The Buffalo Bills are coming off a successful season where the team posted a 9-7 record and snapped its 17-year playoff drought, qualifying as the No. 6 seed in the AFC before falling 10-3 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Heading into Year 2 of the Brandon Beane/Sean McDermott era in Western New York, the Bills enter free agency with 22 players who are classified as free agents in one capacity or another.
The biggest names on the list are linebacker Preston Brown (25 years old), cornerback E.J. Gaines (25), wide receiver Jordan Matthews (25), and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (34).
Of Buffalo’s 22 free agents, 16 are unrestricted free agents (UFA), three are restricted free agents (RFA), and three are exclusive restricted free agents (ERFA).
Unrestricted free agents can either re-sign with their current club, or can test out free agency, while restricted free agents can negotiate with other teams but their current team can match any contract. Unlike restricted free agents, ERFA’s cannot negotiate a contract with another team once the tender is applied.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
- Preston Brown (LB): led the team with 144 tackles (84 solo), with many occurring down field. Logged seven games with 10+ tackles, including 15 combined stops during Week 16 loss to Patriots.
- Travaris Cadet (RB): Rushed for 93 yards (avg. 4.2 yards per carry) with 93 receiving yards on 13 catches.
- E.J. Gaines (CB): Compiled 59 tackles (48 solo) with one interception while battling injuries. The Bills went 8-4 in games where Gaines played. Gaines also forced three fumbles.
- Seantrel Henderson (RT): Appeared in seven of Buffalo’s last eight games on special teams after starting the year on the reserve/suspended list.
- Ramon Humber (OLB): Started the year as Buffalo’s weakside linebacker. Finished third in total tackles (89) and added one sack in the Week 17 win over the Dolphins.
- Leonard Johnson (CB): Appeared in 16 games, recording 52 tackles with two forced fumbles. Best game came in the Wild Card round, forcing a fumble and adding a sack.
- Taiwan Jones (RB/special teams): Appeared in nine games, catching one pass for 11 yards and adding two kickoff returns for 50 yards. Suffered a broken arm in Week 9 vs. the Jets.
- Jordan Matthews (WR): After being acquired via trade in August, hauled in 25 passes for 282 yards, an average of 11.3 yards per catch. Scored first touchdown with the Bills in Week 4 win over Falcons. Had a season-long 47-yard catch in Week 1 win vs. Jets. Season ended with a knee injury.
- Brandon Tate (WR/special teams): Served as Buffalo’s top return man, averaging 19.6 yards on 28 kickoff returns, and 9.7 yards on 20 punt returns, including a 40-yard run back vs. the Bengals.
- Shamarko Thomas (SS): Appeared in nine games, making nine total tackles while also contributing on special teams.
- Deonte Thompson (WR): After being released by the Chicago Bears in Week 5, came to the Bills and caught 27 passes for 430 yards and one touchdown. Made an instant impact in Buffalo debut with four catches for 107 yards in win over Tampa Bay. Ranked third on the team for both receptions and receiving yards. His 34-yard reception in overtime vs. the Colts set up LeSean McCoy’s walkoff TD run.
- Cedric Thornton (DT): Appeared in 15 games (three starts), recording 27 total tackles (nine solo) with two sacks.
- Mike Tolbert (FB): Rushed 66 times for 247 yards (3.7 yards per carry) with a long of 25 yards and one rushing touchdown. Added 14 catches for 78 yards. Was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
- Joe Webb (QB/special teams): Valuable special teams contributor finished with eight tackles (four solo). Was pressed into quarterbacking duties during the Week 14 Snowvertime win over the Colts and, after throwing a fourth-quarter interception, set up McCoy’s eventual game-winning touchdown with a 34-yard strike to Thompson.
- Kyle Williams (DT): Heart and soul of the defense appeared in and started all 17 games, finishing with 41 total tackles (21 solo) and three sacks. Helped the Bills qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 17 years after scoring a one-yard rushing touchdown in Week 17 win over the Dolphins. A team captain, Williams was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl in what could be his final season in Western New York.
- Shareece Wright (CB): Appeared in 12 games, making five starts while logging 44 total tackles (37 solo) with one interception and one forced fumble.
Restricted Free Agents
- Jeremy Butler (WR): Suffered a concussion early in the preseason and was placed on Buffalo’s injured reserve. Did not appear in any regular season games.
- Nick O’Leary (TE): Grandson of Jack Nicklaus caught 22 passes for 322 yards, averaging 14.6 yards per catch with two receiving touchdowns. Appeared in 15 games, making five starts while ranking fifth on the team in receiving yards and sixth in catches. Best game came vs. Cincinnati when he caught five passes for 54 yards after Charles Clay went down with a knee injury.
- Logan Thomas (TE): Appeared in 12 games (two starts) while catching seven passes for 67 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in Buffalo’s Week 7 win over the Buccaneers.
Exclusive Restricted Free Agents
- Karim Barton (G): Did not play for the Buffalo Bills in 2017 after signing as a free agent in July.
- Lafayette Pitts (CB): Appeared in 10 games, making eight total tackles (seven solo).
- Eddie Yarbrough (DE): After a standout preseason, recorded 34 tackles (23 solo) with one sack while making 16 appearances (six starts).