I've had this post queued up and ready to roll for a while; perhaps I'm jinxing the potential resolution of the NFL lockout by running it at, arguably, the peak of optimism emanating from negotiations. If that comes to pass, I offer my sincere apologies for ruining everyone's autumn plans.
When the lockout does end, and the new NFL league year begins, news surrounding the Buffalo Bills will come at a pace more furious than you've ever experienced it. In a span of just a few weeks, training camps will open (hopefully), rookies will be signed, undrafted free agents will be signed, and the Bills will take care of a few of their own free agents, as well. It will be a gloriously crazy time span.
Assuming that the league's new CBA will return players to the free agency rules of 2009, the Bills will have seven players hitting unrestricted free agency when the new league year begins (and a further four on the restricted side). After the jump, I'll opine on which players I believe the team should bring back.
Clearly, money is a factor in whether or not the team will be interested in bringing a player back. I'm going to approach this from two angles: whether I'd be interested to retain the player with money out of the equation, and then putting a "cap" on each player. If that doesn't make sense, it will momentarily.
John McCargo, defensive end: McCargo was barely a part of the team's defensive line rotation last season, and now the team has added Marcell Dareus. It would be shocking if the Bills brought him back for a shot to be inactive all season. Interest in retention: none
Paul Posluszny, inside linebacker: Several reports indicate that Posluszny is the team's top free agent priority; he wouldn't be mine. That said, Posluszny is still a reliable enough player - and the Bills are bad enough inside - that it's impossible to imagine them not trying hard to re-sign him. Interest in retention: high Maximum cap figure: $5.5 million annually
Akin Ayodele, inside linebacker: A late addition to the roster last season after Kawika Mitchell was injured and subsequently released, Ayodele became a full-time starter by season's end. Though he had moments of good play, the presence of rookie Kelvin Sheppard makes Ayodele expendable. His retention may depend on how things turn out with Posluszny. Interest in retention: low Maximum cap figure: $1.5 million for one year
Keith Ellison, inside linebacker: Depth was so thin inside last season that Ellison stuck with the team simply for the numbers. Now a free agent, it's highly unlikely the converted college safety will be kept around. Interest in retention: none
Drayton Florence, cornerback: If I were running the show at One Bills Drive (be very thankful I'm not, obviously), re-signing Florence would be my top priority. I have no confidence that the Bills will ever get a full, healthy season out of Terrence McGee again, and Florence was by a wide margin the team's best defensive back a year ago. He's getting toward the back end of his career, but he's a dependable player at a position where depth is mandatory. Interest in retention: very high Maximum cap figure: $6 million annually
Ashton Youboty, cornerback: As I'm posting this article on Ashton's 27th birthday, happy birthday, Ashton. Youboty was barely used as the team's fifth cornerback last season, doing most of his work on special teams. If he's kept around, it'll be purely for numbers, as the Bills still don't have them at corner. Interest in retention: low Maximum cap figure: $1 million for one year
Donte Whitner, strong safety: Most Bills fans assume that Whitner is done in Buffalo - not just because of his actions at the end of the 2010 season and on Twitter, but because GM Buddy Nix seems to hold that belief, as well. In a perfect world, I'd like the Bills to retain Whitner - not because there's some untapped potential to finally fulfill his billing as a Top 10 pick, but because he's a good, multi-purpose football player. Interest in retention: high Maximum cap figure: $5.5 million annually
How would y'all approach this list of unrestricted free agents? Anyone that I'd bring back that you wouldn't, or vice versa?