Head Coach: Dave Wannstedt
2003 Strength of schedule: 15th (.516)
The Dolphins finished 2002 with a 9-7 record and where again left watching the playoffs from home. 2002 was to be the season that they would finally avoid the late season swoon that has haunted this franchise. A week 17 overtime loss to the Patriots was the exclamation point on yet another late season collapse. The 2003 Dolphins look to be the team to beat in the AFC East as they will have Ricky Williams back for another season and a healthy QB Jay Fielder will be at the helm of the 'Phins offense. WR Chris Chambers will lead the recieving corps along with James McKnight and TE Randy McMichael. The offense received some extra punch during the offseason in the form of QB Brian Griese, WR Derrius Thompson, TE Marco Battaglia and KR Charlie Rogers (not THAT one). Griese was added to the roster as a back-up to Fiedler but could see playing time due to Fiedler's durability.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins went out and signed veteran defensive backs Terrell Buckley and Sammy Knight. They also picked up DT Jeff Zgonina. But the biggest addition to the defense could be LB Junior Seau. Seau was a cap casuality in San Diego has been a welcome addition to this already stiffling defense. The Dolphins are hoping that Seau can bounce back from a disappointing 2002 and return to the form that the league is accostumed to seeing. Together with Zack Thomas, one will be hard pressed to find a better linebacker duo in the league.
The Dolphins have high hopes for 2003. If they can avoid the injury bug that plagued this team last season and avoid yet another late season collapse, they could make a serious run at the Super Bowl. To do that, they will have Jay Fiedler turn in a career year and the o-line to stay healthy. Another collapse could spell the end for the Wannstedt Era in Miami.
Free-agent re-signings - UFA WR Oronde Gadsden, June 20 (one year, $555,000, $25,000 SB); RFA S Arturo Freeman, June 11 (one year, $605,000); S Shawn Wooden, April 24 (re-signed after having been cut March 11); UFA DE David Bowens, March 7 (three years, $5.03 million, $300,000 SB); UFA FB Rob Konrad, Feb. 28 (four years, $4 million, $600,000 SB, plus $525,000 a year in incentives; base salaries of $530,000 in 2003, $750,000 in '04, $900,000 in '05 and $1.02 million in '06); UFA P Mark Royals, Feb. 28 (one year, $780,000, $25,000 SB); potential UFA OG-OT Mark Dixon (three years, $2.73 million, $700,000 SB); potential RFA S Trent Gamble, Feb. 27 (three years, $1.675 million, $150,000 SB).
Key arrivals - UFA DE Corey Callens/ex-NFLE/ex-Ravens practice squad, July 1 (two years); UFA DT Damonte McKenzie, June 23; UFA QB Brian Griese/ex-Bronco, June 6 (two years, $1 million SB and a base salary of $530,000 for 2003 and $535,000 for '04; A roster bonus of $5.935 million is due in March of '04); UFA WR Chris Jackson/ex-AFL, June 3 (two-year deal); UFA S Sammy Knight/ex-Saint, May 13 (two years, $2.38 million, $300,000 SB); LB Junior Seau/ex-Charger April 16 (acquired in trade with Chargers for conditional 2004 sixth-round draft pick that could become fifth-rounder; signed new contract for four years, $14 million, $3 million SB, with base salaries of $1 million in 2003, $3 million in 2004, $4 million in '05 and $4.5 million in '06, plus, $2 million bonus that was owed to him by Chargers); UFA RS Charlie Rogers/ex-Bill, April 10 (one year, $555,000); UFA DT Jeff Zgonina/ex-Ram, March 31 (four years, $3.55 million, $500,000 SB); UFA TE Marco Battaglia/ex-Steeler, March 21 (one year, $655,000); UFA CB Terrell Buckley/ex-Patriot, March 13 (one year, $785,000, $25,000 SB); UFA WR Derrius Thompson/ex-Redskin, March 8 (three years, $3.58 million, $600,000 SB).
Key departures - UFA OT Marcus Spriggs, June 3 (to Packers); UFA CB Paul Miranda, June 2 (to Raiders); Traded LB Derrick Rodgers to the Saints in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2004, May 27; UFA OT Brent Smith, May 6 (to Jets); QB Ray Lucas, April 28 (cut); RFA DT Jermaine Haley, April 25 (Dolphins received a seventh-round pick as compensation after deciding not to match the Redskins' offer sheet); RFA S Ray Green, March 12 (to Giants); UFA TE Jed Weaver, March 11 (to 49ers); UFA TE Desmond Clark, March 1 (to Bears); WRs Dedric Ward and Joey Getherall, OGs James Wagstaff and Jim Bundren and LB Twan Russell, Feb. 27 (all cut); UFA LB Scott Gaylon (retired).
