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What to Look for as the Bills Begin Free Agency
Free agency starts for real tomorrow at 4, contrary to what everyone thought. We figured that the the legal tampering period when most of the action would happen, but the NFL scared most teams away from getting to serious with any UFAs by issuing a menacing memo. Or agents are bummed about the money available (this seems probably considering most teams are close to the cap). Things have heated up a bit recently, but other than the fact that everyone agrees that Mike Wallace is going to Miami, free agency is still pretty wide open.
The football world is going to get pretty busy pretty quickly, so here are some of the things I’ll be paying attention to as free agency gets underway tomorrow.
-Not ruling it out, but I’m really not expecting the Bills to spend a ton of money on any single player in free agency. Spotrac currently has the Bills cap number at 103, leaving them 20 under the cap of 123. However, it doesn’t include McKelvin’s (presumably) 5 million or so cap number, and another 5 that must be allocated for draft picks. If those numbers are accurate, that leaves the Bills with about 10 million to work with for this free agency. They could wind up getting Ryan Fitzpatrick to restructure and shave quite a bit off of his 10.45 number, or cut Brad Smith to save 2.75. But as it stands now, the Bills will need to be value conscious, and won’t be making a run at any top free agents like last year.
-What kind of contracts will corners end up getting? As mentioned earlier, this will be useful for evaluating the McKelvin deal, especially if Sean Smith winds up going for close to what Leo got. Then we can move much closer to “bad contract” territory. If, on the other hand, players like Smith, Grimes, and Talib end up going for closer to 8 million or more per year, it’s not quite as bad.
The other reason to pay attention to corner is that the Bills could still use another one and there may be some starting quality players available. Antoine Cason, Cary Williams, Derek Cox, Chris Houston are all guys the Bills could potentially pursue depending on the level of money the Bills are willing to spend and where the market settles.
-Receiver is another position worth watching. Mike Wallace apparently is close to a deal that the Bills couldn’t afford in Miami, while Greg Jennings says he only wants to leave Green Bay for warm weather and a good quarterback, so you can cross him off.
After that, there are some interesting players, and the Bills will need to be active with at least one of them. Everyone seems to expect Brandon Gibson to be a target; given that Buffalo is reportedly interested, there’s some merit with the idea. Devery Henderson and Domenik Hixon are two more affordable options that I think could make sense. In any event, even if the Bills were to take, say, Cordarelle Patterson at pick 8, they’ll still need another player or two to fill out the depleted roster.
-Other positions that the Bills should be targeting either due to depth of the market or lack of depth on their roster are TE, S, and LB. Tight end is particularly well stocked with players like Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Dustin Keller and a bunch more. Bennett would be the most exciting signee, but Dustin Keller could be the best value. Keller’s been a good seam threat in his career with the Jets, and that’s saying something considering the QB issues they’ve had of late.
-It’s important to remember that just because the Bills show interest in a player, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to sign someone at that position. An example of this would be Robert Meachem last year; after failing to complete a deal with the receiver, the Bills declined to make a move on anyone else. Ruvell Martin doesn’t count.