Back in January, this community put together the Buffalo Rumblings Community Needs List. The list breaks down every single need we deemed important for the Buffalo Bills to address this off-season. The first major wave of the free agent signing period is over, and Buffalo has already addressed some of those needs and are now working on others. Here's a quick recap of the full needs list and what we know Buffalo has done at each position.
Pass-rushing defensive end: To our knowledge, there has been no movement on this front. There are veteran ends (Bertrand Berry and Kalimba Edwards are those most often mentioned) that would help on paper, but the team appears to be set to address this need in the draft, if at all. (Berry and Edwards, by the way, have received very little interest on the open market.)
Receiving tight end: Again, not much in the way of movement. The team showed interest early in the process in Texan Owen Daniels, but he's no longer a viable option, having received a high RFA tender from Houston. Unless the team's interest is piqued by a player available for trade such as Denver's Tony Scheffler, this is another position that will get consideration in the draft.
Starting center: This was Buffalo's highest-priority need entering free agency, and they took care of the need over the first weekend by signing former Panthers reserve Geoff Hangartner. He'll assume starting center duties for the team in 2009.
Starting linebacker: At first blush, this appeared to be a position that the Bills would put off until the draft as well. Now, as the team has moved on to its free agency contingency plans, it's looking like linebacker has risen close to the top of the priority list, as the team has already visited with Cato June and plans to visit with Mike Peterson as well. We had originally slated this need as a SAM linebacker, but Buffalo is showing us that they're looking for the best possible player; they'll figure out where Paul Posluszny lines up once they've made their acquisition.
Massive rotational defensive tackle: Perhaps we're idealists here, because a large portion of the community back in January loved the idea of adding a massive run-stuffer to the defensive tackle rotation. We'll remain idealists, but there hasn't been any reported interest on Buffalo's part in bolstering their DT depth. This may be addressed in the draft, however.
Veteran backup quarterback: This was also sitting atop the team's priority list entering the opening weekend of free agency, and the team got their guy in former Bengals reserve Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's not exactly the type of quarterback that we had in mind, but a filled need is a filled need. Buffalo's depth chart at QB is set.
Veteran wide receiver: This spot has been the newsmaker, as the Bills pursued former Jets WR Laveranues Coles for over 72 hours before the receiver ultimately chose Cincinnati. There are other receivers the team may consider, but it's more likely at this point that the team looks to address other need areas while hoping for more return on investments made in James Hardy and Steve Johnson.
Blocking fullback: We've heard whispers that the team is planning on using a fullback only in short-yardage situations (relying on two-tight end sets in typical run situations); coupled with the re-signing of Corey McIntyre, this position is likely settled.
Defensive end: The answer is yes - we really want to see DE upgraded in these parts. With Chris Kelsay still alive and kicking on the roster, however, it's looking more like the Bills will kill two birds with one stone and draft one player to increase their pass rush and give them a developmental player to team with Chris Ellis.
Interior offensive line: This is obviously a much more pressing issue than it was back in January, because very few of us anticipated the release of Derrick Dockery. As it stands right now, Buffalo has six legitimate NFL offensive linemen on their roster. Four of them (Jason Peters, Langston Walker, Kirk Chambers and Demetrius Bell) are tackles by trade. That leaves Brad Butler and Hangartner as the entire depth chart on the interior. Not only will this position be addressed, it might get the treatment two or even three times. The team has kicked the tires of Kendall Simmons and is reportedly interested in trading for Brian Waters. Don't be shocked if we see one vet and two rookies here by early May.
Swing linebacker: We had this one on the list on the assumption that Paul Posluszny would stay inside. However, with the team looking at veteran starters and players like Keith Ellison, John DiGiorgio, Alvin Bowen and Blake Costanzo waiting in the wings, it's unlikely the team will actively pursue a backup linebacker (though they certainly may take one in the draft). The team is quite obviously more interested in depth in the defensive backfield (see: Florence, Drayton).
Developmental safety: This was envisioned as a draft pick all along, and with the aforementioned Florence restoring the team's depth in the defensive backfield to ten strong, we are unlikely to see a safety added unless a value pick drops into our lap in April.
Viable third running back: I took a lot of heat for even mentioning the possibility of adding a third running back in January. Then Marshawn Lynch got arrested. Naturally, I had no idea that that would happen, but the team is now looking seriously at adding a veteran in the (likely?) event that Lynch misses any amount of time due to suspension. Fred Taylor came and left. Now the Bills have turned their attention to Kevin Jones and DeShaun Foster.
So, yeah. Things have changed. In retrospect, perhaps not overspending for Coles, as frustrating as it was to miss out on him, is a blessing in disguise. Now the Bills have the money to fill two or three of these pressing needs so that they can focus on drafting for impact, rather than hole-plugging, in April.