Cardinals DE Berry a UFA (Scout.com)
During the process of identifying the Buffalo Bills' biggest positional needs, the Buffalo Rumblings community nearly unanimously listed a pass-rushing defensive end as the one spot where the Bills most desperately needed an upgrade. As we prepare to profile free agents in our next, far more diverse off-season project, we'll focus on profiling defensive ends first. We'll mix in centers, tight ends and linebackers - the other "critical needs" as defined by this community - as well, but defensive end is the obvious starting point to this project.
With the NFL's free agent signing period set to begin exactly one month from today (midnight on February 27), we here at Rumblings are now starting the process of profiling several top-notch free agents that the community has identified as worthy of donning the red, white and blue in 2009. In our first "Potential Bills" post of the 2009 off-season, we profile veteran defensive end Bertrand Berry. In case you missed it, Berry is currently touring Tampa Bay with his Cardinals teammates at Super Bowl XLIII, and the veteran defensive end has been a key figure in Arizona's surprising (to say the least) playoff push.
Age 34 at start of 2009 season
6'3", 260 pounds
11-year NFL veteran out of Notre Dame
If the Bills are one thing at defensive end, it's veteran. Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney are all at or very near the 30-plateau, and those three are some of Buffalo's most scrutinized players. At first blush, adding a 34-year-old end may not seem ideal considering the current state of affairs at the position. But Berry, despite being older than every current Bills defender, is still playing at a high level.
I'm no authority on the Cardinals, but Hawkwind of Revenge of the Birds most certainly is. SB Nation's Cardinals blogger took some time out of his Super Bowl
partying preparations to give us a little insight on Berry and his upcoming free agency. Take it away, Hawkwind...
On Berry's injury history
"Berry ended the '05, '06 and '07 seasons on IR (missing 21 games) and the Cardinals implied (pretty strongly) that he'd be cut if he didn't reduce his $4 million salary. In the end he agreed to reduce his cap hit to $1 million and it's worked out great for both sides. Berry still missed a couple of games with an injury but when he's been healthy, he was the best pass rusher on the team. It'll be interesting to see what kind of interest is out there for a 33-year-old with an extensive injury history, but if a team can limit his snaps and keep him fresh and limit his snaps, he can be a terror."
On Arizona's potential interest in re-signing Berry
"Given the Cardinals' lack of depth at OLB/DE (he plays a hybrid role that's kind of hard to define), I'd expect them to at least make a play for him unless they've already got other plans in mind via free agency or the draft."
On Berry's 2008 endeavors
"Berry started the season on a tear with a sack in each of his first four games (he missed weeks 4 and 5) while he was backing up Travis LaBoy. He would play primarily on passing downs and his sole purpose would be to rush the quarterback. As the season wore on, LaBoy got hurt and Berry moved into the starting job. The result was one sack in the final 10 games. Luckily for the Cardinals, he turned it back on in the playoffs and recorded sacks in the both of thier first two games."
On Berry's future
"Moving forward, I'd expect Berry to try to find a team, or re-sign with the Cardinals, with the role of pass rush specialist. He's not an every-down player anymore but if his snaps can be managed, he's an above average pass rusher."
Does Berry "Fit the Bill"?
It's hard to define exactly what Berry's role would be in Buffalo commensurate to the second-tier veteran salary (think Kawika Mitchell dollars) he would command. However, if he really is the type of player that can provide some veteran insurance for the team's pass rushing issues, he very well may be worth the investment. Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs are obviously the big names "on the market" at defensive end, but if the Bills are serious about adding a veteran sack artist to the mix, Berry seems the most realistic and logical starting point.
Any thoughts on Berry that you'd like to add? Take a gander at his stat line below, vote in the poll, and let's talk some about Bertrand Berry this afternoon. Many thanks to Hawkwind for the valuable insight!