NFL Nation: Scott Chandler

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DETROIT -- Days after their region was paralyzed by a three-day storm that dropped 6 feet of snow, the people of Buffalo needed a reason to smile.

Enter the Buffalo Bills, who delivered a laugher of a win over the New York Jets, 38-3 in Detroit on Monday night.

From Robert Woods' acrobatic catches to the Jets imploding yet again in the face of their AFC East rivals, there was plenty for the decidedly pro-Bills crowd of 56,004 to cheer -- and, yes, even laugh -- about at the Bills' makeshift home of Ford Field.

"We wanted to give the people back in our region a chance to smile a little bit by the way we play," coach Doug Marrone said after the game.

That's exactly what the Bills did, silencing questions about how they'd respond to an abnormal practice week by delivering a start-to-finish thumping of the Jets. There was no rust to knock off and nothing sluggish about the Bills; they just went out there and got the job done.

"The players did a heck of a job coming out tonight and really playing well," Marrone said. "I thought pretty much our guys were ready to go."

Players and coaches wouldn't lie -- they weren't sure how many fans would show for essentially a neutral-site game in a city more than 200 miles from their home turf.

"You don't know what to expect. I know there was a radio station trying to garner up a bunch of [Jets] green-out or something like that," Marrone said. "Obviously, you get concerned about, 'Is there going to be a home-field [advantage]?' and things like that. 'Do you get ready for a silent count?'"

"When I first came out, I was like, 'Aw, man. We'll have to find a way to crank ourselves up,'" receiver Sammy Watkins said.

Yes, the crowd -- filled with jerseys from just about every NFL team -- was sparse during warm-ups. But by kickoff, the entire lower bowl of Ford Field was full. By halftime nearly the entire stadium was packed -- and there was no mistaking which team had the fans' support.

"As soon as I came out and looked to the right and saw all the blue jerseys, I was like, 'Holy cow, baby. Here we go. We got the crowd,'" Marrone said. "That was a little bit of a relief for me in the beginning of the game."

The Detroit Lions went out of their way to make their place feel like home for the Bills, painting Buffalo's logos on the field, playing the Bills' signature "Shout" song after touchdowns and even serving Buffalo wings in the press box.

Bills fans -- sorely in need of a rallying point after a week in which families in the Buffalo area were low on food and, in some cases, without heat -- soaked in every minute of it.

That wasn't lost on tight end Scott Chandler, who celebrated his 19-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter by pretending to shovel snow.

"I broke two shovels this week, so that's the only shovel I got right now," he said. "It was a little bit of a tribute to the people of Buffalo. Just kind of one of those things where you want to do something special for our fans. They did a great job of showing up for us tonight, and for the people back there, they're behind us as well."

As the game progressed and the Bills kept racking up points, the night got even better for Bills fans. They witnessed the Jets continue to stumble through their season, the latest chapter marked by a blocked punt recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, as well as quarterback Michael Vick benched in the second half in favor of Geno Smith.

Bills fans -- who had plenty of reason to jeer Smith after he threw three interceptions and was benched in his last outing against Buffalo -- quickly serenaded him with chants of "Ge-no! Ge-no!" during his first few plays on the field.

The lopsided win over the Jets might not have been on national television, but with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the house, it had all the buzz of a prime-time game.

For the beleaguered Bills and their fans, it was the perfect medicine.
The Buffalo Bills are scheduled to fly mid-afternoon Friday to Detroit.

Getting to the airport will be the biggest challenge.

With most Bills players still snowed in, some can't travel by car to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where buses are ready to bring players to the airport.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan walked to the stadium:

Tight ends Lee Smith and Scott Chandler rode snowmobiles, which the Bills have commissioned to get players to main roads:

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The switch to Kyle Orton has been kind to Scott Chandler.

The Buffalo Bills' tight end has fared better in two games with Orton under center (10 catches for 126 yards) than he did in four games with EJ Manuel at the helm (nine catches for 116 yards).

