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NFL free agency: Dalvin Cook signs with Jets, Ezekiel Elliott to the Patriots

After going unsigned through the rush at the start of free agency and training camp, Dalvin Cook signed with the New York Jets and Ezekiel Elliott with the New England Patriots on Monday.

Both players joined a competitive AFC East division in which their teams project differently for the upcoming season.

Boosting the Jets

Cook joins a new-look Jets team headlined by four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The tailback will provide a talented backfield presence to establish the run and take pressure off Rodgers and newly-added receivers Mecole Hardman and long-time Rodgers targets Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard.

While he has more tread on the tires than some other top backs in the league as a 28-year-old, Cook has shown he can be a workhorse in the NFL. He joins the Jets at +4000 to lead the league in rushing yards and +8000 to win Offensive Player of the Year. He ended last season with 1,173 rushing yards, the sixth-most in the league and more yards than the Jets’ top three rushers combined.

Cook spent his entire career with the Minnesota Vikings until this season and has finished in the top five in rushing yards in 2020 and 2021. Fellow running back Breece Hall is +1800 to lead the NFL in rushing yards and +4000 to win Offensive Player of the Year, and he and Cook will make a formidable backfield at Metlife Stadium.

Patriots land big name 

The Patriots, still finding their feet after the departure of legendary quarterback Tom Brady in 2019, landed a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time rushing leader in the 28-year-old Elliott. The question is whether he can reach Pro Bowl level again after a career-low in rushing yards last season.

Coming off an 8-9 season, the Pats have plenty of offensive weapons for quarterback Mac Jones after adding Elliott and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a skill position group including running back Rhamondre Stevenson, wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers, and tight end Hunter Henry.

Last season, Elliott had 876 yards and 12 touchdowns on 231 carries, while Stevenson had 1,040 yards and five touchdowns on 210 carries. Elliott and Stevenson will likely share carries in head coach Bill Belichick’s backfield, and they are +25000 and +8000 to win Offensive Player of the Year, respectively.

AFC East projections 

In the AFC East, the Jets have the second shortest odds to win the division at +240.

The Patriots have the longest odds at +800.

The Jets finished last in the division with a 7-10 record in 2022, while the Patriots finished one spot ahead. Adding Rodgers brings the Jets closer to the Buffalo Bills, who have won the division in each of the past three seasons and are favorites to win it again at +120.

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