Buffalo Rumblings Mailbag, 3/7: NFL free agency focus

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Topics on the minds of Buffalo Rumblings readers this week include Jairus Byrd, the future of the running back position, the team's expected involvement in free agency, and how NFL bloodlines factor into the scouting equation.

Thanks to the dozens of you that sent in Buffalo Bills themed questions for this week's Buffalo Rumblings Mailbag - we had far more than would have comfortably fit into this post, but appreciate them all the same. If time permits, I'll sift through the unused questions and reply to this individually; please, everyone, keep your questions rolling in to buffalorumblings@gmail.com.

On tap for this week's mailbag: a bit more on Jairus Byrd, whether or not the team will address the running back position this offseason, and some broader-scale questions about free agency and the NFL Draft. Let's go!

Buffalo Rumblings Live: Bills FA preview

Any idea why the Bills didn't use the non-exclusive tag on Byrd?

This misconception has popped up a couple of times. When the Bills tagged Byrd in 2013, they used the non-exclusive designation on him. Exclusive tags mean that players cannot negotiate deals with other teams. Non-exclusive means that players can negotiate with other teams, and then the tagging team has the option to match, or to receive two first-round picks if they don't match.

Byrd had the option to negotiate with other teams last spring, because he had a non-exclusive tag. No team was going to part with two first-round picks and tens of millions of dollars for a safety, however - no matter how good Byrd is - which is why he spent the year in Buffalo (and saw no action on the market).

That's the tag the Bills would have used this year, as well, had they decided to use the tag. Obviously, they did not. As for why they didn't use the transition tag, which would have allowed them to match any offer that comes Byrd's way on the market (but would not deliver them compensation if they let Byrd leave)? Well, we mulled that question earlier this week.

Thanks for the question, Steve!

When and how would you address the RB situation before the guano hits the fan?

This question is asked frequently, and with good reason: Fred Jackson is entering the final year of his deal, and C.J. Spiller has an opt-out clause in his six-year rookie deal that could make him a free agent next spring, as well.

GM Doug Whaley was asked about this position at the NFL Combine in late February, and his response was simply that the Bills wouldn't draft a running back at the top of the first round unless he was a special, Adrian Peterson-level talent. He called the position devalued because teams use two or more players at the position, which speaks volumes as well.

The team seems likely to target a running back with some size to complement Jackson and Spiller while they're still here; they need a power back that can more consistently deliver in short-yardage situations. And while they do need to start planning ahead there, they also have to balance how much utility a new back would have on a team that has two established backs. I'd expect nothing more than a later-round draft pick at the position; free agency doesn't seem like a productive route for the position, as most backs that hit the market already have a good amount of wear on their tires.

Thanks for the question, Josh!

Do you think the Bills will attempt to sign several low key free agents or try to reel in some larger names?

That depends on how you define "big name". If you're talking about the proverbial cream of the crop, the guys that will be targeted early and by several teams, it's very difficult to imagine the Bills entering in on too many of those bidding wars.

But if you're talking about giving reasonable deals to starting-caliber players - similar to a Manny Lawson signing from a year ago - then sure, they absolutely can and should try to make that level of investment. It would make sense for them to focus their efforts on finding a base 4-3 end to platoon with rush specialist Jerry Hughes, and they're already looking at middle linebacker candidates, as well. A veteran cornerback makes a ton of sense, as well, and they may need to replace Byrd at free safety. There are needs on offense too, obviously, but that side of the ball has more of a "for the long haul" sense than on defense, where coaching turnover has left them scrambling to tweak their personnel in three straight free agency periods.

Thanks for the question, Matt!

From major consideration to just tiebreaker purposes, how much do you think bloodlines are taken into consideration when a team selects a player in the draft?

Let's assume that this question was asked with Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews in mind. (Feel free to drop into the comments section and confirm, Shawn - and thanks for the question!). Matthews is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bruce Matthews, the long-time lineman for the Oilers and Titans.

The bloodline trend absolutely comes into play with prospect evaluation. It likely factors about as much as other similar factors, like program pedigree (see: Penn State linebackers, Ohio State cornerbacks, etc.). The players are scrutinized first, both on the field and off, and then these other extraneous elements are folded into the evaluation. They're almost footnotes, and how they affect grades and boards undoubtedly varies from team to team, but NFL clubs factor every bit of information they can scrounge up into their reports on prospects. That includes the bloodline factor.

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