Chandler
In Sunday's 37-22 loss to the New England Patriots, Chandler was one of the Bills' bright spots, snagging a season-high six passes for a career-high 105 yards.

It was the first time since Pete Metzelaars' 113-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers in 1992 that a Bills tight end had surpassed 100 yards receiving.

"I thought he played very well. He made some really good catches. Big catches," coach Doug Marrone said. "He was able to win on the matchups and did a nice job. I just wish we could have done some other things better, for everyone to win the game -- which we didn't as a team."

Chandler shared the sentiment.

"We have so many guys out there who can make plays. It's just when your number gets called, you're going to have to be the guy to make the play," he said. "We obviously need to make a couple more. We need to get our running game going a little more, and that's going to open it up even more for us out there."

Of the Bills' 15 passing first downs, five came from Chandler. The tight end's only catch that didn't move the chains was an 18-yard grab on a second-and-20 in the fourth quarter.

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 37-22 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

What it means: The Bills (3-3) have tightened the gap in the AFC East, but it hasn't been closed completely. In a battle to decide the early division lead, Buffalo kept it close but made too many mistakes to come out with a win. The Bills have now lost 26 of their last 29 games to their divisional rivals. This one wasn't too complicated: The offense turned the ball over too much and the defense couldn't slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots' passing game, especially late in the game. The Patriots (4-2) scored on each of their four second-half possessions, including three touchdowns. The Bills are now 3-3 overall.

Stock watch: S Duke Williams, down. This falls more under the "team loss" category than most, so it's hard to pick on a single player, but the second-year safety had a tough day. In the second quarter, he was flagged for a 29-yard defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone, setting up a Patriots touchdown on the next play. It was an easy call. He was penalized again for pass interference in the third quarter, although that call was questionable.

Watkins watch: Rookie receiver Sammy Watkins expected Darrelle Revis to shadow him for most of the game, and he was right. Revis kept Watkins quiet for much of the contest. Kyle Orton targeted Watkins three times; the rookie had two catches for 27 yards.

Game ball: TE Scott Chandler. After a quiet start to the season, Chandler caught six passes for 105 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab. Like running back Fred Jackson through the first five games, Chandler kept the offense moving when its other elements weren't clicking. It's the first time since Pete Metzelaars in 1992 that a Bills tight end had more than 100 receiving yards in a game.

What’s next: The Bills, who had the NFL's easiest remaining schedule entering this weekend, next host the Minnesota Vikings (2-4), who lost Sunday at the Detroit Lions.

Bills Camp Report: Day 32

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Another day, another practice where receiver Sammy Watkins suited up but wasn't a full participant. Watkins was in full pads, taking part in warm-up drills and stretching before watching the rest of the practice from the sideline. Coach Doug Marrone said the Bills' medical staff hasn't made a decision on Watkins' status for Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At this point, it doesn't make sense to play Watkins unless he's completely healthy. The opener in Chicago is most important.
  • Tempers flared for some of the players who did practice. The highlight (lowlight?) of practice was a brawl in the end zone during a goal-line drill. Center Eric Wood, a team captain, and defensive end Bryan Johnson, an undrafted rookie, were at the center of it initially before it spilled off to the side. At one point, tight end Scott Chandler had to be restrained from Johnson. The language used between some of the players wasn't too family-friendly.
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin had just seemed to ramp his participation up to normal levels this week when he left Wednesday's practice with a groin injury. It's unclear if McKelvin will be available for Saturday's game. It has to be frustrating for McKelvin, who has taken several months to recover from offseason hip surgery and also dealt with a hamstring injury early last season. However, the Bills have some depth at cornerback to withstand any long-term blow.
  • It was another sharp day for quarterback EJ Manuel, who has been running against the scout team defense this week in practice. He went 11-for-15 in full-team drills, delivering his passes on-time and accurately on mostly shorter routes.
  • After Jeff Tuel received 26 snaps and Thad Lewis saw nine reps Tuesday, the two backup quarterbacks switched Wednesday. Lewis was the first to replace Manuel and finished practice with 25 snaps (compared to 33 for Manuel). Tuel had nine. Coaches are still giving both players a chance to win the backup job, but Tuel appears to be the front-runner. It wouldn't be surprising if he saw more reps Thursday.
  • Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (torn patella) was placed on injured reserve, and cornerbacks Mario Butler (ankle) and Bobby Felder (groin), as well as safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) were held out of practice. Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring) continues to be limited; he spent team drills working with trainers on a side field.
  • The Bills will wrap up training camp at St. John Fisher College with a practice Thursday afternoon. They are off Friday before playing the Buccaneers on Saturday.

