When free agency starts on Tuesday, March 11, the New England Patriots don’t have to look far to make improvements to the roster. They can get a few notable free agents from within the AFC East, preferably from the Buffalo Bills. Two positions the Patriots need some help at are safety and tight end, and the Bills are most likely letting valuable assets at those positions walk.
The Bills slapped the franchise tag on now three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd before the 2012 season. Both sides couldn’t agree on a long-term deal back then and have had the same problems this offseason — no agreement on a deal, and this time, no franchise tag. Come next week, the Bills are letting Byrd test his value on the free agent market, and hopefully he doesn’t have to go far to find a new home.
Byrd missed five games last year and still made his third Pro Bowl in his short, five-year career. He ended the season with a team-high four interceptions. In his rookie year of 2009, he burst on to the scene with nine interceptions and 11 passes defended, and hasn’t been thrown at nearly as much since. I guess it didn’t take quarterbacks long to figure out he is great at disrupting passes they have intended for wide receivers.
I think the Bills lost all hope in re-signing Byrd when they signed safety Aaron Williams to a four-year deal just this week. To me, that shows they had their long-term commitment plans intended for Williams instead of Byrd. Hopefully they’ll learn their lesson the hard way!
The Patriots also just released safety Steve Gregory on February 28. They could bring him back like they did with wideout Austin Collie last year, but my guess is that they’ll look to get younger and better at the position through the draft and free agency.
Tight end Scott Chandler is going to be able to test his market value next week as well. If signed, he can be a much better backup to Rob Gronkowski than anyone on the current roster can even dream of being. Chandler has improved his receptions and yards in each of the past three seasons on an average Bills team, at best. He finished last year with 53 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns, which would have been a huge upgrade at the Patriots’ No. 2 tight end spot.