CB Greer headlines Bills' FA class (Associated Press)
With the NFL's free agent signing period set to begin in just under two weeks' time, each NFL franchise is going through similar preparations for the league's annual spending spree. Luckily for us, the Buffalo Bills have been vaguely specific about their process - currently in progress - of addressing their roster holes. In a recent article from Chris Brown (the team journalist, not the allegedly violent R&B artist), several members of the Bills' pro personnel department lent some insight into the team's strategy in determining the best course of action in fixing their team.
In the days leading up to the start of free agency, I'll be running through each step of this process in an effort to put together my own, personal game plan which, if things go swimmingly, will be infinitely worse than the Bills' own plan. Still, it's an opportunity to outline just how difficult strengthening your team via free agency really is, and it's also an opportunity for the rest of you fine, intelligent folks to string together your own game plans as well. We'll kick the process off right now by ticking off steps one and two in Buffalo's process.
From the horse's mouth
What's the first thing that VP of Pro Personnel John Guy and his staff do during their free agency process? Well, they kind of told us, so rather than guess, let's just regurgitate fact.
"We'll start with our team and where our needs are and where our free agents are. So we finish our team first..."
Perfect! We've already painstakingly taken care of the first area of concern by putting together our Buffalo Rumblings Community Needs List. The article specifically mentions identifying three to four positions of need on each side of the ball, and again, we've already done that. (Take note, One Bills Drive.) Since this is my game plan, I'm prioritizing the needs as I see fit. Why? Because I'm now appointing myself General Manager of the Buffalo Bills. You're more than welcome to do the same. Here goes nothing...
Offense: TE, C, QB, FB
Defense: DE, SLB, DT, S
Feel free to disagree with my priorities. I don't care. I'm the GM of the Buffalo Bills. And since you're apparently also the GM of the Buffalo Bills (I think it's probably more like Assistant to the GM), do whatever you like. Just don't screw up - the fan base can be pretty brutal. Wink!
Next up on Buffalo's list - taking care of our own free agents. With our needs in mind, here's how I'm addressing the twenty players whose contracts have expired.
Players to re-sign (or tender)
QB Gibran Hamdan - Hamdan gets an RFA tender from me to remain as the team's third quarterback. Why? He's cheap, smart, and a good influence on my starter, Trent Edwards.
RB Fred Jackson - The plan here is to give Jackson a moderate contract extension of at least four years. He's one of our most valuable performers, and deserves the financial security after being one of the team's lowest-paid players over the past two seasons.
TE Derek Schouman - As an ERFA, he gets the lowest tender and sticks around as my third tight end and my safety fullback.
OT Kirk Chambers - He's a solid, dependable veteran that surprised with some good play and versatility in 2008. He's a high-quality backup, and he's just obscure enough where he won't be getting offers to start elsewhere. Plus, he gives us more flexibility if a certain two-time Pro Bowler becomes difficult. (And if you click that there link, you'll have your answer as to how I'm handling him.)
OLB Keith Ellison - He gets a tender. Smart, versatile backup that is a key cog on the league's best special teams unit.
OLB Blake Costanzo - He gets a tender, but he's certainly not guaranteed a roster spot. The one thing he's got going for him - he's an outstanding special teams player. That's the only reason I'm bringing him back.
MLB John DiGiorgio - See Ellison.
FS George Wilson - I consider safety a weak point on the team, but that doesn't stop me from giving Wilson a tender. He's a special teams captain and has shown that he can make plays when he's on the field as a defender.
LS Ryan Neill - He's becoming more consistent as a long snapper, and he's still a young player. Well worth a tender.
Players I'm letting walk
QB J.P. Losman - No explanation needed.
CB Jabari Greer - No, he probably wouldn't be too expensive to re-sign, but as much as I like the guy, cornerback is a team strength. There are bigger fish to fry, so while I'm obviously not averse to Greer returning, I'm not spending energy on getting him back. Some team will give him a good deal, and he'll probably deserve every penny.
Others that I'm straight up ignoring once free agency starts - FB Corey McIntyre, WR Justin Jenkins, OT Jonathan Scott, OG Jason Whittle, C Melvin Fowler, DE Copeland Bryan, CB Dustin Fox
Players for the back of my mind
C Duke Preston - There's not a snowball's chance in hell that I'm keeping this guy around to start in any capacity. I'm not even fully interested in re-signing him. But he does offer some versatility and familiarity in the pivot, so if he isn't signed with a new club after a week or two of free agency, I'll make his cell ring.
OLB Angelo Crowell - If things go well, I'm filling Crowell's strong-side linebacker spot with a new player. That player is going to be a veteran. If, however, things don't go well, I'm going to make an effort to bring Crowell back on a short-term deal as opposed to starting a rookie - provided he doesn't have a new team by that point, that is.
So that takes care of steps one and two of Buffalo's free agency process. I've identified a handful of needs on both sides of the ball. I've identified our own free agents that I'm quickly and efficiently bringing back. I encourage everyone here to do the same if you want in on this GM game, because next up in "Free Agency by Buffalo's Book" is identifying preliminary free agent targets. Get those GM hats on, folks. It's time for each of us to start ironing out our very own free agency plans. Go!