Predicting the Buffalo Bills’ 5 Biggest Free Agency Moves
Forecasting The Buffalo Bills' 5 Biggest Free Agency Moves
The NFL Combine is underway in Indianapolis. Buffalo Bills team personnel are making themselves comfortable at Lucas Oil Stadium as they watch 335 prospects go through the rigors of Combine drills and interviews. This year’s draft is thought to be deep with talent, so teams have a lot of work to do ranking players and building draft boards.
Before the NFL Draft rolls around, free agency occurs. Teams will no doubt try to add a player or two through free agency so they are free to pursue other needs through the draft.
The Bills have a few glaring holes. The offensive line struggled last season to keep the team's quarterbacks either upright or healthy. The run defense struggled, especially at linebacker, and the secondary had to overcome numerous injuries.
Buffalo typically does not make a big splash in free agency. Doug Legursky, Manny Lawson and Alan Branch were the big additions last season. Dan Carpenter was a late roster move due to injury and may have been the most productive player the Bills signed in 2013.
There are a few unknowns surrounding the Bills and free agency in 2014. What will Buffalo do with Jairus Byrd? What scheme will new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz run? These questions need to be addressed before the Bills can jump into the free agency waters full bore.
I expect Byrd will sign a long-term deal with the Bills or get the franchise tag to be in Buffalo for at least one more season. I see the Bills spending the No. 9 pick in the draft on an offensive tackle or wide receiver/tight end. It is also possible the team trades back in the draft to acquire more picks.
Keeping all this in mind, here are the five biggest free agents I expect the Bills to sign.
5. Geoff Schwartz - OG/T
Geoff Schwartz stepped in for Jon Asamoah and started the last eight games for the Kansas City Chiefs. He graded out as a top eight guard according to Pro Football Focus. He will turn 28 this season, which means he should have three to four good years left. His ability to play guard or tackle makes his versatility a valuable commodity in the NFL. Legursky is set to make $1 million this season, so if the Bills can get Schwartz for a similar price, this will be an upgrade on the interior line.
4. Brandon Spikes - LB
Brandon Spikes played the run game extremely well in 2013, while Buffalo's defense struggled to stop the run. He is a liability in pass coverage, but Bills GM Doug Whaley has suggested the idea of moving Kiko Alonso to outside linebacker which would free up Spikes to focus on the run and pressuring the quarterback. It does not hurt to steal a good player from the division’s best team, either.
3. Scott Chandler - TE
Expect the Bills to draft a tight end this year. It may even be with the No. 9 pick, but still, it would be nice to have a security blanket who is familiar with Buffalo’s quarterbacks.
Scott Chandler tore his ACL late in the 2012 season and missed all of OTAs and most of training camp. He never seemed to get into a rhythm with the quarterbacks last season, but what receiver did? Chris Gragg and Tony Moeaki are not the long-term answer. A two-year deal makes sense here as the Bills transition in a new tight end.
2. Alex Carrington - DT
Alex Carrington finally found a system that took advantage of his talents. Fans could see the impact Carrington made when he was in the game as the 2013 season was his breakout campaign. Unfortunately, a torn quad muscle in Week 3 ended his season. Kyle Williams is on the downward slope of his career as nagging foot injuries are robbing him of meaningful snaps. Buffalo would be smart to re-sign Carrington to take some pressure off of Williams.
1. Will Blackmon - CB
Will Blackmon is not flashy, and he has not put up gaudy numbers in his career. What he offers is experience and height. Buffalo already has two starting corners in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, but after that, things get dicey. Ron Brooks battled injuries the last two seasons. Nickell Robey burst onto the scene as a UDFA in 2013 and was arguably one of the best corners on the team. The problem is Robey stands just 5-foot-7, so he struggled against some of the league’s taller receivers. At 6-foot, Blackmon can challenge tall receivers. Buffalo needs depth in the secondary, and Blackmon can fill that role at a modest price.