Bills Camp Report: Day 17

August, 5, 2014
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Tuesday night's practice saw the return of tight ends Scott Chandler and Tony Moeaki, as well as wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. None had played in Sunday's preseason game due to injury. Moeaki left practice about halfway through and came back without pads. Word after practice was that Moeaki didn't suffer a new injury and that the team only planned on having him participate in individual drills. Goodwin, meanwhile, was limited in team drills.
  • There was a heavy emphasis on the red zone in Wednesday's practice. The results weren't spectacular. In his second set of 11-on-11 reps, Manuel was sacked on his first two plays. The second play featured Manny Lawson pulling up in front of Manuel (no contact is allowed on quarterbacks) and standing there as Manuel continued to move his feet and read the defense for another second or two. It was an odd sight. Manuel found Lee Smith on the next play for a touchdown, one of just two we logged for Manuel in red zone drills. Some of Manuel's past problems cropped up Tuesday night, as he appeared to hold the ball too long on some plays while making questionable decisions (e.g. targeting Scott Chandler in double coverage in the end zone) on others. Overall, it was one of Manuel's poorer practices of camp.
  • Robert Woods' place in the offense has become a topic of conversation since he wasn't on the field with the first team offense Sunday night. Marrone said the Bills played Woods into the third quarter to get a look at him in the slot, although it may still be troubling for the second-round pick that Chris Hogan was the slot receiver with the first team Sunday night. On Tuesday night, Woods' snaps with Manuel continued to be limited. For one stretch in a red zone drill, it was Hogan, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams as the top combo.
  • Cyril Richardson saw more time with the first team in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday night. For now, it looks to be him and Kraig Urbik battling for that job. We haven't seen Chris Hairston in that spot in over a week.
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin did not participate in the practice. His case becomes more curious, as he began training camp participating in team drills and has seen his workload decrease ever since. McKelvin had offseason hip surgery which is apparently still affecting his ability to practice. Fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who also had hip surgery and did not play in Sunday's game, participated in team drills Tuesday.
  • More injury updates: offensive lineman Edawn Coughman left practice with a strained oblique. Center Doug Legursky (back) and safety Derek Brim (hip) did not practice.
  • The Bills will practice Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET before traveling to Charlotte on Thursday. They play the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.

Bills Camp Report: Day 11

July, 30, 2014
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Thunderstorms in the area caused a rain delay about in hour into practice. That lasted about an hour before players came back onto the field to complete the full-length session. Players were in full pads for the seventh consecutive practice, highlighting what has been a physical training camp for the Bills. It will be interesting to see if coach Doug Marrone dials it back at all in the final two practices before the preseason opener in Canton, Ohio.
  • The offensive line carousel continued to spin Wednesday with Chris Hairston leaving practice with a back injury. Hairston had been in the mix at right guard, where there is an open competition that includes incumbent Kraig Urbik. That battle added another participant Wednesday when fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson received some reps with the first team. Urbik continues to get the majority of reps in team drills, but for a player whom the Bills signed to a four-year extension in 2012, he can't feel comfortable lining up alongside younger players on the second team, as he did at one point Wednesday.
  • The Bills have picked up the pace in the red zone. Marrone has implemented a 7-on-7 period at the end of practice dedicated to red-zone work, and results were impressive Wednesday. Although it was against the second-team defense, EJ Manuel completed four touchdowns in his five reps. Two went to Robert Woods, and tight ends Chris Gragg (returning from a week-long absence) and Lee Smith snagged the others. Jeff Tuel then stepped in and completed his first two passes for touchdowns. With some success in the 7-on-7 look, it might be time for Marrone to switch to an 11-on-11 drill and add a pass-rush element for Manuel to face in the red zone.
  • Tight end Scott Chandler (groin) remained out of practice for a second straight day, as did tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring). Their injuries don't appear to be serious, but it has thinned the position for practices. The key for both players -- Moeaki especially, given his injury history -- will be to stay healthy once the regular season begins.
  • Chris Hogan continues to get significant playing time with the first-team offense and has become a reliable player in the slot. The Bills got in some 11-on-11 third-down work Wednesday and Hogan cut across the middle of the field for Manuel's biggest gain of the drill. Secondary coach Donnie Henderson, always vocal from behind the play, made it a point for his safeties to keep an eye out for No. 15.

