Often times, free agency is overblown in today's NFL. Big names that hit the open market are often times viewed as a quick fix to a problem, and many teams have spent million of dollars on highly-priced free agents only to field a mediocre team the following season. Former Bills GM Marv Levy, however, played to a slightly different tune. It is his belief that some of the more important signings a team can make are re-signing its own players.
Which, of course, brings us to this morning's topic. The Buffalo Bills have a long list of free agents this off-season, and there are talks that two to three of its established veterans should be given contract extensions as well. Keeping our community needs list in mind, it's time for us to put our GM (or COO) caps back on and decide which of the following players need to be given new contracts with the Bills. Which players are staying? Which players are moving on? You decide!
Under Contract, In Need of Renegotiation
The following players currently have deals with the Bills that are set to expire within the next couple of years:
WR Lee Evans: Technically, Evans is signed through 2010. However, his rookie deal has a voidable final season - something Evans will almost certainly exploit to either get an extension this off-season, or cash in on the open market in '09. Buffalo's top wideout would certainly garner a lot of interest as an unrestricted free agent; if the Bills are serious about keeping Evans long-term, look for contract extension talks before training camp.
LB Angelo Crowell: The most consistent performer on Buffalo's young defense, Crowell enters the final year of his current deal. If the Bills don't address linebacker this off-season - including re-signing Crowell - they may enter the '09 off-season with Keith Ellison as their best outside linebacker. The urgency to re-sign Crowell should be as high - if not higher - than the urgency to extend Evans.
Unrestricted Free Agents
These Bills players are set to hit the open market:
WR Sam Aiken: One of Buffalo's top special teams performers, he may not return due to Buffalo's strong interest in upgrading their receiving corps.
TE Michael Gaines: A nice in-season signing for the Bills, but the signing of Teyo Johnson may have signaled the end of Gaines' tenure with the Bills.
LB Mario Haggan: Another valuable special teamer, Haggan may be the one free agent "specialist" that the Bills bring back. He can play D in a pinch.
DE Anthony Hargrove: His suspension for the entire 2008 season means that he's done in Buffalo.
LB Leon Joe: Mid-season pickup that was on and off the roster a few times. Very little chance he'll be back.
TE Matt Murphy: A solid blocker, but the Bills have enough of those at tight end.
TE Ryan Neufeld: Five-year Bill is 32 and provides little value outside of special teams. Virtual certainty he'll be elsewhere next season.
S Bryan Scott: One of the Bills' more underrated defenders late in the season. He's only 26, and would make a great reserve/specialist.
LB Josh Stamer: If he's re-signed, we'll know just how much influence special teams coordinator Bobby April really has.
DE Al Wallace: Played one pre-season game before hitting IR. Has an outside chance of getting a contract, if only to be a training camp body.
CB Jason Webster: Injured in the season opener. May get a contract if the Bills are comfortable starting J. Greer once again.
OG Jason Whittle: Another injured veteran. With his McNally ties severed, it's questionable whether Whittle will get a new deal.
RB Shaud Williams: Cut, then re-signed late in the season, but was inactive. A goner.
Restricted Free Agents
The following players are free to sign with other teams, provided the Bills don't tender offers or don't match other teams' offers:
CB Dustin Fox: Elevated from the practice squad due to injury. Solid play on special teams.
DT Jason Jefferson: Amazing he's lasted two full seasons on the Bills' roster. Somewhat solid, very unspectacular.
S Jim Leonhard: Will almost certainly receive a good tender and be back with the club for training camp.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
The following four Bills are Exclusive Rights Free Agents: LB Blake Costanzo, DT Corey Mace, TE Tim Massaquoi, WR Scott Mayle.
Have at it, folks!