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Potential Bills Free Agent: CB Brian Kelly

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Can Kelly still stay healthy, produce at age 32? (Toni L. Sandys, SPTimes.com)

If the Buffalo Bills are looking to upgrade the cornerback position via free agency, what better team to raid than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? The Bills, who run a version of the Tampa-2 defense made famous by current Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (with some help from Tony Dungy), are in need of a corner - and a former Buccaneer with ten years of experience in the Tampa-2 is available for hire.

Even though Brian Kelly has only played in 13 games over the last two seasons, his experience in this defense could make him a valuable addition to a Bills secondary that is short on experience. Kelly has enjoyed a productive career, notching 22 interceptions and four sacks playing alongside Ronde Barber, and recently opted out of the final year of his Bucs deal, which would have paid him $3.2 million in 2008. Injury concerns aside, Kelly may be a "quick fix" in Buffalo's secondary - and his experience would considerably help out young veterans like Terrence McGee, Jabari Greer and Ashton Youboty.

Buc 'Em's Take
JScott, head blogger at Buc 'Em (SB Nation's Buccaneers blog), has seen Kelly's stellar career first-hand. He knows exactly what Kelly has to offer as a player, and was even willing to share some of his thoughts on Kelly's recent injury issues. Here's what JScott had to say about Kelly's impending free agency:

Kelly has had some pretty major injury issues the last two seasons. In the 13 games that he played in '06 and '07, did you see the same Kelly that was one of the more underrated corners in his prime?

Absolutely. I don't doubt Kelly had a severe toe injury, but I think a lack of respect from the organization also hindered his ability to get back on the field in a timely manner. BK is a shutdown corner in every sense of the word. He blankets receivers and has an uncanny ability to jump routes in enough time to break up would-be completions. With Ronde Barber on the other side of the field returning picks for TDs, it's been hard for BK to get the recognition he feels he deserves. Kelly gets by on his ability to pay attention and not get distracted. He isn't the toughest, fastest, or smartest corner on the field, but what he brings to the game, he brings to the game on every play. It's rare for BK to get beat on routes, but it happens from time to time. If the Bills were to offer him a contract he feels is respectful, you guys would have a good-to-great cornerback on your hands. The question is, do teams respect BK the way BK respects BK? We'll see soon enough.

The 32-year-old bought out of his contract to become a free agent. Is he just testing the waters? Do you believe the Bucs will attempt to offer him a new deal?

I think Brian Kelly has played his last game in a Buccaneers jersey. You don't buy out a $3.2 million contract to just test the waters (he paid half a mil to test those waters). He's submerged himself in the waters and probably wouldn't accept a life raft from the Bucs. He was set to make $3.2 mil this year; who's willing to pay him more than that? At 32 years old, I thought that salary was about right for Brian, given his past success and his recent injury troubles.

Clearly, Kelly's been in a Cover-2 scheme for all of his professional career. Do you view him as the prototypical Cover-2 corner, or just a really good player whose skills fit in any scheme?

I think BK can play in any scheme, he's got the smarts and coverage ability. I think the Cover-2 fits his abilities almost perfectly in terms of his being able to cover the receiver one-on-one, keeping said receiver in front of him, and having help available if need be from the safeties. I think if a team rewards Kelly with the money he feels he deserves, he will reward that team with top notch corner play. For his sake I hope somebody buys in, but with his recent injury history and age, I'm not sure BK made the right decision monetarily. It is a sign he's done in Tampa though. He paid to walk away from Tampa this off-season.

Discussion Time
I'm not as keen on Kelly as some here have been in previous posts. I love his veteran savvy, his career production, and the fact that he's spent his entire career in the Tampa 2. But with some solid corner depth in the draft and the likes of Drayton Florence available, is it really wise to gamble on Kelly's recent injuries to the tune of, in all likelihood, $4-5 million? I'd be against this signing unless it's a two (maybe three) year deal at about $3 million per. That's the right price. If Kelly wants more than that, I'd rather see the Bills address corner in the draft or with Florence.

Please leave your thoughts on Kelly, Buffalo's situation at cornerback, or anything else relevant in the comments section. Let's hear it, folks!

Buccaneers CB Brian Kelly
Year G Tk Sk INT FF FR
1998 16 33 0 1 0 0
1999 16 41 0 1 0 0
2000 16 50 0 1 0 0
2001 16 58 2 0 0 0
2002 16 67 1 8 1 0
2003 5 15 0 1 0 0
2004 16 58 0 4 0 0
2005 16 51 1 4 1 0
2006 2 12 0 0 0 0
2007 11 21 0 2 0 0
TOT 130 406 4 22 2 0