Fact or Fiction: Bills offense

July, 14, 2014
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With Buffalo Bills players set to report to training camp on Friday, let's play a rapid-fire version of fact or fiction, starting with the offense:

1. EJ Manuel will play in all 16 games this season.

Manuel
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: After Manuel had issues in both of his knees last season, it's harder to envision him lasting from the start of training camp on July 20 through potentially January without experiencing any problems. Manuel and the Bills referred to his October knee sprain as a "freak accident," yet he was sidelined again in December after another sprain. The less Manuel tucks the ball and runs, the better his chances of staying healthy. But as much as it will make the Bills' brass squirm in the press box, Manuel will need to run on occasion this season. It would hardly be shocking if, at some point this season, swelling recurred and Manuel had to miss one or two games.

2. Bryce Brown will receive at least 50 touches this season.

Brown
Our take: Fact
Justify it: After trading a fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Brown, there is an expectation that he will contribute to the Bills offense this season. With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson still in the fold, what's a realistic expectation for Brown's role? He had 128 touches his rookie year (115 carries and 13 catches) and 83 last season (75 carries and eight catches). It would be surprising if he was used that much this season, but 50 touches seems like a more attainable number. That's more than Tashard Choice was used as the third running back in recent seasons, but it's reasonable to assume the Bills will try to cut down on Fred Jackson's touches as he progresses into his mid-30s.

3. Sammy Watkins will have 1,000 receiving yards this season.

Watkins
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: He'll come close, but there is too much uncertainty at quarterback to assume that Watkins will surpass the 1,000-yard mark. Even at the height of his career in Buffalo, Stevie Johnson was barely able to eclipse that figure. The two-headed attack of Spiller and Jackson could take some opportunities away from Watkins, as could a crowded depth chart at receiver that could see Robert Woods, Mike Williams, and others catching passes on Manuel. Ultimately, Watkins' final receiving total could depend on how many big plays he can make. Long catch-and-runs -- one of Watkins' specialties at Clemson -- will help drive up that number. Yet it's not the end of the world if Watkins doesn't crack 1,000 yards. A.J. Green checked in at 1,057 yards his rookie year, while Julio Jones finished with 959 yards in his first season. I don't think anyone would fault Watkins if he's in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards but not quite at that number.

4. Scott Chandler will lead the Bills in red zone touchdown catches this season.

Chandler
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: After leading the Bills with four red zone touchdown grabs in 2012, Chandler was held without one last season. In fact, he had only only one catch in the red zone at all, a significant red flag for a 6-foot-7 tight end. Overall, the Bills were awful in the red zone last season. They were one of just four teams to finish under 50 percent in red zone touchdown efficiency. The Bills need to improve in that area this season, although I'm not sure Chandler will be the catalyst. Ideally, receiver Mike Williams should shine in the red zone with his physicality. He's a candidate to lead the team in red zone touchdowns, as is Watkins.

