Free Agent Thoughts: Changes in The AFC East Appear to Be Coming

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March 13, 2012 at 05:18pm ET

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Patriots fans have spent the last month contemplating some potential changes that could occur for their football team heading into next season, and it looks like we've already seen a couple of moves that will likely impact the 2012 campaign.

Bill Belichick won't have to game plan around former Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall next season. Marshall was traded to the Bears on Tuesday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

4pm on Tuesday marked the start of free agency, and so far the biggest move of the afternoon saw Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall get shipped off to Chicago for a couple of draft picks.  According to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post Miami will receive two third round picks in exchange for Marshall, one for 2012, and one for 2013, but this move is good news for the Patriots considering Marshall's effectiveness against them.

Marshall caught 7 balls for 139 yards in the season opener against New England back in September, and 6 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown on Christmas Eve.  The Patriots won both games, but somewhere Bill Belichick is likely feeling pretty good about the fact they won't be matched up against him twice a season going forward.

Following the news of the trade the speculation began about Miami potentially having moved Marshall due to a 'personality conflict' with Peyton Manning, who has been rumored as a possibility to land with the Dolphins.  However according to USA Today writer Jarrett Bell, Brandon Marshall's agent, Kennard McGuire, reportedly told him "he'd talked with Miami 'for a while' about a trade and it had nothing to do with Manning."

Omar Kelly, the Dolphins beat writer for the Florida Sun Sentinel also feels there's nothing behind the move relating to Manning, and says the "dots don't connect."

One other player the Patriots won't have to worry about appears to be Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, who seems set to move on after Manish Mehta reports that he's scheduled visits with the Seahawks and Jaguars.

Another interesting note for fans hoping to see free agent defensive lineman Mario Williams land in New England, it appears that if it's not as a Patriot, he could still end up in the AFC East.  Mike Reiss cites a report from Adam Schefter that Williams has agreed to visit the Buffalo Bills, which means that if they're bringing him in for a visit, they could potentially be serious about signing him.

Meanwhile back here in New England the team has reportedly placed a second round tender on restricted free agent quarterback Brian Hoyer, as well as placing an exclusive rights free agent tender on Kyle Love.  Love had a terrific year defensively with the team last season, and the move kept him from hitting the free agent market.

Jeff Howe of NESN points out that this likely means that a new deal is coming for Love, citing previous deals given to Kyle Arrington last year, and Gary Guyton in 2010.