Notes - Trade made to acquire Falcons OT Michael Thompson on April 2 was canceled on April 3 because of a failed physical. … MLB Zach Thomas signed a five-year contract extension ($33.75 million, $10.5 million SB) that runs through 2008, March 28. The deal enabled the Dolphins to significantly reduce Thomas' 2003 cap value and saved the team a $300,000 roster bonus that would have been due March 29. … C Tim Ruddy took a pay cut down to $1.3 million.
2003 Draft results
2 (49) Eddie Moore, LB , Tennessee
3 (78) Wade Smith, T, Memphis
3 (87) Taylor Whitley, G, Texas A&M
5 (156) Donald Lee, TE, Miss. State
5 (156) J.R. Tolver, WR, San Diego State
6 (181) Corey Jenkins DB, South Carolina
6 (209) Tim Provost, T, San Jose State
6 (213) Yeremiah Bell, DB, Eastern Kentucky
7 (248) Davern Williams, DT, Troy State
Head Coach: Gregg Williams
2003 Strength of schedule: 17th (.504)
The Bills finished a roller coaster 2003 season at 8-8. The Bills are excited about the 2003 season and with good reason. There hasnt been this much offense in Buffalo since the days of Jim Kelly and his partners in crime, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. The addition of Drew Bledsoe in 2002 was monumental and has breathed life into a franchise that was in dire need of it. Bledsoe will be minus one of his favorite targets this season as Peerless Price bolted for Atlanta when the Bills front office decided that they would only pay one reciever the money that players of their caliber demand. So the Bills chose to pay that money to Eric Moulds. Moulds will now be the No.1 reciever and should shine in that role. The question will be can second year man Josh Reed step into the No. 2 slot and help take off some of the pressure on Moulds. If Reed cant get the job done, the Bills have a few options in Bobby Shaw and Charles Johnson. The running game will fall squarely on the shoulders of Travis Henry who should continue to post big numbers as the offense opens up. Henry is a gifted back that can supply the knockout punch either on a handoff or a reception. He must work on his ball handling however, as he struggled mightily with fumbles in 2002.
On defense, the Bills d-coordinator, Jerry Gray as well as head coach Gregg Williams have to feel like Christmas came early as the team signed LB's Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey, DT Sam Adams and DE Marcus Jones. It is expected that the Bills will run Williams' version of the "46" defense as well as a variety of formations that will allow the defense to play to its many strengths. Williams has been long known for his defensive mind will keep opposing offenses off-balance with different schemes and fronts.
The Bills are one of the most improved teams in the AFC. The major question will be whether or not Bledsoe can recreate the magic he found in 2002, despite having less offensive weapons in his arsenal. Defensively the Bills should be solid. In fact if Bledsoe and the offense can continue to put points on the board like they are capable of, the Bills could find themselves back in the postseason for the first time since 1999.
Free-agent re-signings - RFA FB Sammy Morris, April 17 (one year, $605,000); RFA LB Dashon Polk (one year, $605,000); UFA WR Charles Johnson, March 7 (one year, $655,000).
Key arrivals - Claimed OG Ross Tucker off waivers from Cowboys, June 16; UFA SS Chad Cota/ex-Ram, June 4 (one year, $655,000 - Subsequently retired, June 10); UFA WR James Jett/ex-Raider, June 4 (one year, $780,000, $25,000 SB); UFA RB Olandis Gary/ex-Bronco, April 21 (two years); UFA CB Dainon Sidney/ex-Titan, April 10 (one year, $555,000, $25,000 SB); UFA FB Sam Gash/ex-Raven, March 31; RFA PK Rian Lindell/ex-Seahawk, March 24 (four years, $4.2 million, $1.2 million SB; Seahawks elected not to match offer sheet signed March 17 and will receive no compensation); DT Sam Adams/ex-Raider, March 23 (four years, $10.248 million, $1.5 million SB); UFA S Izell Reese/ex-Bronco, March 21 (two years); UFA WR Bobby Shaw/ex-Jaguar, March 17 (three years, $2.68 million); Transition UFA Takeo Spikes/ex-Bengal, March 10 (six years, $32 million, $9 million SB, $1.5 million option bonus due in 2004, workout bonuses of $100,000 each year from 2004 through '08; base salaries of $1 million in '03, $2.5 million in '04, $3.5 million in '05, $4.5 million in '06, $4.5 million in '07, $5 million in '08; Bengals declined to match Bills' March 7 offer sheet); UFA LB Jeff Posey/ex-Texan, Feb. 28 (four years, $6.425 million, $1.75 million SB; base salaries of $575,000 in 2003, $1.05 million in '04, $1.3 million in '05 and $1.75 in '06); TE Mark Campbell/ex-Brown, Feb. 28 (acquired in exchange for middle-round draft pick in 2004); DE Keith McKenzie/ex-Packer, Feb. 25 (one year, $680,000, $25,000 SB).
