the Patriots?

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Can the Patriots compete against this AFC East cap-friendly all-star squad?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the Patriots’ dominance in the AFC East since the turn of the century, it’s still important to occasionally check in with the other organizations in the division. They do still exist.

However, with all the deep dives and preseason previews soon to be inundating our Twitter feeds and podcast apps, let’s keep things a bit lighter.

To begin the process of getting a feel for the other rosters in the division, I set out to assemble the best 53-man team possible — while staying under the 2017 and 2018 salary caps, of course — using only Bills, Dolphins, and Jets. The goal was to generate a roster that could upend the Patriots for the AFC East title.

It wasn’t easy.

The guidelines:

  • A 53-man roster must be formed for 2017, but exactly seven roster spots must be left open for incoming draft picks in 2018.
  • True rookies can be included.
  • The roster must be kept under the 2017 and 2018 salary caps.
  • After deductions for expected in-season cap costs and a 2018 projected rookie pool, the 2017 net cap will be $161 million, with the 2018 net cap being set at $168 million.

Here is how the roster turned out.

  • 2017 cap commitment: $118,540,164
  • 2017 cap space: $42,459,836 (rolls over to 2018)
  • 2018 cap commitment: $207,951,380
  • 2018 cap space: $2,508,456

Tyrod Taylor beats out Ryan Tannehill — particularly on price. Taylor’s restructured contract is a tremendous bargain through 2018 at $15.25 million in average money per year. Matt Moore, one of the NFL’s better backups and a 2018 unrestricted free agent, rounds out the quarterback depth chart.

Taylor’s primary targets on the outside will be Devante Parker and Quincy Enunwa — who projects to receive a second-round RFA tender in the 2018 offseason. Jarvis Landry, per usual, will do his damage from the slot.

The complimentary pairing of Shady McCoy and Jay Ajayi will rival any running back duo in the league. They run behind new Bills fullback Patrick DiMarco, guards Richie Incognito and John Miller, and center Mike Pouncey, who reportedly will be ready for the start of the regular season.

At the tackle spots, Miami’s Laremy Tunsil will get his opportunity to shine at left tackle this season. Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn, certainly an above average left tackle, simply proved too expensive. The team’s starting right tackle is also a Miami Dolphin: 2014 first round pick Ju’Wuan James.

On the other side of the football, veteran Cameron Wake and emerging star Leonard Williams anchor the pass rush. A hefty linebacker group is led by Lawrence Timmons and Preston Brown — who each look to regain their 2015 form. Darren Lee looks to rebound from a lackluster rookie season where perhaps too much was asked of him in New York.

The secondary is anchored by two new additions to the AFC East: Morris Claiborne and Micah Hyde. Ronald Darby looks to return to the lock down corner he was in his rookie season as promising rookie Tre’Davious White from LSU looks to carve out a role.

Reshad Jones, now the third highest paid safety in football in terms of average money per year, is joined by rookie second-round pick Marcus Maye from Florida, and Bills safety Jordan Poyer.


Poll

If the Patriots played against this roster twice in 2017 — once at home, and once on the road — what would the results be?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Patriots win both
    (759 votes)
  • 4%
    Patriots lose both
    (43 votes)
  • 24%
    Patriots win at home, but lose on the road
    (263 votes)
1065 votes total Vote Now

Follow Brian Phillips on Twitter - @BPhillips_PP