C Hangartner flying under the radar (UPI Photo)
The 2009 NFL free agent signing period is officially under way, and the Buffalo Bills aren't wasting any time in addressing the depth on the interior of their offensive line. With a pre-existing need at center and question marks at guard after the release of Derrick Dockery, the Bills have scheduled a visit with Panthers free agent Geoff Hangartner as a first step toward addressing the situation.
Adam Schefter of NFL.com reports that "a good market" is developing for the versatile Hangartner, who is looking for his first full-time starting gig as an NFL lineman. It's likely that unless Hangartner is blown away by a contract offer in Buffalo, he'll schedule more visits as well. The Panthers are also reportedly still in the mix - at least, if teammate OT Jordan Gross has anything to say about it.
The 6'5", 301-pound Hangartner has started a total of twelve games over the past two seasons in reserve duty for the Panthers. Just 26 years old, Hangartner was a fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M in the 2005 NFL Draft; he was selected a full round later than two other centers Bills fans may be familiar with - Baltimore's Jason Brown and Buffalo's own Duke Preston.
Guard or center?
It is unclear at this point exactly what type of role Hangartner could assume in Buffalo. If his agent is smart, he's selling Hangartner as a guard. Guards make more money than centers on the open market. Naturally, if the Bills themselves are smart, they'll offer a deal that pays Hangartner like a center.
His versatility is undoubtedly a selling point for the Bills, but Hangartner may be far better suited to guard than center in Buffalo. Known more as a finesse blocker than a power blocker, Hangartner has been known to play inconsistently against interior power rushers, something he'd get a lot of in an AFC East division featuring three opposing 3-4 defenses. Still, Hangartner is a smart technician with enough punch to hold his own when he's on his game. He's an excellent angle blocker with above average athleticism, and he's as technically sound as can be reasonably expected for someone who has as little playing time as he does. Intangibles such as field awareness, instincts and untapped potential are strong selling points for the four-year pro.
Keep it locked into Buffalo Rumblings for all of your Bills needs as free agency kicks into high gear over the weekend.