Now that the offseason is upon us, it is an opportune time to reflect on how the newcomers the Buffalo Bills brought in as free agents performed this season. Several free agents played a big role in the team finally ending its 17-year playoff drought, some performed moderately, while others were complete duds.
Either way, we’re going to look at them all and evaluate their respective 2017 campaigns. The players being evaluated were either brought in by the Bills as free agents last offseason or sometime during the regular season, and finished the season on the active roster. Only new players were evaluated; not guys who re-signed.
For this evaluation, the players have been separated into tiers based on the level of impact they each respectively had on the team. Here’s how the Bills free agent performed in 2017:
Micah Hyde, safety
A lot of was made about the money the Bills reportedly shelled out for Hyde’s contract, but man, it’s pretty hard to argue that he didn’t make good on his billing. The ball-hawking Hyde, who finished tied for fifth in the league in interceptions, was named a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career and was named second team All-Pro. He notched career-highs virtually across the board while starting all 16 games for the first time in his career.
Jordan Poyer, safety
Sticking with contracts, it’s no secret that the Bills are fortunate to have signed Poyer for the amount they did (though some complained at the time). Poyer, whose stats this season are almost identical to Hyde’s, was a huge Pro Bowl snub.
Stephen Hauschka, kicker
Hauschka, or Hauschmoney as some of Bills Mafia likes to call him, was exactly that this season. The 10-year veteran etched his name into the NFL record books this season for the most consecutive successful field goal attempts over 50 yards. And let’s be honest, with the ineptitude of the offense, how different might the Bills season have looked had Hauschka not been at the top of his game?
Deonte Thompson, wide receiver
The Bills were able to sway Thompson into signing with them after being released by the Chicago Bears instead of possibly the New England Patriots, and boy, what a gem did he turn out to be for them. Thompson played in just 11 games, starting seven of these, but still finished the season with more receiving yards than any other Bills wide receiver. He also came up HUGE for the Bills in Blizzard Bowl against the colts.
Leonard Johnson and Shareece Wright, cornerbacks
While not heralded as much as some of his peers on a very good Bills secondary, Johnson and Wright undoubtedly had solid campaigns, respectively. Each started a handful of games for the Bills and helped to maintain the unit’s standard of play
Ryan Davis and Eddie Yarbrough, defensive ends
Both were guys nobody knew much about coming into the season, but both undoubtedly changed this fact with their play. Davis, who hasn’t started a game in his six seasons, still finished his 2017 with 3.0 sacks. While on the other hand, Yarbrough, who played his way into the league in 2017 after spending time in the CFL, finished second in tackles among the Bills defensive lineman. Yarbrough also started in six games.
Vladimir Ducasse, offensive guard
Back in the summer there were legitimate sentiments from Rumblings staffers as well other media that Ducasse might not make the Bills 53-man roster. While Ducasse’s play in 2017 still might not have satisfied some folks - though, most of these sorts of people were not thrilled about him joining the Bills in the first place - he started every game after Week 4.
Joe Webb, quarterback
A case could probably be made that the Bills might not have made the postseason if it were not for Webb’s heroics. Yes, you read that correctly. Had Webb not come through for the Bills when they were without injured pivots Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman during the Blizzard Bowl, Buffalo’s playoff drought would have stretched to 18 years! But other than that single moment, Webb did nothing else of consequence this season on offense but played a ton of special teams snaps.
Mike Tolbert, fullback
Many were confused by the Bills signing two starting-caliber fullbacks ahead of the season (more on this in a bit), but nonetheless reasonably expected good things out of Tolbert. The veteran of 10 seasons didn’t have an absolutely terrible year but he didn’t have a particularly good one either, despite the fact that for some reason that he was oddly named an alternate for the AFC’s Pro Bowl squad. For much of the year Tolbert operated as LeSean McCoy’s primary backup, which is really not suited his game at all, especially at into his 30’s.
Patrick DiMarco, fullback
The second half of the Bills questionable heavy off-season emphasis on the fullback position, DiMarco certainly failed to deliver some of what made him stand out during his years with the Atlanta Falcons. DiMarco, who made plays in the receiving game with the Falcons, posted his lowest yardage total (28) since his rookie season. He also failed to haul in at least one touchdown for the first time in four seasons.
Andre Holmes, wide receiver
Again, the Bills offense was awful in 2017, particular in the passing game. Holmes had just 120 yards on 13 receptions, but those numbers are pretty much identical to the numbers he had in 2016 playing with Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders. In fact, Holmes stats this season are right on par with the ones he’s put up the past three years, so take that how you will. He did have catch three touchdowns, though, which pathetically was more than any other Bill.
Guys who didn’t play enough to be judged
Travaris Cadet, running back
Flashed a bit of playmaking ability in both the running game and passing game, but just didn’t get much touches. A real shame his gruesome ankle injury ended his season prematurely.
Marcus Murphy, running back
Late season signing that impressed in the Bills key Week 17 win, in which McCoy was carted off with an injury. Would have like to have seen him get some touches in the playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Taiwan Jones, running back
Got hurt halfway through the season. No rushes, just one reception on the year. Mostly used to fill out the special teams unit.
Lafayette Pitts, cornerback
Middle of the season signing who couldn’t find much snaps on a very good Bills secondary.
Shamarko Thomas, safety
Another guy who we never got a good look at because of how the Bills DBs were.