Back in April, weeks prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, we took a look at the Buffalo Bills' needs in a three-tiered approach. Now that the draft is behind us and, with any luck sanity, free agency will be starting in a few short weeks, it's time to take another look at that list and re-assess it.
The list will be revisited exactly as it appeared back in April. We'll simply focus on what the team accomplished during April's draft, and try to figure out exactly what needs to be done moving forward.
ELITE NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills should target elite players.
1. QB: The idea in listing quarterback first was to illustrate the fact that the Bills don't have a long-term answer at the position. They're not going to find that player in free agency, but this is still a need; Ryan Fitzpatrick needs a backup.
2. OLB: Nothing has changed at this position since April, aside from the fact that it looks like Danny Batten will finally settle at this position. Again, the Bills aren't going to find an elite-level pass rusher in free agency, and will almost certainly rely on Shawne Merriman's health and continued development from their young guys (Arthur Moats in particular).
3. CB: I'll point out again that I took a lot of guff for listing this position so highly, but the Bills clearly feel similarly, having taken two cornerbacks (second-round pick Aaron Williams and seventh-round pick Justin Rogers) in April. If the team isn't able to retain the services of Drayton Florence, they'll definitely need to bring in another vet. They'll likely target several young guys for the back end of the roster, as well.
IMPROVEMENT NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills should target starting-level players.
4. ILB: The Bills did well enough to get younger and slightly more athletic at this position by bringing in LSU's Kelvin Sheppard and Mississippi State's Chris White in April. There's now a nice mix of veteran and youth - and if re-signed, Paul Posluszny would serve as the bridge between the two. I'm not sure that the Bills will do much more at this position, knowing that they can cross-train outside 'backers to play in, and knowing that they play a lot of nickel and dime defense.
5. OT: Chris Hairston comes in as a fourth-round pick out of Clemson, and I don't think it's unfair to label him the team's right tackle of the future. He's not ready for that role, however, leaving veterans Erik Pears and Mansfield Wrotto to compete for the starting job. There's nothing in the way of quality depth behind left tackle Demetrius Bell. It'd be nice if the team could, at minimum, find a guy that could be a blind-side backup. A potential starting right tackle wouldn't hurt, either.
6. DE: Well, hello there, Marcell Dareus. The addition of the Crimson Elephant, as Stevie Johnson calls him, pretty much wraps up the top of the four-deep depth chart at this position.
7. S: Fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy offers the team positional versatility, as he can play either safety position, as well as a little cornerback. His arrival maintains the team's sufficient depth at the position, even with the possible loss of free agent Donte Whitner.
8. TE: Nothing has changed here, and for my money, this is Buffalo's weakest positional group. They have a few solid veterans at the position, but the tight end could really be a huge asset for Fitzpatrick. Instead, it's a bit position in Chan Gailey's offensive scheme.
DEPTH NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills should target quality depth players.
9. OG/C: Right now, the team has six legitimate interior options - and possibly a seventh in Wrotto if he's not in the mix at right tackle. That's sufficient depth; now the picture just needs to become clearer, starting with a decision as to who the center will be.
10. NT: The addition of seventh-round pick Michael Jasper makes the Bills four-deep at nose guard. They won't be doing much else at the position.
11. RB: Fifth-round pick Johnny White of North Carolina will be the team's third back, providing roster value as a special teams player and some upside as a change-of-pace back should either Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller succumb to injury.
12. WR: We've known for months that the Bills are set at this position. Plenty of young depth to go around, with maybe a camp body or two to come.
Our task for you this morning, Bills fans: re-arrange this needs list to conform it to the upcoming free agent signing period.