It had long been expected that the Buffalo Bills would lose more than they would gain in 2016 NFL free agency, and that has certainly proven to be the case: they've parted ways with or lost eight players thus far, while signing only one free agent of their own.
Which of the eight players the Bills have lost this offseason will prove the hardest to replace, purely from a playing-time perspective? It's an interesting angle in the discussion of team needs, and many of the players that have moved on from Buffalo played significant roles for the team in 2015. Let's run through them.
Nigel Bradham (66.5 snaps per game)
Rex Ryan's defense uses two linebackers on an every-down basis. Bradham's departure to Philadelphia leaves the Bills with a need to add an every-down player, unless they have an unusual workaround in mind.
Today's role-filler: Then-rookie A.J. Tarpley logged the most playing time among Bills reserves last season, with most of his 84 snaps coming in the final two games.
Mario Williams (59.1 snaps per game)
The Bills obviously played their highest-paid edge defender as much as they could throughout his four-year stay in Buffalo. A platoon could replace him, but just like at linebacker, that'd be difficult (and less than ideal) to pull off.
Today's role-filler: When the Bills subbed in a pass rusher in 2015, the man coming off the bench was IK Enemkpali.
Leodis McKelvin (43.1 snaps per game)
When he returned from injury, McKelvin immediately assumed a large role, whether he was pinch-hitting at safety or subbing in at corner due to injury. That type of versatile depth might be hard to replace.
Today's role-filler: The Bills' defensive coaches like Mario Butler as a reserve, and he's the type of athlete that could straddle the line between corner and safety.
Chris Hogan (38.3 snaps per game)
He may have played far less without an injury in front of him; regardless, Hogan held down a fairly significant part-time role in the Bills' offense over the past two years. His departure to New England leaves a big role up for grabs.
Today's role-filler: In the final two games of the season, street free agent Greg Salas averaged 29.5 snaps per game. He's the easy money here.
Kraig Urbik (27.0 snaps per game)
Buffalo's top interior reserve a year ago played exclusively right guard as an injury fill-in, and did so for a lot of snaps. He was considered the top reserve at both guard positions as well as at center.
Today's role-filler: The only other reserve interior lineman to log playing time last year was Ryan Groy (24 snaps in five games), who has connections to Aaron Kromer.
Stefan Charles (17.7 snaps per game)
He spent a few games on the healthy scratch list, but by and large, Charles filled an important, albeit small, role as a reserve defensive tackle that played snaps to keep the starters fresh.
Today's role-filler: Two late-season roster additions, Jerel Worthy and T.J. Barnes, would seem to have the best shot at replacing Charles right now.
Boobie Dixon (5.6 snaps per game)
More special teams player than anything, Dixon barely saw the field on offense in 2015 - and unless their starting running back is suspended, any fourth running back is unlikely to see much playing time in 2016, either.
Today's role-filler: The only other running back on the roster behind the top three right now is reserve/future signing James Wilder, Jr.
Ron Brooks (4.2 snaps per game)
Like Dixon, Brooks was mostly a special teams loss, although he did see spot playing time in his four years as a deep reserve and injury fill-in. Replacing his above-average athleticism could be challenging that deep on the depth chart.
Today's role-filler: If the Bills want a deep reserve cornerback with special teams ability, veteran reserve/future signing Javier Arenas is a name worth remembering.
What about the Bills' lone free agent signing, you ask? Here's how that move plugged a hole that the team created toward the end of the 2015 regular season.
Matthew Mulligan (16.8 snaps per game)
In his 12 games with the Bills, Mulligan filled a small (and, frankly, boring) role in the Bills' offense as a blocker. The Bills will still be a run-heavy offense in 2016, so they needed to fill this role with a specialist.
Today's role-filler: This specific role is very likely why free agent tight end Jim Dray was signed; he's a blocking specialist that is familiar with Greg Roman's offense.