Just a few days before 2014 NFL free agency began last week, we ran a post that looked at the Buffalo Bills' positional needs ranked not by the urgency of those needs, but by overall positional value as the NFL sees it. That post was based on the league's franchise tag values, which give us a good indication of how much teams are willing to pay the game's elite players at those positions.
Now that the Bills have made it through a very busy first week-plus of free agency, signing five new players, re-signing a few more key figures and losing their top-ranked free agent, let's reassess the Bills' needs with the new players in mind.
1. Quarterback ($16.912M)
The game's most important position remains unchanged for the Bills: EJ Manuel is the starter, Thad Lewis is the backup, and Jeff Tuel is the third-string project.
2. Defensive End ($13.116M)
No personnel changes have been made here, but it did come to light that the Bills plan on asking Manny Lawson to split his time between outside linebacker and defensive end in the new defense being installed by Jim Schwartz. Lawson may end up with a better opportunity for playing time here than at linebacker, where as you can see below the team has made sweeping changes so far this offseason. Beyond Lawson, the team has Mario Williams and likely starter Jerry Hughes.
3. Wide Receiver ($12.312M)
Once again, no change. Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin are the top quartet, and there isn't anyone else on the roster that should be expected to step ahead of any of them in the pecking order.
4. Cornerback ($11.834M)
Free agent signee Corey Graham bolsters the team's depth here significantly, giving the Bills a player that can not only play in the slot (where he may not be needed, given the strong rookie performance of Nickell Robey), but can also provide much-needed depth on the outside behind starters Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. With Graham on board, the Bills suddenly have four very capable cornerbacks in a pass-happy league. That's a good situation to be in.
5. Offensive Line ($11.654M)
Nothing has changed at tackle, where Erik Pears is still the de facto starter at right tackle. They may have overpaid for guard Chris Williams coming off of a thoroughly mediocre season in St. Louis, but the Bills did accomplish a goal in getting much more athletic up front with their left guard upgrade.
6. Linebacker ($11.455M)
Here, we have near-wholesale change. Kiko Alonso, the team's only reliable linebacker on the roster last season, is moving outside, replaced in the middle by Brandon Spikes on a one-year deal. At the other outside spot, Keith Rivers was brought in on a two-year deal and immediately penciled in as a starter, though both Lawson and Nigel Bradham could factor into the competition there. Things will look much different at linebacker for the Bills in 2014 than they did in 2013.
7. Defensive Tackle ($9.654M)
Change was not expected here, and things remain the same. Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch form a highly dependable trio of interior linemen.
8. Running Back ($9.54M)
Anthony Dixon was brought in from San Francisco, where he only played 82 snaps last season. If he's able to steal any reps from Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, it'll likely be as a short-yardage back. Dixon's real value, at least for the 2014 season, will be as a special teams player.
9. Safety ($8.433M)
Re-signing starter Aaron Williams to a four-year deal set the stage for the Jairus Byrd departure; he is now in New Orleans, and while Williams is a lock to start, the other safety spot is wide open. Unless the team makes another move at the position, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks could all make a case for a starting job.
10. Tight End ($7.035M)
It was not a huge surprise when the Bills announced that they'd re-signed Scott Chandler to a two-year deal. Right now, this position looks exactly the same as it did last season.
11. Kicker/Punter ($3.556M)
The team had already re-signed punter Brian Moorman to a one-year deal in January, and they completed the set by bringing back kicker Dan Carpenter on a four-year deal worth nearly $10 million. You can safely pencil those two in as the Bills' kicking specialists for next season.
With all of that in mind, what position do you consider to be the team's biggest remaining need as we begin to turn our attention toward the 2014 NFL Draft?