At their year-end press conference, Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and head coach Rex Ryan hinted that the team would not be overly active in free agency during the 2016 NFL offseason. In an appearance on The John Murphy Show this past week, Whaley reiterated that idea, saying that he'd like the Bills to emulate more conservative, more successful organizations in that regard.
"That's where we’re trying to get to. That's where we think consistent, competitive teams get, where they're drafting so well their major focus is signing their guys," Whaley told Murphy. "One of the organizations you look at is Green Bay. They're very rarely a player in the free agent market. They'll make a Julius Peppers splash once in a while, but most of the time, they're signing their own guys. That's where we want to get to, because you always know your guys better than you know someone else's."
Of the Bills' 2016 free agents, 26-year-old left tackle Cordy Glenn, a four-year starter as a former second-round pick out of Georgia, is expected to be the most difficult to re-sign. Given an opportunity to say that Glenn's position has been devalued at all in today's NFL, Whaley talked up the importance of the left tackle.
"Other positions have evened out, even on the line," Whaley opined. "With the way defenses are now, you used to have the left tackle going against the most dominant pass rusher. Nowadays, there's pass rushers on both sides. If you look at us, we have Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams on both sides. So the right tackles are starting to creep up there, but left tackles are still at a premium."
This may all sound like a severe departure from last offseason, when the Bills imported veteran players like Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay, and Richie Incognito before the draft. All five of those players had significant roles when healthy (and two of them signed big-money deals), but Whaley chalked that up to the Bills needing a specific set of players to run offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system in 2015.
"Offense is a little more specific in what they need, because Greg Roman has a system, and it's obviously worked wonders. On the defensive side of the ball, Rex says 'Give me the best player, and I'll make him play,'" Whaley said. "And not that G-Ro wasn't. We had a lot more pieces on the defensive side, so (Rex) was like, ‘Let’s just get an impact player.’ Offensive side, we needed to be a little more specific."
Ironically, the Bills are expected to take the opposite approach this offseason, letting their offensive personnel gel for another season while shaking things up a bit on the defensive side of the ball. If Whaley is to be believed, however, they'll do most of that work in the 2016 NFL Draft later this spring.