The Buffalo Bills face a major challenge in free agency this year. They lead the league with 24 pending free agents, and while the team is estimated to have around $31 million in cap space, potentially big-ticket names like Lorenzo Alexander, Zach Brown, Robert Woods, and Stephon Gilmore will command enough salary to limit their ability to bring everyone back.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the two most significant names on that list: Gilmore and Woods. If the Bills keep one, they probably aren’t keeping the other. If you were the general manager, who would you re-sign?
Woods was a second round draft pick from Buffalo’s 2013 rookie class. He’s been the team’s number two wide receiver during his career thus far, putting up fairly pedestrian numbers (in an admittedly pedestrian passing offense).
Dealing with injuries this year, he collected 51 receptions for 613 yards and a touchdown. For his career, he has three games of over 100 receiving yards. Woods is best known for his ferocious blocking, but he’s also physical at the catch point and runs hard after the catch. He doesn’t have the speed to break a game open, and his production doesn’t suggest a high-value receiver, but there’s the possibility that he could improve on his stats later in his career. Or he may never eclipse 700 receiving yards.
A first round pick from the 2012 draft, Gilmore has started just about every game at cornerback for Buffalo, aside from brief injury stints. His reputation has bounced back and forth between the next up-and-coming star cornerback and a mistake-prone player who gives up too many big plays.
Gilmore’s raw statistics are more impressive than Woods. He arguably had a career year this season, hauling in five interceptions. His 14 career interceptions and 62 passes defended during the first five years of his career puts him in company with well-regarded names like Charles Tillman, Brandon Carr, Terrence McGee, and Janoris Jenkins.
While Gilmore had a strong finish to the season, he started out the year on an awful pace, routinely getting beaten for deep passes. Was the scheme and lack of safety talent an issue, or was he just not performing well enough at his craft?
You make the call
If you’re the Buffalo Bills and you only have enough cap space to retain one of these players, which do you pick? Consider:
The Bills’ depth at both positions is currently abysmal. At wide receiver, the only players under contract are Sammy Watkins, Kolby Listenbee, and Walter Powell. At cornerback, it’s Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Kevon Seymour. If you don’t re-sign one of these players, you’re either elevating one of those guys, or you’re counting on a cheaper free agent or a rookie draft pick to start.
Gilmore would cost an extra $4-5 million per year for his contract, which could take up some crucial cap room. On the other hand, it’s much more difficult to find a cromulent cornerback than a wide receiver in today’s NFL.