5. Cyrus Kouandjio will win the starting right tackle job in training camp.

Our take: Fact
Kouandjio
Justify it: We saw Kouandjio line up with the first team early in organized team acitivities but he settled into a role with the second team by minicamp. That doesn't mean that the second-round pick has been disappointing or behind schedule, and we'd expect him to get more chances with the top unit once training camp begins. Given the choice between starting Kouandjio, who turns 21 this weekend, or Erik Pears, who is 32, I think the Bills would prefer to have Kouandjio on the field and developing. Pears will make it a battle, but I'd compare it to the Manuel-Kevin Kolb competition last season. There's a certain inevitability to Kouandjio taking over, just as there would have been with Manuel even if Kolb had stayed healthy.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus returned to Bills practice Tuesday as they opened a three-day mandatory minicamp.

Dareus
Dareus missed the final two weeks of organized team activities after he was taken into custody following an alleged street race. Coach Doug Marrone did not specify where Dareus was during that time, only saying that the Pro Bowler was dealing with "personal issues."

The Bills will not make Dareus available to reporters during minicamp, saying they want him to "focus on football."

Dareus is scheduled to appear in a Hamburg, New York court on July 1.

Meanwhile, the Bills had two players missing from their first minicamp practice Tuesday. Tight end Scott Chandler was excused for a family matter, and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn sat out with an illness.

Defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Alan Branch both reported to practice after sitting out all of OTAs, which were voluntary.

"The season is long. When you have some years under your belt, you don't want it to be repetitive. You don't want to seem like you're going through the motions, the same thing over and over again," Lawson said. "It was good to step away, spend time with the family, go visit your family. Relax -- still work out in my time off -- but step away from the game and come back to it and it's all new and fun again."

Rookie offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, a seventh-round draft pick, did not practice Tuesday for what the team called travel-related issues.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin left practice with trainers and did not return. He did not suffer an obvious injury during practice.

Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (hip surgery) and Leodis McKelvin (hip surgery) both participated to full-team drills for the first time this spring.

The Bills had three players trying out during Tuesday's practice: wide receiver Tori Gurley, cornerback Kamaal McIlwain, and another unidentified defensive back.

Bills fallers from OTA practices

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
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Earlier Friday, we highlighted some of the Buffalo Bills' "rising" after three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs).

Now it's time to look at the other end of the spectrum: which players left something to be desired in OTAs? It's a harder question to answer, since the practices are voluntary, are not held in pads, and are geared towards installation -- not necessarily evaluation.

With that in mind, here are our notes on some players who didn't have as good a showing in OTAs as we would have expected:

[+] EnlargeEJ Manuel
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsEJ Manuel had an up-and-down performance during OTAs, particularly struggling with downfield throws.
QB EJ Manuel: The Bills' chances this season start and end with Manuel. Naturally, that's going to put a spotlight on his every move in OTAs, minicamp, and eventually training camp. There were times over the past three weeks when Manuel showed poise. In Thursday's final OTA, Manuel looked calm and collected in pouring rain as he completed several throws in a row. On the other end, there were times when his performance wasn't ideal. One might expect a second-year quarterback to have a comfort level throwing downfield, but Manuel leaned heavily on dump-offs and scrambles in OTAs, saying afterward that he needed to take what the defense was giving him. That's smart, but only to a point. When the Bills needed to move the ball in two-minute drills, or needed to score a touchdown in red zone drills, his accuracy left something to be desired.

WR Sammy Watkins: Watkins might have been a victim of his own success in rookie camp. Those three days of practice last month consisted of positional drills and routes against air, and Watkins looked the part. His catch radius and precision with his footwork are unmatched by any other receiver on the roster. Yet as OTAs progressed, Watkins reminded us that he's still a rookie. The mental part of the game -- lining up after the huddle, reading defenses, etc. -- just wasn't at the same level as some of his teammates, who needed to direct Watkins to the right spot at times. Again, he's new, so that's not out of the ordinary. But if there was one red flag to be had from Watkins' OTAs, it was his drops this week. His final week of practice was his sloppiest from a pass-catching standpoint. The sticky mitts we saw in rookie camp and early in OTAs weren't there, although they could easily return in minicamp. We'll just have to wait and see.

