Sam Young, Chris Scott contenders in Bills left guard competition

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills need to replace the departed Andy Levitre at left guard - and in doing so, they'll likely be promoting from within.

Well before he signed a six-year, $46.8 million free agent deal with the Tennessee Titans, it was assumed that the Buffalo Bills would need to replace four-year starting left guard Andy Levitre in 2013. Sure enough, roughly two months away from the start of training camp, the left guard position is among the most unsettled areas on the team's depth chart.

That said, with two quality interior starters returning and several viable options to replace Levitre, the Bills are better off on the offensive line than most outsiders give them credit for. That's doubly true when considering the qualifications of new offensive line coach Pat Morris, not to mention the fact that head coach Doug Marrone is a renowned line coach himself.

Eric Wood

  • Age: 27
  • Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $2.3 million in base salary in his contract year.

Once the Bills resolve the pending contract situation with Jairus Byrd, his 2009 NFL Draft classmate, Wood, is next on the team's to-do list. On the field, Wood is a solid center with somewhat inconsistent tape but at times exemplary technique. He's a great leader for an unheralded line, but he's been held back through his first four years by an inability to stay on the field. Wood's extensive injury history - which includes two catastrophic leg injuries that required season-ending surgery - will almost certainly be a factor in those forthcoming contract negotiations. For now, he's the centerpiece - literally and figuratively - of a re-tooling offensive line post-Levitre.

Kraig Urbik

  • Age: 27 (28 in September)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2016 season. Scheduled to make $2.05 million in base salary in 2013.

It was a bit telling when the Bills didn't open contract negotiations with Levitre last season, instead signing the under-appreciated Urbik to a four-year contract extension in December. Once a waiver claim by the Bills and a former third-round pick in Pittsburgh, Urbik has now been a starter in Buffalo for the last two years, and has grown into a reliable and steady performer with surprising second-level ability and positional versatility. He's a lock to start and the most important piece of the interior line long-term, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if he emerged as the Bills' best lineman in 2013.

Sam Young

  • Age: 25 (26 in June)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $630,000 in base salary in his contract year.

Though Young is a tackle by trade, he saw action inside at guard for the Bills over the last two years, performing admirably in spot duty. Now, he's among the early leaders in the clubhouse to replace Levitre at left guard. He's not built like a classic guard - he's 6'8" and 316 pounds with long arms - but he's a highly intelligent, tough player that has gotten the job done when called upon. Marrone and Morris can work with a guy like that.

Colin Brown

  • Age: 27 (28 in August)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $630,000 in base salary in 2013.

Brown, who pulled two starts at center in 2011 when both Wood and Urbik landed on IR, might have been the clear front-runner to replace Levitre had he not landed on IR himself after just 19 snaps in 2012 with a severe hamstring injury. Another huge blocker (6'7", 326), Brown does not fit the classic mold of a guard, and it'll be interesting to see if he can seriously contend for a starting position coming off of the injury.

Chris Scott

  • Age: 25 (26 in August)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $630,000 in base salary in his contract year.

This under-the-radar player has already received first-team left guard reps in OTAs, and is a name that bears watching. One of two 2010 fifth-round picks by Pittsburgh currently on Buffalo's roster (cornerback Crezdon Butler is the other), the 6'5", 320-pound Scott was added to the roster late in the 2012 season and didn't see a down of action. If he does end up winning the left guard job, he'll have followed a very similar path as Urbik, who saw only limited action after being picked up by the Bills in 2010; he was a full-time starter the following year.

David Snow

  • Age: 23 (24 in November)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $480,000 in base salary in 2013.

Snow stuck with the Bills as an undrafted free agent last year, then saw action later in the season after being pulled up from the practice squad thanks to a Wood injury. The 6'4", 305-pound center was better than expected in his brief stint as a starter, and while he's more likely to compete for a spot as a reserve guard and center, it would not be terribly surprising if he found himself in the mix for the left guard job, given the unproven nature of the talent in front of him.

Keith Williams

  • Age: 25
  • Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $480,000 in base salary in 2013.

Williams is yet another former Pittsburgh draft pick (2011, sixth round) that has been with the Bills for parts of his two seasons in the league. Most of that time has been spent on the practice squad, but he snuck onto the active roster in 2012, though he only saw special teams work as a blocker on field goal and extra point tries. He'll be in the mix for a roster spot, as well; time will tell if he can sneak into the left guard race.

Zack Chibane

  • Age: 22
  • Contract: Signed through the 2015 season. Scheduled to make $405,000 in base salary in 2013.

Many wondered for months how many of his former players Marrone would bring to Buffalo, and the answer was ultimately one: Chibane. A three-year starter that made 38 straight appearances for Syracuse, Chibane is undersized compared to most of his teammates (6'4", 302), but his familiarity with the coaches and the offensive line calls could give him a leg up for roster consideration - particularly with such a wide-open race for interior line spots in front of him.

Ryan Turnley

  • Age: 23
  • Contract: Signed through the 2015 season. Scheduled to make $405,000 in base salary in 2013.

Turnley is an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh, where he spent two years as the starting center. Though he's 6'6", Turnley can bend an anchor and actually played solely guard and center collegiately, even though he has enough size to play the edge. He's a better prospect than Chibane, and seems like a prime candidate for practice squad consideration if he can't make the team outright.

Hutch Eckerson

  • Age: 25
  • Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $405,000 in base salary in 2013.

Eckerson was a street free agent signing earlier this year - well before the team had started making serious off-season moves - and faces an uphill battle to make the final roster.

Outlook

Wood and Urbik are locked into starting positions, and will be counted on to provide stability on the inside in the wake of Levitre's departure. Young and Scott are looking like the two early favorites at left guard; Young seems like a roster lock either way thanks to his dependability as a reserve tackle, while Scott could very well end up being the next trash heap discovery for Buffalo's pro personnel department. As many as six of these players listed could make the final roster, with eight of the ten (all but Wood and Urbik) having at least a fighting chance at making the team. One starter needs to be decided, but the Bills are most definitely not short on intriguing options to replace Levitre.

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