Yes, we know that the Buffalo Bills have a bunch of current free agents that they're waiting to deal with. Several prominent names, including Paul Posluszny, Donte Whitner and Drayton Florence, won't be able to seriously negotiate with the Bills until a new CBA is in place.
Still, in an effort to keep a long-term perspective, we wanted to talk about next year's class of Bills free agents. There are a few candidates for early extensions, and a few more that could play their way into that territory. How the Bills view these players right now could affect their decisions this off-season.
Chief among those future free agents are quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The sort-of-dynamic passing duo enjoyed a rock solid 2010 campaign together, and both could seek a long-term commitment from the team. Fitzpatrick has the team's support as their starting QB for the moment, while Johnson - still just 24 years old - has the look of a potential long-term No. 1 receiver.
Roscoe Parrish enjoyed a nice resurgence in his first year working with Chan Gailey, but ultimately landed on IR. He was on pace to completely obliterate his previous career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, and Gailey seems committed to using him as a slot weapon moving into the 2011 season.
2011 will be a make or break season for Johnson's seventh-round draft classmate, left tackle Demetrius Bell. The team seems comfortable with Bell's progress last season, and has repeatedly said that an off-season in which he can stay in shape and improve his core strength could turn him into a solid starter. Another strong season next year could make Bell the team's long-term answer at this position.
Three offensive linemen added off the street in 2010 - tackle Erik Pears and guards Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart - are entering contract years, as well. All three, for the time being, look to have an opportunity to challenge for starting roles next season, with Pears a contender at right tackle, and Urbik and Rinehart options at right guard.
Naaman Roosevelt (who will be an exclusive rights free agent) and tight end David Martin will also hit free agency after next season.
There won't be any major defensive free agents for the Bills after next season, but four fairly prominent role players will have contracts expiring. Andra Davis and Reggie Torbor are two veteran players vying for playing time at inside linebacker (or perhaps outside, in Torbor's case) next season after landing on IR a year ago. Bryan Scott has platooned between linebacker and strong safety throughout his Bills career, and has proven himself a capable run defender. Finally, dime back Reggie Corner - who will see a major salary increase in 2011 thanks to performance and playing time incentives - will be up for renewal, as well.
Finally, the last significant free agent next off-season is kicker Rian Lindell, who has been steady throughout his Bills career, but is also coming off his worst season with the team since 2003 (which also happened to be his worst season as pro).
Our question for you this morning, Bills fans, is this: we're guessing that most of you would like to see Johnson re-upped, but would you add anyone else to the list of guys that deserve long-term extensions?