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4 potential Buffalo Bills free agent replacements for cornerback E.J. Gaines

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Many think Gaines doesn’t want to remain in Buffalo; should Buffalo try to keep him anyway?

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Cornerback E.J. Gaines turned out to a pleasant surprise for the Buffalo Bills last season, his first with the team after coming over to the Bills in the Sammy Watkins deal last summer with the Los Angeles Rams. At the time, many didn’t quite know what to expect from the former sixth-round pick, who had to battle in the preseason just for the right to start, but he overcame and wound up turning in a solid campaign.

There are injury concerns with Gaines - he missed five games in 2017 and five the year prior as well - but when he was healthy, he gave the Bills a pretty good 1-2 punch at the cornerback spot along with Tre’Davious White. Unfortunately for Bills fans and apparently his teammates, a post on Instagram from Gaines himself appears to indicate that he has already made the decision to move on from the Bills.

Nonetheless, here’s a look at Gaines and how he compares to four other potential free agent cornerbacks.

Gaines, 25, UFA
2017 stats: 59 tackles, 1 interception, 9 passes defended
Spotrac Market Value: four years, $37,467,628/$9,366,907 average annually
Pro Football Focus CB Ranking: No. 13

Other Pending CB Free Agents

Malcolm Butler, 27, New England Patriots UFA

The hero of Super Bowl XLIX, Butler has pretty much started every game since then for the Patriots, except for of course in the biggest game of last season for some strange reason....

The only one of the players listed here to have made an All-Pro team, Butler is expected to cash in more than any of his fellow corners this offseason.

2017 stats: 60 tackles, 2 interception, 12 passes defended
Spotrac Market Value: five years, $65,036,065/$13,007,213 average annually
Pro Football Focus LB Ranking: No. 51

Trumaine Johnson, 28, Los Angeles Rams UFA

A former teammate of Gaines’ with the Rams, Johnson has been regarded as one of the better corners for sometime now. Unlike Gaines, Johnson brings height to the position, measuring in at six-foot-two. And as an indication of the value he brings, look no further than the Rams applying the franchise tag twice on Johnson.

2017 stats: 65 tackles, 2 interception, 14 passes defended
Spotrac Market Value: five years, $55,311,605/$11,062,321 average annually
Pro Football Focus LB Ranking: No. 68

Bashaud Breeland, 26, Washington Redskins UFA

Prior to Josh Norman arriving, Breeland arguably held the the title of being the Redskins’ best cornerback. Going up against the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants), Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys), Alshon Jeffery (Philadelphia Eagles) over the years, Breeland has certainly squared off against some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and for the most part, has held his own.

2017 stats: 50 tackles, 1 interception, 19 passes defended
Spotrac Market Value: five years, $34,922,732/$6,984,546 average annually
Pro Football Focus CB Ranking: No. 54

Vontae Davis, 29, Indianapolis Colts UFA (available now)

Davis is available now, even before the new league year starts since he was released in November by the Colts. Davis visited the Bills but left without a contract last week. He played through injuries and his talent is there, but there’s also a reason he sat on the shelf for the last month of the season without signing with an NFL team.

2017 stats: 31 tackles, 2 passes defended in five games
Pro Football Focus CB ranking: No. 103

My Take

Gaines is a fine player, but his surprisingly high projected market value accompanied by his inability to stay healthy turns me off. Butler, Johnson, and Breeland are all good replacements for Gaines, with Butler and Johnson almost certainly providing the Bills with an upgrade at the position.