I think there is little doubt that Northeastern and Hofstra would benefit by being in the AE again for all sports. Travel costs being big, rivalries, and of course, competition since the CAA took a huge hit in losing VCU and ODU (despite ODU being awful this year). The CAA and AE aren't that far apart now...but the AE lost BU which hurt them. But with the CAA TV contract, as tiny as it is, I don't think either school would leave the CAA for the AE. But to put things in perspective, Hofstra lost their coach to the worst program in the A10, probably the worst ever in the A10 in Fordham.
Bryant has always been the school, along with CCSU, that made the most sense to me. They fit into the region, give the AE a RI school and another CT school to help give Hartford a boost. The AE is a New England conference and the more New England schools they can get, the better. I never liked the addition of UMBC, but they wanted to expand their market.
So since UMBC was added, I think it's up in the air as to who they add. The schools will likely come from the NEC as the only option. So really, any schools in the NEC could be options.
I'd say if they expand to only 9, then it's Bryant or CCSU. 10, it's both. 11 or 12, well, then it gets interesting. But I don't think they NEED to expand to 11 or 12 now. They can wait until they get poached again and then just add a school then from the NEC or a future D2 upgrade.
I too like the idea of AE football. But with the recent CAA additions of Albany and Stony Brook, it's fairly moot. You have UNH, Maine, Albany and Stony Brook at the highest FCS level in the CAA (Albany upgrading). You also have nearby URI. So that is 5 schools in the area together. If you add Bryant and CCSU and get them to upgrade football, yes, you'd have 5 all-sports members with URI as the locked in #6 associate member. But it's not 6 members needed to fully sponsor the sport, so it's not going to happen. Sure, you can slide in Monmouth if they wanted to upgrade and have 7 members. But it's too much of a gamble these days unless you have 8 SOLID members who aren't going anywhere...preference being 10 members. Because if 1-2 schools left for say, the Patriot or CAA for all-sports, it's over for everyone.