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Potential Bills Free Agent: DE Calvin Pace

Is Pace likely to re-sign with Arizona? (ViewImages)

Call me crazy for thinking that the Buffalo Bills might sign Antwan Odom; call me crazier for continuing to break down free agent defensive ends when it's pretty clear that the Bills are going to focus their energies (and money) elsewhere. But I have a belief, and I'll stick by it: a difference-making speed rusher would have a bigger impact for the team as a whole than any other position - except for wide receiver.

Our second defensive end break down (coming at the suggestion of sireric) is Arizona's Calvin Pace. The former first-round pick was drafted as a defensive end, but has only become a productive player after transitioning to a DE/OLB hybrid in Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's hybrid defense. Pace is a first-round talent, and he's young (27) - so what would keep the Bills from making a run at him? The Cardinals would: they want him back. Still, we can take a peek, right?

The Big Red Sheet's Take
Once again, we have the pleasure of a first-hand account from Jeff Gollin, headmaster of the Cardinals site The Big Red Sheet. He was kind enough to give us some insight into Pace the player; here's what he had to say:

There are already rumors that the Cardinals would like to keep Pace. Do you see him in a different uniform next season?

It depends on Chike Okeafor. Chike is ideally suited to play the hybrid DE/OLB position in a 3-4. But he was injured and has some mileage on his tread. When Pace came in to replace Chike, he stepped up and did so admirably. Personally, I hope we keep him (if for no other reason than "injuries happen" and every NFL team needs as much quality depth as possible). One warning by Cardinal insiders is to "beware of guys who suddenly play better in their contract year."

Pace was an end in college but seems to have moved around a bit in Arizona. Do you believe he's better as an end or an outside linebacker?

It depends on the system. Pace excelled in a hybrid role. In a 4-3, I'm not sure he has the range at OLB. He has improved markedly anchoring against the strong side run as a 4-3 DE and 3-4 hybrid.

What are Pace's strengths/weaknesses in terms of how he performed in Clancy Pendergast's somewhat unique defensive scheme?

Run defense and range is his strength. He's still learning how to cover in space in an OLB role.

Discussion Time
Pace is a bit of an enigma to me. Two facts make me hesitant to see the Bills pursue Pace - the fact that he's stronger against the run than he is rushing the passer, and the fact that he's only performed up to a first-round level when he's standing up. Clearly, Arizona's defensive scheme is much different than Buffalo's, and I'm not sure that having Pace transition back to end is going to increase his effectiveness as a player. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. Pace may be better off staying in his hybrid role (and the Cardinals agree), and the Bills may be better off going after a defensive end with more speed and that is at his best coming off of the line.

I'd love to hear your thoughts not only on Pace and his impending free agency, but on these interviews as well. We've already had a suggestion to put stat lines in these articles; I'll be spending this afternoon/evening working on updating all of the past articles to include this. If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Cardinals LB Calvin Pace
Year G Tk Sk INT FF FR
2003 16 32 1 0 0 0
2004 14 13 5 0 2 0
2005 5 12 1 0 0 0
2006 16 31 1 0 2 0
2007 16 98 7 1 1 0
TOT 67 186 14 1 5 0