On a side note, why would the NFLPA, the organization whose purpose is to represent and protect players, schedule their rookie premiere when teams were conducting OTAs? Watkins missed two of the Bills' nine OTAs because of that event, which includes a photo shoot for trading cards. Watkins should have been on the field learning the Bills' offense, and that's entirely the fault of the players' union, not him.

TE Scott Chandler: There are few players as well-spoken and respected as Chandler within the Bills' locker room. But the 6-foot-7 tight end, who will turn 29 in August, looked older than his age in OTAs. He's coming off knee surgery and was limited the first few days of OTAs as he continued to recover, but when he was on the field, he looked uncomfortable. Perhaps that will change once training camp rolls around. But not having drafted a tight end, the Bills need Chandler to be their top target at the position. After watching Chandler run on the practice field the past few weeks, I have questions if he's the right piece for what the Bills want in a fast-paced, athletic offense.

WR Mike Williams: When Williams arrived via trade in April, my first reaction was that he could be a top target in the Bills' offense. I'm less convinced now. Williams didn't stand out in OTAs and seeing him in action, there isn't a particular skill that he brings to the table that is different from the rest of the receiver group. If Watkins and Robert Woods become fixtures on the outside and Chris Hogan can continue to contribute in the slot, Williams starts to slide down the depth chart. The Bills will keep Marquise Goodwin and Marcus Easley on their final roster, so Williams will have to fight Hogan and T.J. Graham for the final spot. He could change my opinion in minicamp or early in training camp, but for right now I wouldn't call his spot on the team a sure bet.
With the free-agent signing period set to open Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley said talks are "status quo" with safety Jairus Byrd.

Byrd
"Lines of communication are open," Whaley told WGR 550 on Tuesday afternoon. "We still have until 4 where we're the exclusive negotiating people. But we'll see how that goes. The clock's ticking."

Byrd is seeking a deal worth at least $9 million per season, according to ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker. The three-time Pro Bowl safety has been linked to talks with the St. Louis Rams and Dolphins, among other teams, during the open negotiating period that began Saturday.

Meanwhile, Whaley said the Bills have been aggressive in trying to retain two of their other free agents: tight end Scott Chandler and kicker Dan Carpenter.

"They have some offers on the table," Whaley said. "We're just waiting to hear back from them."

Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin reported Tuesday that Carpenter was flying from South Florida to Buffalo.

Whaley also said the Bills have extended contract offers to defensive lineman Alex Carrington and linebacker Arthur Moats.

"We're waiting to hear back from those guys," he said. "Hopefully we hear back before 4 p.m."

Top free-agent roundup: AFC East

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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In years past, our ESPN NFL divisional bloggers would compile lists of the top free agents within their respective divisions. We're continuing that tradition this offseason, but with a twist: We asked each of our ESPN NFL Nation bloggers to rank their team's free agents, which then were compiled into a master list for each division.

With the free-agent signing period opening Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, here's our AFC East free-agent ranking:

Byrd
1. Jairus Byrd, Bills S: Ball-hawking safety had four interceptions last season and was named to his third Pro Bowl in five years.

2. Aqib Talib, Patriots CB: Matchup man-to-man cornerback was a centerpiece in the Patriots' game plans in 2013, with injuries the only real blemish on his resume.

3. Julian Edelman, Patriots WR: Coming off a career-high 105-catch season -- staying healthy for all 16 games for the first time -- the receiver is poised to cash in.

4. Austin Howard, Jets T: An ascending player who would generate significant interest if he hits the open market.

5. Paul Soliai, Dolphins DT: He is one of the top run-stuffers on the market. Soliai can fit in the middle of a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, which adds value.

6. Scott Chandler, Bills TE: A 6-foot-7 tight end who posted career highs in receptions (53) and receiving yards (655) but was a non-factor in the red zone.

7. Randy Starks, Dolphins DT: The Dolphins used the franchise tag on Starks in 2013 but only used him as a rotational player. A change of scenery is probably best for him.

8. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots RB: The 250-pound running back was tough to bring down once he got rolling late last season; deserving of an upgraded contract.