Key departures - UFA C-OG Billy Conaty, July 3 (to Patriots); UFA LB Greg Favors (to Panthers); CB Chris Watson, April 29 (cut); UFA RS Charlie Rogers, April 10 (to Dolphins); UFA PK Mike Hollis, April 4 (to Giants); UFA RB Shawn Bryson, March 24 (to Lions); FB Larry Centers and LB Eddie Robinson, March 20 (both cut); UFA LB Keith Newman, March 12 (to Falcons); Franchise UFA WR Peerless Price, March 7 (traded to Falcons in exchange for first-round draft pick in 2003); TE Jay Riemersma and S Billy Jenkins, Feb. 28 (both cut).
Notes - Signed RB Travis Henry to a one year extension that will keep him under contract through 2005, April 17 ( essentially a three-year restructuring that will pay him more than $5 million, including a $300,000 SB; Base salaries now are $389,000 in 2003, $750,000 in '04 and $1.25 million in '05).
2003 Draft results
1 (23) Willis McGahee, RB, Miami, FL
2 (48) Chris Kelsay, DE, Nebraska
3 (79) Angelo Crowell, LB, Virginia
4 (111) Terrence McGee, DB, Northwestern St
4 (127) Sam Aiken, WR, North Carolina
5 (151) Ben Sobieski, G, Iowa
6 (187) Lauvale Sape, DT, Utah
7 (228) Marlo Haggan, LB, Miss. State
New England Patriots
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
2003 Strength of schedule: 8th (.527)
The Patriots are coming off a season that saw them start off 3-0. Two of those wins were against the Steelers (30-14) and the Jets (44-7). The offense that was so outstanding in those wins however proved to be a streaky one the remainder of the season. In fact some weeks it could have been considered AWOL. A great deal of the offensive struggles had to do with the performance of RB Antowain Smith, who failed to even come close to his performance from 2001. Also the production from the WR corps other than Troy Brown was less than stellar. Deion Branch was brilliant at the beginning of the season but was hampered by injuries around midseason. He should continue to push David Patten for the No. 2 spot. The WR spot drops off pretty quick after Branch with rookie Bethel Johnson and second year man, David Givens left to split time as the fourth receiver. QB Tom Brady should continue to mature and show the leadership that he has displayed since taking the helm. Brady will need the offense to come together quickly and stay healthy for this team to remain competitive. Without having a superstar on offense, it will truly take a team effort for this team to mount a run at the Super Bowl.
The defense is definitely a strength for the Pats and should be able to keep the team in games should the offense sputter. The Patriots were able to land two key free agents in LB Rosevelt Colvin and S Rodney Harrison. This should allow the Patriots to implement a 3-4 defense to their plans. They have, in the past, shown many different fronts to opponents and in all likelihood will continue that in 2003.
On paper the Patriots look a solid contender for not only the ACF East title but also for a deep playoff run. They will need to find a way to keep the offense in rhythm and avoid the extreme high and lows from last season. The overall health of the team will speak volumes about how this season will go for the Patriots as they have a noticeable drop-off in talent from their starters to the backups.
Key re-signings - RFA RB Patrick Pass, May 22 (one year, $605,000); EFA OL Tom Ashworth, RFA LB Matt Chatham, April 11 (three years, $1.525 million); April 8; UFAs CB Je'Rod Cherry (one year, $680,000, $25,000 SB, $100,000 base guarantee); DE Rick Lyle (one year, $685,000, $25,000 SB); UFA TE Fred Baxter, March 6 (one year, $780,000, $25,000 SB); March 5; RFA CB Ben Kelly, March 4 (one year, $610,000); RFA LS-C Lonie Paxton, Feb. 28 (five years, $3.075 million, $305,000 SB).
