Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Free-agency review: Bills
By Mike Rodak
We've reached the end of the first week of free agency.
How have the Buffalo Bills fared? Let's break it down:
Most significant signing: From a money standpoint, the Bills' most significant deal was their four-year pact with cornerback Corey Graham, which averages more than $4 million per season. But in terms of an immediate impact to the team, Brandon Spikes' one-year deal could deliver the biggest bang for the Bills' buck. Spikes is a thumper who fills a more pressing need: a big middle linebacker who can defend against the run. The Bills were solid against the pass last season, so Graham only adds to that phase of the game. The Bills needed help against the run and Spikes was one of the best options available.
Most significant loss: There's no doubt here. The only free agent the Bills have lost also happened to be one of the biggest names on the market: safety Jairus Byrd. This is one that will sting. Byrd received $9 million per year from the New Orleans Saints, which makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The Bills showed some financial discipline by not going to that price with the three-time Pro Bowler, but his absence still leaves a void in the defensive backfield. The Bills' current plan is to try in-house options to replace Byrd. We'll see how that works out.
Biggest surprise: The Bills' most surprising addition is guard Chris Williams, not because of his position -- the Bills had a glaring need at left guard -- but because of the money they gave him. At $13.5 million over four seasons, including $5 million guaranteed, it's pricey for a player who has struggled to settle in as a starter during his career. The feeling from this end is the Bills could have signed Williams for a lesser price and had him compete for a role. With the deal they gave him, Williams better be the starter.
What’s next? The big-money phase of free agency is over. It would hardly be shocking if the Bills continued to make some minor signings, but they aren't expected to be in the market for any of the bigger-name players who remain on the market. That isn't to say the Bills don't have holes. They could use a backup quarterback and a starting safety, but general manager Doug Whaley said Friday he isn't looking to add either right now. They'll be looking for more offensive pieces in the draft, potentially targeting a wide receiver, tight end, or tackle.