AFC East: Jamie Winborn
If you were to have asked me two weeks ago to rank the most unlikely Buffalo Bills signings this offseason, these players would have comprised my top five:
Two sources close to Crowell informed me in January there was no way he would return to the Bills after they placed him on injured reserve right before last season started.
The Bills made the controversial move because Crowell waited so long to decide he was going to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery that would have sidelined him a projected four to six weeks. But the Bills erased their leading tackler for the duration.
The Bills claimed they needed the roster spot. Logic implied vindictiveness.
But the Bills probably hurt themselves in the process. If they bring Crowell back after interviewing Jamie Winborn, Cato June and Freddy Keiaho, it will only underscore how much the Bills could have used him last year.
Based on the players they've hosted so far, a third running back and a linebacker are the Buffalo Bills' top unresolved needs in free agency.
Another running back the Bills brought to Orchard Park signed with somebody else Friday. Kevin Jones decided to remain with the Chicago Bears. The Bills previously hosted Fred Taylor, who chose the New England Patriots. DeShaun Foster has visited but remains unsigned.
Many see the Bills poking around at available running backs and wonder what this means for Marshawn Lynch, who could be facing a suspension. The NFL will take last summer's hit-and-run incident into account when deciding the proper punishment for Lynch's conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
The Bills, however, are not thinking about unloading Lynch. The sentiment at One Bills Drive is he has made two mistakes, neither of which was worth waivers. Rest assured, Lynch is on a short leash, but the Bills haven't reached their breaking point.
Then why do the Bills need a third running back if they're keeping Lynch and have Fred Jackson?
The biggest reason is Lynch's likely suspension. The Bills will need someone to help Jackson carry the load, and they're not sold on Xavier Omon, who probably deserved to be cut last year but made the team as a rookie because Dwayne Wright couldn't hold onto the ball.
Whatever punishment NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dishes out will be served at the beginning of the season, and the Bills can't afford to get off to a slow start.
The Bills already had plenty of needs entering free agency and gave themselves another, cutting left guard Derrick Dockery. The Bills hosted several players but inked just two: Center Geoff Hangartner and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Among the players they entertained at One Bills Drive were receivers Laveranues Coles and Kelley Washington, so you can see what they're after. Both of those free agents still are in play, as are almost all of their other unsigned interviewees: Guard Kendall Simmons, linebacker Jamie Winborn and cornerback Drayton Florence. Running back Fred Taylor was the only one so far who dropped by but signed elsewhere.
That's quite a variety of positions, every broad category except tight end, defensive line and kicker. So who might the Bills want from the remaining free-agent pool? Drop a name, and if the Bills can work out a bargain contract, then the answer probably is yes.
The Dolphins were busy in the days leading up to free agency. They re-signed right tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Channing Crowder and strong safety Yeremiah Bell, and welcomed free safety Gibril Wilson. In January they grabbed Canadian Football League phenom Cameron Wake. Not bad.
Once free agency began at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Dolphins mostly sat back and watched. They entertained one visitor and signed him, reserve interior lineman Joe Berger. It looks like they're intent on spackling with draft picks.
But the Dolphins found another hole to fill Sunday. Their starting right cornerback, Andre' Goodman, jumped to the Denver Broncos. If they wanted to find Goodman's replacement through free agency, the top candidates are Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, Chris McAlister, Bryant McFadden and Jabari Greer.
The Patriots made some major moves since the free-agency period opened. They added Taylor and tight end Chris Baker, and re-signed safety James Sanders. Oh, and they cleared about $19 million in salary-cap space by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But the lingering need is cornerback, same as it has been since Asante Samuel departed around this time last year. Possibilities include the same as the Dolphins: They already have hosted Bodden and will host Springs.
Didn't the Jets do enough over the weekend? They landed one of the top free agents on the market, inside linebacker Bart Scott. They traded for cornerback Lito Sheppard. They seem to have the inside track on safety Jim Leonhard and might have cornerback Corey Ivy in their back pocket.
The Jets do have needs, but maybe nothing left to address in free
agency. Quarterback is the obvious concern, but management has insisted the three already on their roster will compete. They also are down a receiver after Coles negotiated his way off the team a year early.