The Buffalo Bills are switching from Mike Pettine to Jim Schwartz in 2014, and as a result, their linebackers are going to be asked to do different things. While three linebackers won't be on the field as much in today's passing league, the Bills could - and have already begun - to look for upgrades at the position.
The legend of Kiko Alonso grew as he didn't miss a snap, narrowly missing Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Nigel Bradham played more down the stretch and may have been in line for a starting spot in 2014 if not for Pettine's departure. It's unclear how Schwartz and his assistants view the youngster. Arthur Moats split time with Bradham, but is a free agent.
What the Bills could add
There are two schools of thought. Add a stud three-down defender to pair with Alonso to cover running backs and tight ends while solidifying the run defense. The much cheaper and easier option is adding a less athletic linebacker in the middle and shifting Alonso to the weak side, where he can continue to use his athleticism.
Who fits the Bill
Jameel McClain: McClain is a guy you can put in the middle for two downs and call it a day. He has experience, and could help the Bills as a run stopper. He visited One Bills Drive this week before moving on to the New York Giants. He may have other visits scheduled after being released by the Baltimore Ravens to save on cap space.
Brandon Spikes: Spikes is a nasty player with an edge Bills fans hated when he was in New England. He is an intimidating run stopper that would instantly upgrade Buffalo's Swiss cheese run defense. His game is best suited as a two-down linebacker, but will likely command more than $4 million per year, which the Bills may not be able to pay for run situations only. New defensive coach Pepper Johnson was Spikes' biggest champion in New England, and the link hasn't gone unnoticed in league speculation.
Best case scenario
Either add a two-down backer a couple months into free agency to hold down the fort and hope Bradham can secure the spot, or sign one of these two guys add go into the offseason with a legitimate starter and Bradham as a top backup and special teamer. I prefer the latter, but it's not great for the bottom line.