NFL teams - the Buffalo Bills are no exception - typically carry nine offensive linemen on their 53-man rosters during the season, and seven on the active roster on game days. The Bills addressed their offensive line in free agency on Wednesday, giving us reason to re-examine the front five through the lens of the 2014 roster.
Cordy Glenn is settled in on the left side, ideally for a good long while. He played all 1,161 offensive snaps in 2013, and entering his third season as a former second-round pick out of Georgia, he's still an incredibly reasonably priced starter playing on his rookie deal. Glenn is a player that the Bills should be looking to lock up long term - but then, Glenn is also a player that knows he could pull in a massive contract if he ever made it to the open market. His rookie deal expires following the 2015 season.
While Glenn is rock solid, things are less set in stone behind him on the tackle depth chart. Erik Pears - who also played every snap at right tackle last year - is still on the team, but the Bills could use an upgrade in his starting slot. Chris Hairston, the 2011 fourth-round pick out of Clemson, is an enigma having missed all of last season due to an undisclosed medical condition. Even if he's healthy heading into training camp, the Bills would be wise not to simply hand him a roster spot and/or a shot at a starting job.
Chris Williams started all 16 games last season at left guard for St. Louis, and told reporters in Buffalo that he'd been signed by the Bills to fill the same role. He joins established starters Eric Wood (center) and Kraig Urbik (right guard) to give the Bills three veteran starters in the middle of their line. They're all pretty well compensated, too:
- Williams: four years, $13.5 million, $5.5 million guaranteed on 3/12/14
- Wood: four years, $27.7 million, $9 million signing bonus on 8/30/13
- Urbik: four years, $15 million, $3.5 million signing bonus on 12/17/12
Doug Legursky spent most of the 2013 season starting at left guard for the Bills, where he was very replaceable; his value skyrockets, however, as an experienced reserve that can play all three interior positions, and do so affordably at just a $1.1 million cap hit. His spot on the 2014 roster seems very safe.
In terms of game day rosters next season, the Bills are likely comfortable with their three starters plus Legursky inside. That will leave prospects like 'Unga, Asper and the rest to compete for one of the two non-game day slots on the 53-man roster. Ideally, those two players will have some upside; the team seemed to really like 'Unga last year, even working him in ahead of Urbik on rare occasions.
That leaves spots for three tackles on the game day roster. Glenn will occupy one of those slots, but the other two are wide open. Unless the Bills can find a serviceable tackle in free agency - that market seems to be drying up pretty quickly - they would be very wise to address the position early enough in May's NFL Draft to find someone that can contribute right away. If that doesn't happen, Pears gives them a known commodity, and Hairston has done enough in his first two seasons to warrant another long look this summer, even if his medical concerns aren't completely out of the picture.