9. Ryan Wendell, Patriots C: Undersized center has the smarts and durability that could appeal to a team looking to fill a void in the pivot, but sometimes gets overpowered.

Spikes
10. Brandon Spikes, Patriots LB: Hard-hitting linebacker is a top player against the run, but struggles at times in coverage.

11. Calvin Pace, Jets LB: Recorded a career-high 10 sacks last season, but there will be a limited market because he'll be 34.

12. Chris Clemons, Dolphins S: He's a decent safety with plenty of starting experience. Clemons is strong in run support and a sure tackler, but he struggles at times in pass coverage.

13. Nick Folk, Jets K: Designated as a franchise player.

14. Dan Carpenter, Bills K: Kicker is coming off his best season as a pro, converting 91.7 percent of his field goals, including every kick in the second quarter or later.

15. Alex Carrington, Bills DL: Versatile lineman can play tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4; started first three games in 2013 before an injury ended his season.
The decision to re-sign Jeff Cumberland could signal the start of a new era for the New York Jets at the tight-end position, which is to say they're actually planning to make the tight end more than an afterthought in the scope of the entire offense.

Nice of them to join the party.

[+] EnlargeJeff Cumberland
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsThe Jets have re-signed tight end Jeff Cumberland to a three-year deal.
In Year 1 of MartyBall, the Jets went against the leaguewide trend. In fact, they used two or more tight ends on only 206 plays. Only three teams used the package less than the Jets, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (As an aside, the Jets completed a league-low 50 percent of their passes from those sets.) Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg probably held back because ... well, it wasn't like he was loaded at the position. Kellen Winslow served a four-game suspension and rarely practiced, and the No. 3 spot was a musical-chairs game.

But now the philosophy appears to be changing.

They locked up Cumberland with a modest, three-year contract, and they're in the market for another veteran. Yes, they're serious about upgrading the position. They've been linked to Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions), Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills) and Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers). The "legal tampering" period is underway, and they've already expressed interest in Pettigrew. I think they're trying to sell Pettigrew on the idea that he and Cumberland would be a two-headed monster, with Pettigrew handling the in-line responsibilities and Cumberland being deployed as the "move" tight end.

In theory, it sounds good, but Cumberland isn't known as that kind of tight end. In 2013, most of his receptions (16 out of 26) came when he lined up as a traditional, in-line tight end, per ESPN Stats. They tried to move him around the formation; in fact, he ran 76 of his 214 routes from the slot or split out wide, but he was targeted on only 15 of those 76 routes. In other words, he was a decoy. Either that, or he simply couldn't get open.

Obviously, the Jets thought enough of Cumberland to sign him before he hit the open market. Hey, why not? He'll be only 27 and the price was right -- $3.7 million over three years, according to the New York Daily News. I have doubts about whether he can be a legitimate, pass-catching tight end, although here's something you probably don't know about him: His yards-after-catch (YAC) was 6.35 per reception, second in the league.

One thing is certain: The Jets are trying to shake up the status quo at one of their weakest positions.

Pricing the market: Scott Chandler

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
5:00
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With the free-agent signing period approaching, we'll take a closer look at each of the Buffalo Bills' free agents, finding the closest matches in last offseason's free-agent class:

Chandler
Pending Bills free agent: Scott Chandler
Position: Tight end
Experience: 6 seasons
2013 stats: 16 games played (7 starts), 53 catches, 655 yards, two touchdowns, one lost fumble
2013 snaps: 79.1 percent (offense), 13.8 percent (special teams)

Last offseason's closest match: Benjamin Watson
Experience: 9 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 16 games (14 starts), 49 catches, 501 yards, three touchdowns (for Cleveland)
2012 snaps: 82.7 percent (offense), 13.1 percent (special teams)
Signed with: New Orleans Saints
Contract: 3 years, $1.2 million signing bonus, $250,000 roster bonus in 2014, $250,000 roster bonus in 2015, base salaries of $950,000 (2013), $1 million (2014), $1.2 million (2015)
Overview: Watson, a former first-round pick, had three productive seasons with the Browns. At 32, Watson's deal last offseason was likely the last significant payday of his career. Yet, despite an injury to Jimmy Graham last season, Watson never found a niche within the Saints' offense. He started seven games but caught just 19 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns.

