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NFL free agency 2014: Buffalo Bills sign Brandon Spikes

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly roped in a new linebacker, and you'll recognize the name: Brandon Spikes, formerly of New England.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Spikes was a surprise free agent visitor with the Buffalo Bills on Friday, and now he's agreed to become the team's new middle linebacker, according to a report from John Wawrow of The Associated Press.

Wawrow reports that it's a one-year deal, with ESPN's Adam Schefter chiming in that Spikes will be paid $3.25 million in 2014. The Bills confirmed the signing late Friday night.

Spikes, 26, developed into one of the NFL's better run-stopping inside linebackers in his four seasons with the New England Patriots. His run with the Pats ended in turmoil, however, after he was placed on Injured Reserve prior to the playoffs as more of a disciplinary measure following several run-ins with head coach Bill Belichick.

On the field, Spikes is exactly what the Bills need at middle linebacker, particularly on a team that has struggled to stop the run in recent seasons. He'll likely be a run-down only linebacker for the Bills, settling between Kiko Alonso (weak side) and fellow free agent signee Keith Rivers (strong side) in Jim Schwartz's base 4-3 packages. Alonso will remain the team's three-down back of choice, but the team believes Rivers has some utility on passing downs, as well.

Off the field, Spikes must answer not only the questions that led to his exodus from New England, but assimilate to a team that he's had some issues with in the past. In particular, he was fined $21,000 for a blow to the head of Scott Chandler in Week 4 of the 2012 season.

The Bills protect themselves from Spikes' off-field concerns with an affordable one-year deal, and his salary is in the right wheelhouse for a likely two-down player. Buffalo made a big stride in the right direction on the field tonight; here's hoping that they don't take a step back off it.