§II. Free Agency
Sorry to keep everyone waiting, but graduate schooling takes precedent. But fortunately I’ve caught a break so I shall try to get this series completed before the regular season begins (otherwise it wouldn’t be an “off”-season opinion). Before I get into the second post of this series, here’s a quick recap of what will be covered in the next few weeks.
§I. Draft Analysis – My grades and thoughts on the Bills 2012 draft
§II. Free Agency – Who we re-signed, gained and loss and the impact on the Bills
§III. Position Battles – Where there is competition among players for starting jobs
§IV. 53 Man Roster Predictions – who will be on the roster when the year starts and starters
§V. Offensive Analysis – current state of personnel, starters and backups
§VI. Defensive Analysis – current state of personnel, starters and backups
§VII. Special Teams Analysis – current state of personnel and whether the Bills will keep two kickers
§VIII. 2012 Season Schedule –a look at who the Bills will face, try to gauge difficulty
§IX. 2012 Power Rankings –a look at where the Bills stand up to the rest of the league
§X. 53 Man Roster Predictions – who will be on the roster when the year starts and starters
§XI. Salary Cap Breakdown – Where the Bills stand in correlation to the salary cap (2012 and 2013)
§XII. 2013 Free Agents – who may not be with the Bills next year and our top targets to re-sign or sign
§XIII. 2013 Draft Needs – what areas need attention to most and who the Bills could target
Undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects of any team’s offseason, aside from the draft, is signing free agents and re-signing one’s own players. 2012 was perhaps one the most exciting off-season in a long time given this aspect. The Bills brought in two high profile defensive ends while having several key players re-signed. This post shall focus on five areas (and as such may be lengthy; you’ve been warned) from the new signings, to re-signings, players no longer with the team (only one though the Bills tried to re-sign!), players with contracts extended and a list of the undrafted personnel.
i. Outside Free Agents
DE Mario Williams
Starting with our new additions, the first major move that Buddy Nix engaged in this year was targeting the best free agent on the market in bringing in DE Mario Williams. With much fanfare and through several meetings in Buffalo, the Bills were successful signing Williams to a six year, $100 million deal in the franchise’s biggest move ever.
Williams was the first overall pick in 2006 for a reason, having made 53 sacks in his career. While his build is more of the size you’d expect of a defensive tackle, Williams has unbelievable athleticism and under Wade Phillips 3-4 defense in Houston, played OLB. At the combines Mario had a 4.66’ 40 yard dash, 35 reps at the bench press and a 40.5” vertical jump (atop his 6’6” frame). At N.C. State, Williams also had 175 tackles (52 for loss) and 25.5 sacks in three years.
DE Mark Anderson
After signing Mario Williams, the Bills also sought to solidify their pass rush on the other side by bringing free agent DE Mark Anderson from the Patriots. Signed to a 4 year, $19.5 million deal, some fans were weary, but it makes sense to stock up on defensive ends. (Look at the Giants, they have 4 DE’s on the roster earning over $4 million annually and have been one of the best defensive lines in the last five years.)
At Alabama, Anderson posted 80 tackles and 7 sacks in his last two years while at the combines Anderson posted a fast 4.61’ 40 yard dash, had a 42” vertical jump, but just 20 reps on the bench press. Drafted in the seventh round by the Bears, Anderson had a great start with 12 sacks in his rookie year, before struggling making just 13.5 sacks in the four years after. With the Patriots as a back-up, Anderson rebounded with 10 sacks.
QB Vince Young
The Bills recently made a splash bringing in Vince Young, the former third overall pick from the 2006 draft, for a workout. Weeks afterwards, Young was signed to a one year - $2 million deal purely as a backup option. This deal makes sense for two reasons. First, the Bills weren’t set with Thigpen as a backup, playing him very little despite Fitzpatrick being injured for the second half of the season. Second, Young is a great athlete having a big frame, arm and good mobility.
At Texas, Young struggled in his first two seasons as a passer, but finished after three years with completing 444/718 passes for 6,040 yards, 44 TDs and 28 INTs while rushing 457 times for 3,127 yards and 37 touchdowns. Young got off to a fair start earning two pro-bowl trips (started as alternates both times), but struggled with accuracy in the NFL. So far Young has completed 755/1,304 passes for 8,964 yards, 46 TDs and 51 INTs, and ran 282 times for 1,459 yards and 12 TDs.
