The Buffalo Bills
One off-season move that sticks out like a sore thumb - almost as if it threw the franchise for a loop - was the retirement of Brad Butler. At just 26 years of age, Butler had been penciled in to re-claim the starting right tackle role he lost in 2009 when he landed on IR after a Week 2 injury. His sudden retirement to pursue a political career left the Bills with absolutely zilch in experience at the tackle position; when that decision was made, Kirk Chambers became the team's most game-experienced tackle. Fathom that.
Buffalo didn't exactly scramble to fill Butler's roster spot, but it's fair to say that the man tabbed to replace Butler, former Oakland right tackle Cornell Green, was the team's strangest free agent signing. Buffalo didn't have problems targeting veterans, but given the youth movement across the rest of the roster, the signing of a soon-to-be 34-year-old right tackle stands on its own. Now, Green is arguably Buffalo's best tackle, and has a firm grasp on the starting right tackle job heading into camp.
Block. I don't think I really need to say more here, do I? Buffalo's right tackles need to be stout at the point of attack, as they'll be dealing with 3-4 defensive ends most of the time. Athleticism is not as big a priority on this side, as this player will usually have pass blocking help from the tight end or a chipping back. Intelligence is important, as the complex 3-4 looks of the division necessitates the ability to diagnose blitzes pre-snap.
Don't read anything into the order in which players appear below - they appear based purely on level of NFL game experience, and nothing more.
74 - Cornell Green. With 46 career starts at tackle, Green is by far Buffalo's most experienced tackle - and he's not even all that experienced, having been an NFL starter only for parts of the past three seasons. Green is a pretty solid, consistent pass blocker; he won't blow you away athletically, but he's got the length to be effective in this facet of the game. Improvements are needed, though, as he still gave up five sacks last season with Oakland. He's not a dominant run blocker, as he struggles to get to the second level and is just average at the point of attack. Green has also struggled mightily with penalties throughout his career. Green's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he's a virtual lock, barring injury, to open the season as the starting right tackle.
73 - Kirk Chambers. Chambers has been an oft-used reserved player for the Bills in recent seasons, seeing time at both tackle spots and both guard spots. At age 31, Chambers has been around the game much longer than the rest of Buffalo's tackles, as well. Highly average in all facets of the game, Chambers should make this roster based on swing versatility, and nothing else. However, given the youth problem across the line, Chambers could make the team based solely on his experience - and lock down top reserve spots at two, three or even four line positions in the process.
79 - Nick Hennessey. Was brought back to the team mid-season a year ago after seemingly dozens of injuries to the line. An undrafted free agent a year ago, Hennessey's just a guy. He's got very little chance of cracking the practice squad, let alone the active roster.
68 - Cordaro Howard. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech, Howard is more athlete than blocker at this point, and his best shot at sticking in this league will probably be as a guard. That's where I expect him to see most of his snaps this pre-season, but he played right tackle at rookie mini-camp, so I'm including him here.
Green signed a three-year, $9 million deal in March. Chambers has two years and $1.45 million remaining on a deal he signed last September. Contract information isn't known on Hennessey and Howard, and ultimately, that probably won't matter much.
This is not a terribly inspiring group of tackles, but hey - at least two of them have experience. Green will be the starter, and Gailey will have his work cut out for him ensuring that Green has the help he needs to succeed on the right side. Considering the amount of help our left tackles will need, this is not a particularly comforting notion. I'd be happy if Green cuts down his penalties and doesn't kill drives; everything else would just be gravy.
By the way, I also believe that if the Bills do acquire Baltimore OT Jared Gaither, Green still starts on the right side. I wouldn't mind seeing either Demetrius Bell or Jamon Meredith get starting reps at right tackle should Gaither be acquired, but I don't view it as likely.
Green's a lock to start assuming good health, and I think Chambers is a lock to make the roster as a reserve. Howard's athleticism is intriguing enough where I wouldn't mind seeing him on the practice squad, but that's not a certainty. He has a long way to go.