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Antonio Cromartie-Rex Ryan reunion could work, at right price

Antonio Cromartie is a free agent, and there's a report his former coach Rex Ryan might be interested in having the cornerback in for a visit. AP Photo/AJ Mast

Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan is interested in at least hosting Antonio Cromartie on a visit after the New York Jets released him earlier this month, according to a report by NFL Network on Sunday.

Cromartie, an in-studio guest on NFL Network later Sunday evening, said the report was "news to me" but called it a "great opportunity for me."

Would it be a great opportunity for the Bills? Here are some thoughts:

Price tag is key. The Jets opted to cut Cromartie, 31, instead of keeping him at an $8 million salary next season. If Cromartie was to sign with Buffalo, he would need to accept a fraction of that salary -- perhaps even the veteran minimum. Even if the Bills release Mario Williams in the coming days to save $12.9 million, the Bills will still have one the tightest financial situations in the NFL. Assigning left tackle Cordy Glenn the franchise tag at $13.7 million, if they choose to do so Monday, would only further restrain their spending ability. The best tool for the Bills signing Cromartie would be to use the NFL's veteran minimum salary benefit, which means Cromartie must sign a one-year deal at the minimum salary for a player of his experience (10 years, or $985,000) and the deal must include no greater than an $80,000 signing bonus. That would allow the Bills to count Cromartie against their salary cap at only $600,000 for next season.

Not a position of need. When examining the Bills' position-by-position draft needs earlier this month, cornerback ranked last. Why? The Bills found a second-round steal last season in Ronald Darby; they are likely to reach a long term deal at some point with Stephon Gilmore; they extended Nickell Robey last summer; Leodis McKelvin has said he is willing to take a pay cut to remain with the team; and coaches seemed impressed with Mario Butler's development last preseason. That means the Bills wouldn't have an immediate need for a player such as Cromartie, whom Pro Football Focus ranked 86 out of 111 cornerbacks last season. However, one option to find a home for Cromartie would be to move him to safety, which is more unsettled. The Bills still don't know for sure if Aaron Williams (neck) will be available to play; Corey Graham struggled at times last season making the transition from cornerback; Bacarri Rambo is a pending restricted free agent; and Duke Williams never seemed to find a groove in Ryan's scheme.

Other needs should take priority. Bringing in a veteran like Cromartie with experience in Ryan's system would be a nice thing for him and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman to have, but it shouldn't preclude the team from pursuing upgrades elsewhere. There are a pair of other former Jets players about to hit the free-agent market who could fill bigger needs for the Bills: running back Bilal Powell and linebacker Demario Davis. Bolstering an already-deep cornerback spot shouldn't come at the expense of adding an extra layer of insurance at running back in case of a suspension for LeSean McCoy, or adding help along the defensive front seven, where it was needed last season.

This is classic Ryan. Whether this reported interest translates into an actual visit and the Bills signing Cromartie, this type of move is classic Ryan. He's loyal to his players, including his former players, and loves to show them his support. Cromartie has to be one of his favorites, having started 63 games for Ryan's stout Jets defenses from 2010 through 2013. Ryan seems to embrace these sort of storylines, whether it's reuniting with his brother Rob, Ed Reed, Percy Harvin or IK Enemkpali.