TE/FB Dorin Dickerson
A former All-American tight end at Pittsburgh, Dickerson had 58 receptions for 682 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two years of college. Despite having great combine numbers posting a 4.40’ 40 yard dash, a 43” vertical and 24 bench press reps, Dickerson fell to the seventh round (likely due to his 6’2” height as a TE). On an interesting side note, WalterFootball had Dickerson ranked as their 4th best TE in 2010, two spots after Ron Gronkowski. With Houston, the Texans tried to convert Dickerson to a wide receiver, but was let go. Dickerson is a fair blocker to boot and may find a niche on the Bills roster given Gailey’s fast spread option.
ii. Bills Free Agents Not Re-Signed
OT Demetrius Bell
Perhaps the biggest lost the Bills experienced this offseason was losing Bell at left tackle. Though the Bills attempted to re-sign Bell, he ultimately was lured away to Philadelphia for more money (much like his predecessor Jason Peters (boooo)). Bell was a good run blocker, but injuries constantly kept him out of the lineup. Glenn may be green, but is a better athlete and a healthier long term investment.
WR Roscoe Parrish
One person the Bills did not try to re-sign was speed slot receiver Roscoe Parrish. Parrish had speed, but had spent the better part of two seasons on the injured reserve. The Bills have depth with their speedsters after drafting T.J. Graham in the third round so the Bills should be set in this area.
Also worth noting are two major cuts that the Bills made. The first was letting go veteran CB Drayton Florence. Florence had good size and was perhaps the Bills best red-zone corner after McGee, but often blew assignments or penalized. Since then, Florence signed with the Broncos.
The bigger cut occurred this past week with the Bills releasing pro bowl DE Shawne Merriman. Merriman has skills, but in the past could not stay healthy. With the Bills transitioning to a 4-3 defense with two new defensive ends, Merriman could not adjust and beat out the competition. Do not be surprised to see Merriman sign onto a 3-4 defense as a situational pass rusher.
iii. Bills Free Agents Re-Signed:
WR Stevie Johnson
The best and biggest free agent re-signing the Bills made this off-season was retaining Stevie Johnson. Johnson has been solid as a starting receiver making 158 receptions for 2,077 yards (13.1 on average) and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons. More importantly Johnson has shown he can play against some of the top corners in the league and could’ve been a pro-bowler if he didn’t drop a few passes.
TE Scott Chandler
The Bills walk-on starting tight end a year ago, Chandler soared above expectations becoming a major red zone threat for Fitz to target. Last year Chandler caught 38 passes for 389 yards (10.2 on average) and 6 touchdowns. If the off-season is any indication of how Chandler will do, he’s in line for a big season.
K Rian Lindell
Before landing on the IR after his injuring his shoulder from making a tackle on a kick-off, Lindell was hitting 13-15 field goals. (One missed was from 60+ yards out.) Lindell is in his thirties, but still has great accuracy. Personally I hate the idea of having two kickers on a roster, but at least it gives Lindell a chance to stay healthy, and a way for the Bills to start grooming Potter as his successor.
OG Kraig Urbik
Urbik was given a one year extension having been retained as a restricted free agent (RFA). Urbik managed to beat out fellow guard Chad Rinehart for the starting job and has been fairly decent. Urbik additionally has proven to be quite the capable backup center for the Bills as well.
OG Chad Rinehart
A fellow RFA and third round draft pick, Rinehart has provided Urbik with a lot of competition over the last few training camps and has seen a lot of action due to injuries across the line at left and right guard. Like Urbik, Rinehart will be a free agent after this year so it will be interesting if the Bills can retain an excellent backup.
SS Bryan Scott
A linebacker, safety hybrid, I am probably not as high on Scott as others are. While he has the flexibility to drop into coverage against tight ends, Scott is not the most reliable player on the field. But I hope I am wrong and that he thrives in the new 4-3 defense. Scott got off to a hot start last year as a situational player including a pick six, finishing the year with 66 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 6 passes defended.
RB Fred Jackson
Though not technically a free agent, the Bills extended and gave a raise to star running back Fred Jackson. This move makes sense despite Jackson being in his 30s, is a three way threat (rusher, receiver and blocker) who was leading the NFL in total yardage up until his injury last year. For signing Jackson to just over $3.5 million a year for the next three years, this deal is a steal for one of the top rushers in the NFL.