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NFL cuts tracker: Who could draw interest from Bills?

Tracking the released players in which the Bills could (or should?) be interested.

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NFL cuts are here, and there’ll be plenty of suddenly “street” free agents who’d make sense with the Buffalo Bills. We’ll be updating below.

Patrick Lewis, C, Seahawks

Update: Signed with Bills

[while brushing off shoulders] don’t like bragging... buuuut we kinda called it.

The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the Seahawks have waived Lewis after attempts to trade him.

Why the Bills could be interested

As we mentioned below, the Bills are lacking depth at center behind Eric Wood, with just Fernando Velasco behind him. Injuries have been frequent this offseason so it would be prudent that the Bills have a few options in case the sky, does in fact, begin to fall.

In 2014, the Seahawks Pro Bowl starting center Max Unger went down with an injury and Lewis, a former undrafted free agent, was there to fill in, starting 4 games. Those 4 games were not enough to convince the Seahawks though, and Drew Novak was named the starter prior to the 2015 season. Lewis eventually earned his starting spot back after week 9 and kept that spot until the end of the Seahawks’ playoff run.

While Pro Football Focus gave him below average grades during his last two seasons, Lewis is only 25 years old and has 13 NFL starts under his belt. That youth and experience could be beneficial in backing up Eric Wood.

David Cobb, RB, Titans

Jim Wyatt of Titans Online reported the news of Cobb’s release:

Why the Bills could be interested

I remember studying Cobb while he was at Minnesota during NFL Draft season a year ago, and the offense he found himself in during his time with the Golden Gophers was strikingly similar to Greg Roman’s power-run, play-action heavy attack — lots of pulling guards, lead-blockers, and jumbo formations. In his final two years in college, he ran for 2,831 yards at 5.15 yards per rush and scored 20 touchdowns.

Last year, he averaged a paltry 2.8 yards per carry in Tennessee on just 52 carries. But he’s a 5’11”, 230-pound bulldozing runner, ideally suited for an old-school, smash-mouth ground game. No, the Bills don’t need a back right now, but with Mike Gillislee nursing a concussion, and Jonathan Williams dealing with a minor rib injury, Buffalo could be in the market to add depth to its backfield.

John Sullivan, C, Vikings

USA Today’s Tom Pelissero tweeted the news of Sullivan’s release:

Why the Bills could be interested

MRW mentioned last night that the Bills need center depth. MRW is a smart man — they do. Eric Wood is entrenched as the offensive line’s pivot, and he reestablished himself as one of the NFL’s best centers last season.

Behind him though... ehhhh. Fernando Velasco, presumably Buffalo’s “swing” interior offensive linemen, has been decent at best this preseason. Sullivan was named a Pro Football Focus All-Pro in 2012 and remained one of the highest-graded centers for PFF through the 2014 campaign.

Before his 2015 injury that cost him the entire season, he was a pillar of durability, having started 77 of 80 possible regular season games in Minnesota including 48 straight from 2012 to 2014. Sullivan was a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2008. There are certainly other teams that need him more than the Bills do, but Buffalo could be interested to bringing him in for insurance purposes.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, Chargers

Rand Getlin of NFL Media first reported the news of the veteran quarterback being cut in San Diego:

Why the Bills could be interested

There’s an enormous disparity in size and athleticism when comparing Mettenberger to Tyrod Taylor as well as EJ Manuel to a certain degree. That doesn’t mean the Bills won’t show some interest in the former LSU standout.

In 2014, as the Titans’ spot starter during the middle of the season, Mettenberger posted a 127.9 QB rating on play-action passes, which are a foundational element to Buffalo’s passing attack. He also completed 50 percent of his tosses over 20 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, per PFF. Both those stats should be music to the ears of Greg Roman. Mettenberger won’t move much in the pocket and has little-to-no scrambling ability.

If Cardale Jones has to be away from the team for a while with his undisclosed family issue, there’s a distinct possibility the Bills would be more intrigued by Mettenberger than Austin Trainor.

James Jones, WR, Chargers

On August 29, Annie Heilbrunn broke the news about Jones:

Why the Bills could be interested

We all know Jones from his time with the Packers, yet he was signed by the Chargers less than a month ago after the team lost Stevie Johnson to a knee injury. Failing to make that roster is telling. However, the now 33-year-old receiver averaged 17.8 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns last season. Yes, he was catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, but 2015 was easily the least-efficient of his career under center in Green Bay.

This summer, Rex has maintained that after Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, no receiver has separated himself — he clearly hasn’t seen #TheSummerOfWaltPowell hashtag — and has hinted at liking what a bigger receiver can do for an offense in the red zone.

