With Super Bowl XLVII in the books - congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens and our very lucky friends at Baltimore Beatdown, by the way - we're now completely and officially into off-season mode in the NFL. As such, we'll be spending our Monday taking stock of the roster breakdowns we ran throughout January and preparing ourselves mentally to discuss Buffalo Bills free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft full-time for the next three months or so.
We'll start with the Bills' own free agents, which we've discussed by position over the last several weeks, but never as an entire group. The thrust of this discussion will be to determine which players the community is most eager to see the Bills re-sign this spring.
Two names will not appear on the list, because frankly, it's as close to universal as you can get that everybody wants free safety Jairus Byrd and left guard Andy Levitre locked up long-term. We've had that conversation before. This conversation will be about the remaining 12 unrestricted free agents, and which players fans would like to see retained alongside Byrd and Levitre. Those names are below; the comments section is all yours. Go.
QB Tyler Thigpen: Signed after the 2011 lockout to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick due to his familiarity with Chan Gailey, Thigpen has not played much at all through two seasons in Buffalo.
QB Tarvaris Jackson: When Vince Young's legal situation forced Buffalo to cut him last fall, the Bills flipped a seventh-round pick to Seattle for Jackson, then promptly left him on the inactive list all season. Jackson, who turns 30 in April, has been considered a stop-gap starting quarterback for the last few years of his career.
RB Tashard Choice: Another player brought in largely due to his familiarity with Gailey, Choice had his moments as the Bills' third running back last season, but has largely been ineffective and infrequently used backing up C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
FB Corey McIntyre: One of the team's best special teams players, the 34-year-old McIntyre didn't play much in Gailey's offense - but with Gailey's offense out, could the door possibly be open for more fullback play?
WR Ruvell Martin: Another core special teams player last season, the veteran receiver only stepped into the offensive lineup when injuries struck in-game - and when he did, Buffalo's offense almost always took a step back.
OG Chad Rinehart: A spot starter along a seemingly constantly banged up Bills offensive line for parts of the last two years, Rinehart isn't the best athlete nor the best blocker, but he's tough, consistent and a proven quality reserve.
DE Kyle Moore: With reports already surfacing that the Bills want to re-sign Moore, he may be atop the team's list of the non-Byrd and Levitre free agents. The 26-year-old defensive end was a surprisingly solid pass rushing contributor in 2012, finishing with the first three sacks of his career.
DE Shawne Merriman: He didn't make the team last August, but was brought back mid-season as an injury replacement and played a rotational role as a defensive end. 29 in May, it's clear at this point that Merriman won't be returning to his old form.
DT Spencer Johnson: Signed to a five-year contract in 2008 (he was acquired the same week as Marcus Stroud), Johnson has been a rotational tackle for the Bills since that time, occasionally making some nice plays but routinely not standing out on a consistently bad defense.
LB Bryan Scott: Scott has been in Buffalo since 2007, and has been the team's de facto nickel linebacker for the past two-plus seasons. He's got a knack for coming up with turnovers, but was also a pass game liability in 2012 than in years past, and clearly puts the run defense at a disadvantage.
LB Kirk Morrison: The veteran linebacker spent most of 2012 on the inactive list before getting cut, then re-signing to play special teams over the last two games.
CB Leodis McKelvin: One of the league's elite punt returners (he has three touchdowns in a 12-game window for Buffalo, and didn't even appear in all of those contests), the 2008 first-round pick is nonetheless an inconsistent corner that has been incapable of holding down a prominent role in Buffalo's defensive backfield of late.