The Buffalo Bills took their first calculated risk of the 2015 offseason on Saturday, when they announced the signing of veteran guard Richie Incognito. He's been out of football for more than a year following the latest in a long line of off-field, personality issues, but the one-year, $2.25 million contract (likely with minimal guaranteed money) the team reportedly spent on him is a low-risk proposition that, if it pans out, will yield a starting-caliber NFL guard.
In fact, if the Bills wind up with the level of play that Incognito displayed for four years in Miami, they'll have a guard that is consistently above-average at his position. A Pro Bowl player in 2012, Incognito never graded out negatively in either the pass or run games in his four years as a starter for the Dolphins, according to Pro Football Focus. He also never ranked below No. 33 among all offensive guards in overall rating (going as high as No. 16), improved significantly as a pass protector in his final two years there, and ranked in the Top 20 in the league as a run blocker in 2010-11, as well.
Contrast that to the awful play of the Bills' guards last year, and it's not at all difficult to envision why the Bills would be drawn to Incognito, even considering his off-field issues. Right now, Incognito projects as the Bills' starting left guard, and it's likely that the only way that changes is if he does something stupid again. Which, given Incognito's track record, is not even remotely out of the question.
Here's a quick, updated look at the Bills' guard situation with Incognito in the fold:
- Richie Incognito: If all proceeds well, he'll probably be the starting left guard. If it doesn't, the Bills can simply cut bait.
- Chris Williams: The incumbent starting left guard can probably compete for a job somewhere... right? The Bills only save $725K by cutting him.
- Kraig Urbik: Fell out of favor with the previous coaches. Could conceivably push for a starting job, but cutting him for $2.28 million in cap savings is tempting, as well.
- Cyril Richardson: Rookie showed promise in the run game in 2014, but has a ton of work to do in the pass protection department. Could potentially push for a starting job.
If you were the Bills, how comfortable would you be slotting Incognito into the starting lineup, knowing the potential for an off-field blowup that would destroy your plans? And how would you approach the right guard job this offseason with Incognito penciled in on the other side?