Last offseason's second-closest match: Jared Cook
Experience: 4 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 13 games (5 starts), 44 catches, 523 yards, four touchdowns, one lost fumble (for Tennessee)
2012 snaps: 47.2 percent (offense), 3.2 percent (special teams)
Signed with: St. Louis Rams
Contract: 5 years, $5 million signing bonus, $3 million roster bonus, base salaries of $3 million (2013), $3 million (2014), $7 million (2015), $7 million (2016), $7.1 million (2017)
Overview: The Rams may have overpaid for Cook, who battled through a shoulder injury in 2012. His best season prior to coming to St. Louis was in 2011, when he caught 49 passes for 759 yards. He put up similar numbers last season in St. Louis, posting 51 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns, but it's tough to say he was a difference-maker within the Rams' offense.

Verdict: Chandler's agents will likely look at Cook's contract and lick their chops. Thriving off inconsistency at wide receiver last season, Chandler put up career highs that are very much on par with Cook's numbers in Tennessee. the comparisons don't end there: Chandler is 28, while Cook was 26 when he signed his deal last March. On the other hand, the Bills could argue that Chandler doesn't have the same athletic ability that Cook has, and that the Rams vastly overpaid for him last offseason. It's fair to assume that the Bills will offer Chandler something more in line with Watson's deal and then potentially look in the draft for a tight end with more upside. Chandler could find a more lucrative contract on the open market.

W2W4: Bills at Patriots

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
4:05
PM ET
The final hours of the Buffalo Bills' season are ticking away, but there is still one last game to play.

When the Bills travel to face the New England Patriots for Sunday's season finale, there's a few items coach Doug Marrone wants to check off the list.

First, the Bills have yet to win at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. Second, the Bills have a chance to finish with a winning record in the division for the first time since 2007. And finally, a win Sunday would give Buffalo its first three-game winning streak since the first three games of the 2011 season.

That's what's on the line for the Bills in Foxborough, Mass. Here's what else to watch for:

1. Lewis' curtain call: With EJ Manuel sidelined for a second consecutive game with a knee sprain, backup Thad Lewis will make his fifth start of the season. Now 2-2, Lewis will have a chance to finish with a winning record as the starter. But more importantly, Lewis could be playing for his job next season. At this point, nothing seems guaranteed at quarterback for the Bills. If they bring in another option at the position this offseason, then Lewis could become the third quarterback -- if that role exists on the roster. In that sense, Sunday's game has some added importance for Lewis.

2. Swan song for Byrd? Could this be Jairus Byrd's final game with the Bills? The safety will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and unless the Bills decide to assign him as their franchise player, he will hit the open market. Either way, this will be Byrd's 73rd career game with the Bills. He has 353 tackles, 22 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and three sacks in his five-year career.

3. What about Chandler? This could also be the final game for tight end Scott Chandler with the Bills. Like Byrd, he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could find greener pastures elsewhere after a career season (50 catches for 600 yards). With Chandler's future uncertain, this could be the time for the Bills to debut tight end Tony Moeaki, who they signed three weeks ago. He was active for the first time last Sunday but did not play an offensive snap. It would make sense for the Bills to evaluate Moeaki in game action before deciding how he fits into their plans for next season.

4. Last chance for Williams, Meeks: With safety Aaron Williams placed on injured reserve Friday, the Bills are expected to use Jim Leonhard and Da'Norris Searcy in his place. Leonhard is a free agent after this season but played every snap in last Sunday's win. Meanwhile, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- who the Bills drafted in back-to-back rounds in April -- did not appear on defense, which has been the norm this season. Perhaps that changes Sunday. If not, it's a troubling sign at a position where the Bills could see turnover this offseason. It would make sense for Buffalo to evaluate their draft investments in what will be their final game until next August.

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