The Buffalo Bills have locked up several free agents in the last few months with Fred Jackson the most recent to receive an extension. Jackson was among a long list of current Bills players set to become free agents in 2013. With the running back locked up, the team can now move on and look at a few key pieces Buddy Nix may also extend before training camp opens in July.
Even without Jackson on it, the 2013 Buffalo Bills free agent class is deep: Jairus Byrd, Spencer Johnson, Andy Levitre, Corey McIntyre, Leodis McKelvin, Shawne Merriman, Brian Moorman, Chad Rinehart, Bryan Scott, and Kraig Urbik. Former undrafted free agents Donald Jones and David Nelson will also be restricted free agents and the Bills will have the opportunity to tender offers a year from now or outright re-sign them.
Byrd and Levitre top the list. Since being taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the pair have started 88 of a possible 96 games at their respective positions. Byrd made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and was the 72nd-best player in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus. Levitre's play has been lauded by the guys at PFF, too, putting him ahead of Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins in their annual review and calling his performance at guard "worthy of All-Pro consideration". Conceivably, both of these guys could be locked up long-term at some point in the next few months.
Of the rest of the players, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Bills could extend the 36-year-old Moorman who bounced back in 2011 with the highest yards-per-punt average of his eleven year career. He had to fight off heavy training camp competition in 2011 but showed he's still got it. Merriman is also an interesting case. If he can rebound from his Achilles injury and contribute to the revamped pass rush, the Bills may consider bringing him back as he'll only be 28 years old when the season concludes.
Spencer Johnson will turn 31 this season and while not old for a defensive tackle, he will receive stiff competition from young players on Buffalo's roster and is a depth option who would need to take a pay cut from his $3 million salary as well as a short contract to remain as a depth option. The 33-year-old McIntyre and 31-year-old Scott could also be re-signed next offseason, similar to Scott's deal he signed this March.
Restricted free agents Chad Rinehart and Kraig Urbik won't get a new deal before camp as they signed their restricted free agent offers just last month. If the Bills were to lock them up it will be during or after the 2012 season. In a similar vein, David Nelson and Donald Jones can be kept at a relatively cheap price as RFAs in 2013 so the Bills will likely wait on extending either of those wide receivers.
The enigma of the future free agents is Leodis McKelvin. The Bills have invested four draft picks on cornerbacks in the last two drafts and relegated McKelvin to special teams duty. He's set to make $1.5 million in 2012 and it's likely he would require more than that on a yearly average in any new contract. At this stage in his career, it's unlikely that the former first round pick will get that in Buffalo.
So, Bills fans, which player do you think gets the next contract extension from the Buddy Nix and co.?