Jones is only 6’1” and 200 pounds, but he has excelled in traffic his entire career and has scored 31 touchdowns over the last four seasons. Those two things are likely how and why he’s been able to stick around for so long. Whaley seems to prefer top-end speed at receiver — maybe learned from his days with the Steelers? — which wouldn’t help Jones’ chances to land in Buffalo. If the Bills really haven’t been impressed with the challengers for the WR3 and WR4 spots, bringing in Jones for a visit could be a logical decision.

Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Jaguars

Tom Pelissero of USA Today was first to report Werner being released:

Why the Bills could be interested

Werner was a first-round pick by the Colts in 2013, and never really amounted to anything in Indianapolis. So the Bills wouldn’t necessarily be interested based on much of anything he’s done on the field thus far in the NFL career.

However, Doug Whaley does have an affinity for former Round 1 picks and prospects from Florida State, and Werner checks both boxes.

At 6’3” and 255 pounds without much edge-bending ability, he’s best suited for spot at end in a 4-3 but could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 or even as an edge-setter in the 4-3 under Rex frequently uses. Werner is nothing more than a rotational player at this point, but that’s what Buffalo could be interested at this juncture.

Paul Kruger, OLB, Browns

UPDATE: Signed with Saints

Kruger tweeted a (hilarious) goodbye to the Browns organization and fans this morning:

Why the Bills could be interested

At 6’4” and 263 pounds, the 30-year-old Kruger has prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker size, and Rex definitely has a “type” at each defensive position. Beyond that, Buffalo’s edge-rusher group isn’t incredibly deep right now.

A second-round pick by the Ravens in 2009, Kruger parlayed a nine-sack 2012 into a huge payday with the Browns the following March. He had 11.5 sacks in his first year with Cleveland, and Pro Football Focus wrote this about his 2015 campaign: “Kruger performed adequately as a pass-rusher in 2015, finishing with a 78.3 overall grade. He recorded a high number of pressures (43), but managed only 11 knockdowns only three of which were sacks.”

Terrance Knighton, DT, Patriots

Like Kruger, Knighton made his release known on Twitter:

Why the Bills could be interested

Obviously, if Knighton — a former third-round pick out of Temple — was playing up to the level we’ve seen from him in the past, New England wouldn’t have cut him. But he’s just 30 years old and was an absolute terror for the Broncos in 2013 and 2014. We didn’t hear much about Pot Roast last year, as he was minimally productive in Washington.

He’s 6’3” and likely somewhere in the 330-345 range, so he’s undoubtedly fill Buffalo’s need for a true nose tackle.

Pro Football Focus wrote this about him in a pre-free agency article that suggested Washington re-sign him in 2016: “While Knighton failed to standout as Washington’s nose tackle in 2015, he made a solid contribution. As a two-down run defender, he finished with a respectable 76.9 overall grade, recording 18 defensive stops. Considering Knighton played only 38 percent of snaps, his production was respectable.”

Having spent an entire summer in New England with the Patriots would be a bonus for the Bills if they brought him in.

Quinton Coples, DT, Rams

Rand Getlin reported Coples’ release on Twitter:

Why the Bills could be interested

Buffalo already made one attempt to claim Coples, when he was placed on the waiver wire by the Jets last season. Miami claimed him before Buffalo’s chance came up, but he played out the remaining six games of the season as a benchwarmer.

Coples had three solid seasons of productivity in the Ryan defense from 2012 until 2014, picking up 16.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles during that time. He never really took a step forward as a pass rusher, and fell out of favor with Todd Bowles’ coaching staff. Coples attempted to bulk up and play defensive tackle when he joined the Rams this season, but was pushed out by the embarrassment of riches at that position in Los Angeles. (honestly, how did the other 31 GMs allow Dominique Easley to end up there?)

At 6’6” and 280-290 pounds, Coples fits Buffalo’s prototype of an edge setting defensive lineman with the ability to bring some heat against the quarterback. While Marcell Dareus is out with a suspension, there are much worse candidates to have on the roster than Coples.

Matthew Mulligan, TE, Lions

Why the Bills could be interested

There were a few former Bills released today, but this one is worth keeping an eye on.

The injury to Chris Gragg created a vacuum at the tight end position behind Charles Clay. There is one possibility to fill the void already on the roster, but it’s not a stretch to think that Rex would rather have a more experienced tight end on the 53, especially one who wouldn’t be starting from scratch in a unique offensive system.

That player became available when the Lions let Mulligan walk out the door. The seventh-year tight end appeared in 12 games for the Bills last season, starting five. His hands were far from reliable, but he showed plenty of skills as a blocker. He was released in favor of bringing Nick O’Leary up from the practice squad for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear. While the fact that he was already cut by the team once makes it less than likely that they’ll bring him back, there’s probably not a better option for tight end depth that would be up to speed as quickly as Mulligan would.