With the free agency period set to begin in less than 14 hours (!!!), it's time for us to make known our final predictions/free agency game plans for the Buffalo Bills. I know y'all have opinions on how we should approach this off-season; now is the time to make those opinions known. We've looked at several free agents up close, we're aware of the depth of several key positions in this year's draft thanks to the Combine, and we know exactly what the Bills need. I encourage all of you to both critique my predictions/plans as well as leave your own. Here's how I'd approach the next month if I were GM (er... COO) of the Bills.
1. Sign Ernest Wilford. Clearly, Buffalo's biggest (offensive) need is at wide receiver, and clearly, the team can't take the risk of expecting a rookie to fill those needs. A veteran is needed, and in your humble narrator's opinion, Wilford is easily the best option. At this point, he's the surest option at wide receiver - he stays healthy, he's consistent, he's a legitimate red zone threat, he's an excellent run blocker, and he's a hard worker. Get him into town, and make sure your offer prevents him from leaving.
2. (Try to) Find a DT. Shaun Rogers is the popular option. Booger McFarland is an experienced option. Tommy Kelly may be an underrated option. With Rogers seemingly out of the picture, the Bills may have to force the issue with one of the other options. The tackle class in this year's draft is deep, and we've already got an experienced tackle in Larry Tripplett, so don't overpay for help. Make a serious plug for Rogers, and if that fails, look into signing McFarland or Kelly. If nothing materializes with those three players specifically, leave it for April.
3. Re-Sign Your Own. There are several tenured Bills whose re-signings would bolster team depth and greatly enhance the team's special teams units. Expect the team to, at a minimum, entertain the idea of re-signing the following players: TE Michael Gaines, OL Jason Whittle, DE Al Wallace, LB Mario Haggan, CB Jason Webster and S Bryan Scott. Gaines, Whittle, Webster and Scott have all been rumored to be on the Bills' re-signing wish list this off-season. Others not mentioned here may be considered as well.
4. Look For a Few More Impact Veterans. Don't make the mistake of thinking "big-name" signings here. The team has a number of holes to fill, but they don't have to fill them all during free agency. There are several mid-tier free agent options that could fill holes at TE (Ben Troupe), OL (Adrien Clarke, Mike Rosenthal, Nat Dorsey), LB (Brandon Chillar, Landon Johnson, Chaun Thompson) or cornerback (Drayton Florence) that bring youth and experience without breaking the bank. Troupe, Clark, Dorsey, Chillar and Florence are particularly intriguing options.
5. Work on Contract Extensions. We've discussed it before, and it definitely bears mentioning now: the Bills need to work on contract extensions for WR Lee Evans and LB Angelo Crowell at a minimum. I would also consider giving an upgraded contract to RB Fred Jackson, who is still making practice squad money. Jason Peters and Terrence McGee have been mentioned as possible options as well. These signings are just as, if not more, important than bringing in free agents.
Flame on, or suggest on. It's conservative, yes, but so are the Bills. I expect them to make a splash at wideout as soon as they can, as well as make serious plugs to bring Rogers or maybe McFarland on board. After that, I truly believe that the team will concentrate just as hard on taking care of their own players as they will on bringing in new free agents. The theory is this: take care of the role positions through free agency, and add your future stars through the draft. Bringing in players like Wilford, Rogers/McFarland, Troupe, or the others listed above fits that bill. It may not make everyone happy - in fact, I'm one hundred percent certain it won't - but it's the type of plan that the Bills have followed in the past.
Again, this thread is as much yours as it is mine. Critique my plan, posit your own, and let's get this thread going. It's time to get excited, Bills fans - free agency is about to start!