The Buffalo Bills need to upgrade their offensive line, there’s no doubt about that. The unit was poor across the board last season. Buffalo’s running backs accounted for only 1,237 yards on 350 carries, a paltry 3.53 yards per carry. Whenever the team needed yards up the middle, it seemed like they never saw the requisite push needed.
Russell Bodine, Buffalo’s newly-acquired center, played in only ten of the team’s games this season. He left that tenth game with a fractured fibula, thus ending his season early. Pro Football Focus graded Bodine at a 61.6 for the season, which placed him 18th among all centers in the league. While Bodine may sit squarely in “average” territory, that doesn’t mean that the team can’t look to upgrade the position.
Cutting Bodine would save the Bills $2.3 million, as they are only committed to him for a guaranteed number of $500,000 in 2019. Believe it or not, Bodine is set to be Buffalo’s highest-paid offensive lineman next season, as his $2.8 million cap number is just ahead of Vladimir Ducasse, who checks in a touch over $2 million.
If the Bills were to part ways with the 26-year old center, they would be able to find at least a few solid options via the free-agent market. While one stands out above the rest, there are multiple possibilities if the Bills choose to go in a different direction at the pivot.
The top option is the 29-year-old Paradis, who played for the Denver Broncos this season. A sixth-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2014, he has developed into one of the league’s top centers. PFF graded him at a 79 this year, the second-best grade of any center in the league. Like Bodine, Paradis had his season cut short due to a broken leg, as he was placed on injured reserve following Denver’s ninth game.
Paradis was only penalized twice in 2018—both holding calls—and he was only flagged once in 16 games during the 2017 season. Those three penalties in 25 games represent the same number for which Bodine was called in ten games last season with Buffalo. Neither player allowed a sack this past year, but Bodine has allowed 11 over his career. Paradis has only allowed four—none since 2016.
If the Bills are going to upgrade at center, this is the guy to sign. However, he will most likely be in pretty high demand, so general manager Brandon Beane will have to decide whether he wants to spend free agent dollars on the position for the second consecutive off-season.
The pivot-man on the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line is the youngest of our three top targets at 26 years old. He is coming off a solid season in a high-flying offense—PFF graded him at 69.5, 13th among centers—and he has started 49 games over the last four seasons at center. Morse is gigantic for a center, standing at 6’6” inches tall. He committed four penalties this season (three holds and a false start), and he did not allow a sack.
Due to his youth and success in the league, Morse could also command a contract that is a bit out of range for Beane and company to swallow. If the team is really serious about protecting quarterback Josh Allen, which it had better be if they want to succeed, then they will need to invest in the trenches. A sound center can fix a lot of ills, and Morse could be the first piece to that puzzle.
Fulfilling our requirement to speculate on players currently employed by the Carolina Panthers brings us to Kalil, a solid veteran who is probably nearing the end of his career. At 34 years of age, Buffalo would have to think that he has at least one or two more years left to make this worthwhile. For Kalil, he’d have to think one of two things: either Buffalo is close to competing, or he wants to be somewhere comfortable thanks to his familiarity with head coach Sean McDermott and Beane from their shared time in Carolina.
Kalil graded out at 63.6, according to PFF, which was right in the middle of the league’s centers in 2018. He started all 16 games this season, something he had not done since the 2014 campaign. Kalil allowed one sack on the season and was only called for two penalties. He has been with the Panthers since he entered the league in 2007 and announced prior to Week 1 that he was retiring after the 2018 season.
Which free agent should the Bills sign at center this offseason?
This poll is closed
Other (state in comments)
None; keep Russell Bodine