RB Taylor to visit Bills, Pats (Associated Press)
Entering its most important off-season in recent memory, the Buffalo Bills were expected by many - including yours truly - to aggressively pursue free agents beginning next Friday at midnight, when the NFL's free agent signing period begins. With a weak free agent class growing thinner almost daily, however, rumors are beginning to circulate that the Bills may be ready to scale back spending over the next few weeks.
Considering the current state of economy and the lack of real difference-makers at several positions of need, this development isn't surprising. The team has shown a willingness to spend money freely in the past; this year, however, the team isn't expected to hand out any Derrick Dockery-type deals. Even with tempered expectations, however, the Bills already have several players on their radar, and more are expected to follow.
If you're looking for an early theme to Buffalo's free agency plans, call the theme "leadership". Buffalo is expected to target their offensive needs as best as they can starting next week, but their real goal is to provide a young roster some serious veteran leadership. That theory helps to explain one free agent visit that is reportedly already planned.
Former Jags RB Taylor to visit Buffalo; Edwards to follow?
Recently released by the Jaguars, running back Fred Taylor is being courted heavily by the Bills as well as the New England Patriots. Taylor, an 11-year veteran who has rushed for 11,271 yards in his illustrious career, began his career in 1998 when Dick Jauron was Jacksonville's defensive coordinator. The two men reportedly have a mutual respect for each other, but this is far from courtesy interest on Buffalo's part.
Buffalo is looking for an offensive mentor, as the unit on the whole lacks leadership. Taylor would provide that veteran leadership, and he'd undoubtedly be a positive influence on troubled starter Marshawn Lynch. The problem, however, is finding the ultra-competitive Taylor enough touches in an already-crowded backfield to keep the veteran satisfied. If the Bills can sell Taylor on a significant role in this team's offense, don't be shocked if Taylor eventually inks a deal with Buffalo. Obviously at this point, it's far from certain.
Speaking of veterans with ties to Jauron, recently released Raiders DE Kalimba Edwards spent two seasons under Jauron's tutelage in Detroit in 2004 and 2005. Edwards, a one-dimensional edge rusher throughout most of his career, picked up 11.5 sacks in those two seasons, including a career-best seven in '05. Buffalo is believed to favor adding a veteran pass rusher to their defensive end mix, and Edwards - at least at this point - seems like the most likely option.
Texans TE Daniels leads offensive charge
It was reported on Saturday that the Bills are possibly interested in pursuing Texans restricted free agent tight end Owen Daniels. Actually acquiring Daniels is unlikely at this point, given the fact that Daniels has developed into a Pro Bowl talent on an explosive Texans offense, and any deal involving Daniels will likely require a first-round draft pick as compensation. Still, Daniels is the only viable tight end option through free agency, and early interest in him on Buffalo's part (as well as their interest in Taylor) may indicate an offensive-based strategy to free agency.
It's a common belief (and there's plenty of evidence to back the claim) that offensive players generally have a tougher time adjusting to the NFL game than defensive players as rookies. With critical needs at tight end, center and backup quarterback, the Bills are expected to pursue these needs first and foremost at the expense of defensive needs for this very reason. That's not to say that defensive needs will be ignored, but the common belief is that those needs can be more easily addressed than the offensive needs via the draft. Again, however, these plans aren't set in stone, as one unanticipated setback can re-adjust the entire scheme.
(For the record, there are several free agent quarterbacks with direct ties to Jauron, including Rex Grossman, Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington. It is not anticipated that these ties will do these players any favors, however.)
Bills want, but likely won't get, CB Greer
ESPN.com's Tim Graham reported yesterday that the Bills and free agent CB Jabari Greer were far apart monetarily in regards to a possible re-signing. The Bills have reportedly offered Greer a 5-year, $20 million deal, but Greer is seeking close to double the annual pay of that type of an offer. It's hard to blame either party here for the lack of a resolution; Buffalo won't overpay for an average cornerback, and Greer deserves to test the market after years of making peanuts here in Buffalo.
However, Greer may not get what he wants on the open market. He'll certainly generate interest, but the longer Greer stays unsigned, the better the chances are of Greer re-upping with the Bills. It is believed that Greer is Buffalo's top priority, and he'll remain there until the ink dries on a new Greer deal in any locale.
UPDATE: Tim Graham over at ESPN is reporting that Buffalo has extended another offer to Greer. From Graham's blog:
Bills chief operating office Russ Brandon and football administration chief Jim Overdorf met here with Greer's agent, Mark Bloom, on Saturday and are expected this week to make another proposal, an NFL source informed me.