The Buffalo Bills are still a desired destination for special teams players. Don't believe me? Just watch the AFC Championship Game this weekend. There, undrafted rookie free agent Danny Aiken will be long snapping for the host New England Patriots. Just this past July, Aiken was a roster casualty here in Buffalo, losing the long snapping job to Garrison Sanborn. Now, he's part of a team a win away from the Super Bowl.
For years, the Bills have been lauded as having one of the most consistently excellent special teams units in the league. Their play has slipped in recent seasons, to the chagrin of many fans, but this is still a unit that, at its best, is decidedly above-average.
In this State of the Buffalo Bills Roster piece, we'll be focusing on core specialists - meaning that return men and coverage players that play other positions won't be covered. Instead, we'll make one exception and focus on kickers, punters and long snappers.
Age: 32 (33 in January 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will make $900K in base salary in 2012.
McIntyre makes this list as our exception for two reasons: one, he's one of the team's best special teams players; and two, we didn't feel like writing an entire post about the fullback position dedicated solely to him when, in fact, the fullback is effectively a specialist in Chan Gailey's offense. McIntyre is a good football player, plays his role well, and will be back in that role in 2012.
Age: 34 (35 in January 2012)
Contract: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT
There's been a smattering of consternation following Lindell in Buffalo for years. Then we watched Dave Rayner and Brandon Coutu kick when Lindell landed on IR with a shoulder injury, and just about everyone would like to see Lindell brought back. Lindell was kicking when he was placed on IR, is still a good kicker, and all indications from GM Buddy Nix are that the team plans to re-sign him.
Age: 29 (30 in October 2012)
Contract: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT
The Bills got what they bargained for when they signed Rayner to replace Lindell: a kicker with a big leg and incredibly suspect accuracy. Rayner made 2-of-4 field goals from 50 yards or longer with Buffalo, but also missed two field goals from within 40 yards - including one under 30. The free-agent-to-be likely won't be back with the team.
Age: 27 (28 in September 2012)
Coutu got a one-game audition as Rayner's replacement in the season finale against New England, and missed his first career field goal attempt. (He did, however, make three extra point tries, so there's that.) It's unclear if Coutu is a free agent or not; if he's not, he could be the guy that the Bills keep in camp to "spell" Lindell until roster cuts are made.
Age: 35 (36 in February 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will make $1.425M in base salary in 2012.
As he kicks through his mid-30s, Moorman is still a good punter. In 2011, he posted the highest punting average (48.2) of his stellar career - a fact complemented by his lowest number of forced fair catches (8) since 2004. As he ages, Moorman has become less effective at pinning opponents deep - a craft he was once amazing at - and has lost trajectory on his kicks. He's entering the final year of his contract at a fairly hefty salary; don't be surprised if the Bills bring in competition and give that player serious opportunity to take Moorman's job.
Age: 26 (27 in July 2012)
Contract: EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENT
In three years as the Bills' long snapper - a job he took away from Ryan Neill as an undrafted rookie in 2009 - it's tough to remember any issues with Sanborn. The best long snapper is the quiet long snapper that nobody appreciates except occasionally, and that's what Sanborn is. He's routinely perfect with his snaps. You can't ask for much more than that.
POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Things are pretty easy to figure out here. The team needs to re-sign Lindell, they need to tender an offer to Sanborn and keep him around, and they'd be smart to find legitimate competition for Moorman. McIntyre's fine in his role. That's about the long and short of it, folks.
FREE AGENCY: Again - re-sign Lindell. Tender Sanborn. Find competition for Moorman. Easy as pie.
2012 NFL DRAFT: The Bills haven't drafted a kicker since 1990 (John Nies, Arizona). They're set at fullback and long snapper. We seriously doubt that Nix is considering spending a draft pick on a specialist.