Key arrivals - UFA C-OG Billy Conaty/ex-Bill, July 3 (one year, $655,000); UFA RB Mike Cloud/ex-Chief, June 23; UFA WR Dedric Ward/ex-Dolphin, May 22 (one-year, $530,000); UFA LB Don Davis/ex-Ram, May 16 (one year, $680,000, $25,000 SB); RFA S Aric Morris/ex-Titan, May 9 (two years); Signed UFA P Daniel Pope , April 23; FB Fred McCrary/ex-Charger, March 23 (two years); UFA LB Rosevelt Colvin/ex-Bear, March 11 (seven years, $25.9 million, $6 million SB; base salaries of $550,000 in 2003, $2.1 million in '04, $2.6 million in '05, $3.6 million in '06, $4.6 million in '07, $5.5 million in '08; incentives of $300,000 per year from 2006 through '08); UFA SS Rodney Harrison/ex-Charger, March 11 (six years, $14.4 million, $2.5 million SB); UFA CB Tyrone Poole/ex-Bronco, March 4 (four years, $8.024 million, $1.8 million SB); UFA S Chris Akins/ex-Brown (one year, $555,000, including a $25,000 SB).
Key departures - Franchise UFA S Tebucky Jones, April 14 (traded to Saints in exchange for third- and seventh-round draft picks in 2003 and a fourth-rounder in 2004); UFA OG-C Grey Ruegamer, April 8 (to Packers); UFA TE Cam Cleeland, April 4 (to Rams); UFA FB Marc Edwards, March 17 (to Jaguars); UFA CB Terrell Buckley, March 13 (to Dolphins); OT Greg Randall, March 6 (traded to Texans in exchange for fifth-round draft pick in 2003); WR Donald Hayes, Feb. 21 (cut).
Notes - April 3 offer sheet to RFA DT Cedric Woodard was matched by Seattle on April 8. … Restructured the contract of QB Tom Brady, March 27 (base salary of $3.125 million dropped to $450,000, the difference being guaranteed in upfront payment). … Traded third-round and fifth-round draft picks in 2003 to Redskins in exchange for third-rounder in '03 and fourth-rounder in '04, as amended March 6. Instead of Patriots getting a 2003 seventh-round pick, as in the original deal completed March 3, now the Patriots move up six places in the 2003 third round in a swap of third-round slots. … Restructured the contract of LB Ted Johnson, Feb. 27 (three years, $4.8 million, $1.4 million SB - saving $3.189 million toward 2003 cap).
2003 Draft results
1 (13) Ty Warren, DT, Texas A&M
2 (36) Eugene Wilson, CB, Illinois
2 (45) Bethel Johnson, WR, Texas A&M
4 (117) Dan Klecko, DT, Temple
4 (120) Asante Samuel, CB, Central Florida
5 (164) Dan Koppen, C, Boston College
6 (201) Kliff Kingsbury, QB, Texas Tech
7 (234) Spencer Nead, TE, BYU
7 (239) Tully Banta-Cain, DE, California
7 (243) Ethan Kelley, DT, Baylor
New York Jets
Head Coach: Herman Edwards
2003 Strength of Schedule: 1st (.541)
The story of the 2002 Jets was a coming out party for QB Chad Pennington. After he entered the game in week #4 for then starter Vinny Testeverde, the Jets offense as well as the season changed. Pennington was like a machine during the regular season. He completed nearly 69 percent of his passes and ended the season as the league's best rated passer with a rating of 104.2. Then came the playoffs and the Jets (and their fans) thought this team was a true contender as they destroyed the Colts, 41-0. The Championship game was much different as the Raiders finally solved Pennington and ended their playoff run, 30-10.
The Jets should have been headed into the 2003 season with very high hopes, but something happened on the way. The Jets played poker with the Redskins...and they lost. They allowed free agents Laveranues Coles (WR), Randy Thomas (OG), John Hall (K) and in the final hand of poker Chad Morton (KR/RB) to sign with the Redskins. In case your scoring at home, that is sizable chunk of the Jets offense. The Jets will try and replace Coles with WR Curtis Conway and Albert Johnson but neither player has shown the total package like Coles offers. On the offensive line, aging veteran Tom Nutten will replace Randy Thomas at OG. The line should be strong but does lack depth so injuries will play a big part in the Jets success in 2003. The question for the line will be which back will they be blocking for, either Curtis Martin or LaMont Jordan. Martin had a decent year in 2002 but battled the injury bug through out the season. Jordan has been impressive in the time he has had and will continue to push Martin for playing time all season. The Jets may miss K John Hall more than they think. They signed Doug Brien to replace him but he lacks Hall's leg strength and accuracy. The biggest loss for the Jets may be losing Chad Morton's services as a kick/punt returner.
