I’ve never asked him, but I’d bet this is the portion of NFL free agency Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley loves. After years in the pro personnel department with the Steelers, he spent the first few years of his time with the Bills running the same department, and over the years, he’s made many of shrewd moves on the free agent, waiver, and trade markets.
Right now, the Bills have a plethora of holes on their roster. There aren’t many big-ticket items available, but here are the list of free agents still out there. Remember, just about all of these players will come at a great, low price.
(Bills UFAs in italics)
Brian Quick, Marquess Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Michael Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Jordan Norwood, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter
Far from being a group loaded with dynamic playmakers, it’d be a stretch to label any of these wideouts as legitimate No. 2 receivers. Floyd is probably the most intriguing, given his size and past production. However, he may have a suspension coming after his DUI arrest last year. Quick has Floyd-esque height, is a former Round 2 pick, played in all 16 games as the Rams’ second-best wideout in 2016. Boldin and Jackson are household names yet well past their prime. Patterson is interesting because he was miscast in Norv Turner’s vertical passing attack and, on paper, would be a better fit in a (Rick Dennison-like) West Coast Offense that’d accentuate his impressive athleticism and yards-after-the-catch abilities.
Jared Cook, Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo, Chris Gragg
Cook is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the NFL and was rumored to be a Bills’ target soon after the start of free agency. Tamme is a well-rounded H-back type who doesn’t threaten defenses in a major way. Toilolo will only be 26 in July, flashed in 2016 and is 6’8” and 265 pounds. At best though, he’s an average No. 2 tight end.
Dont’a Hightower, Perry Riley, Gerald Hodges, Kevin Minter, Zach Brown
Hightower is likely to return to the Patriots, yet it’s strange he’s still on the market. Riley is the elder statesman of this linebacker collection and was having a fine year in Oakland before suffering an injury. Hodges fits the McDermott athleticism profile for the linebacker spot. He sat idle — for some, unknown reason — in San Francisco a year ago. Minter is more of a thumping 3-4 inside linebacker. The Bills could be interested though. He appeared in 48 straight games for the Cardinals.
William Beatty, Ryan Clady, Breno Giacomini, Andre Smith
Probably the least-encouraging of free agents available in which the Bills could be interested. Smith and Clady are very talented but 30+ and are coming off injuries a season ago.
Dwight Freeney, DeMarcus Ware, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Jones, Alex Okafor, Trent Cole, Ryan Davis
The defensive end market has dried up, especially if you’re looking for youth. The big names on this list who’ve been around seemingly forever likely aren’t looking to join the Bills, but Buffalo could have some interest. The most intriguing members here are Jones — a former first-round pick who finally pieced together a respectable season in 2016 -- and Davis — a former UDFA who flourished in limited time in Jacksonville but didn’t register a sack in nine games with Dallas in 2016.
Morris Claiborne, Terence Newman, Darius Butler, Leon Hall, Alterraun Verner, Brandon Carr, Shareece Wright, Marcus Williams, Teddy Wiliams, Nickell Robey-Coleman
There are solid starters among the list of available free-agent cornerbacks. Morris Claiborne is a former Top 10 pick who struggled early in his career yet had a fantastic 2016 with the Cowboys. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that Newman is nearly 40. He was one of best cornerbacks in all of football last year. Butler, Hall, and Carr are all moderately reliable veteran corners too. Verner flopped in Tampa Bay based on the sizable deal the Buccaneers handed him in free agency a while back, but he had a decent 2016 and has experience with Bills’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Lardarius Webb, Bradley McDougald, Jairus Byrd, T.J. McDonald, Daimion Stafford, Rafael Bush, Aaron Williams, Corey Graham
Capable starters here too. Webb thrived in his move from cornerback to safety and has ties to Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. McDougald is the best all-around investment of this group, as he’s not yet 27 years old and doesn’t have a huge hole in his game. Byrd’s strong (and healthy) 2016 was overshadowed by the fact he was a free-agent disappointment in New Orleans.