The Jets defense will be in their second full season operating under the defensive schemes of D-Coordinator Ted Cottrell. The defense was decent if not good in 2002 and got better as the season went on. Linebacker Sam Cowart will again anchor the defense with rookie Dewayne Robertson adding some depth on the d-line. Robertson may not start but is projected to start by season's end. The biggest hurdle for the standout from the University of Kentucky is adjusting to the speed of the NFL.
The outlook for the Jets in 2003 is promising. They have Chad Pennington running the offense but he will need the same help he got last season. Someone in the Jets receiving corps must step up and fill the void left by Coles departure and the production from Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan must be enough to balance the offensive attack. If that fails to happen and the defense doesnt play like they did at the end of 2002, the Jets could be taking up residence in the AFC East cellar. Having the toughest schedule won't help should the Jets struggle.
Key re-signings - EFA LBs Khary Campbell and Kelvin Moses, WR-RS Jonathan Carter, WR Kevin Swayne, C Dennis O'Sullivan and DT James Reed; UFA FB Jerald Sowell, March 2 (seven years, $5.5 million, $650,000 SB).
Key arrivals - UFA DT Ryan Wingrove/ex-Falcon, June 19; UFA PK Clay Rush/ex-CFL, June 4; UFA OT Brent Smith/ex-Dolphin, May 6; UFA LB Kenyatta Wright/ex-Bill (out of football in 2002), April 17; RFA CB-RS Tyrone Carter/ex-Viking April 11 (two years, $1.65 million, $200,00 SB); UFA WR-RS Albert Johnson/ex-Dolphin (one year); UFA RB Sean Bennett/ex-Giant, April 1; P Dan Stryzinski/ex-Chief, March 24; PK Doug Brien/ex-Viking, March 21; WR Curtis Conway/ex-Charger, March 20 (three years, up to $7.5 million, $1.25 million SB; base salaries of $760,000 in 2003, $1.5 million in '04, $2.06 million in '05; roster bonuses of $195,000 in '03, $695,000 in '04, $695,000 in '05); UFA OG Tom Nütten/ex-Ram, March 7 (four years, $3.63 million, $600,000 SB).
Key departures - RFA KR Chad Morton, April 7 (awarded to Redskins by arbitrator; Jets had matched Redskins' offer sheet on March 13 but did not match the clause by which the last two years were voidable by Morton if he reached certain performance goals; arbitrator ruled that the voidable years were a principal term of the contract and thus had to be included in the Jets' matching offer; Redskins must give Jets a 2003 fifth-round draft choice as compensation); RFA WR Laveranues Coles, March 19 (to Redskins; the Jets, who elected not to match Redskins' offer sheet, get Washington's 2003 first-round pick, No. 13 overall, as compensation); UFA LB James Darling, March 12 (to Cardinals); P Matt Turk, March 7 (cut); UFA FB Richie Anderson, March 4 (to Cowboys); UFA PK John Hall, March 2 (to Redskins); UFA OG Randy Thomas, March 1 (to Redskins); S Nick Ferguson, Feb. 27 (not tendered as potential RFA); FS Damien Robinson and DT Steve White, Feb. 20 (both cut).
Notes - Restructured the contract of LB Sam Cowart, Feb. 26. The new five-year deal is worth $15 million, a $2 million-a-year reduction from the six-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2002). He will make $3.4 million in base salary this season. There is no signing bonus, but the deal includes $2.6 million in guaranteed money. … Exercised the $3 million option on DT Josh Evans, Feb. 19. The option extends the deal he signed last summer for three more years, through 2005. Base salaries are $1.2 million in 2003, $1.9 million in '04 and $1.75 million in '05. He is due a $750,000 roster bonus in the spring of '05.
2003 Draft results
1 (4) Dwayne Robertson, DT, Kentucky
2 (53) Victor Hobson, LB, Michigan
3 (85) B.J. Askew, RB/FB, Michigan
5 (140) Derek Pagel, S, Iowa
5 (150) Matt Walters, DT, Miami
6 (200) Brooks Bollinger, QB, Wisconsin
7 (237) Dave Yovanovits, T, Temple
This article was released on 2003-08-23.
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