The Bills have not been high rollers the past couple of offseasons when it has come to acquiring free agents. GM Doug Whaley has focused his energies on re-signing his own and signing good values on the open market. Last year he landed bargains in
With that in mind we address some of the Bills most pressing positional needs and potential fits set to hit the market on March 9th.
1 - Cornerback - Marcus Cooper - Arizona
Bills status at the position: If free agent to be
The skinny on Cooper: Cooper, a former seventh-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals just before the 2016 season began as the Cards were desperate for stability opposite Patrick Peterson.
Cooper was Kansas City’s rookie of the year in 2013 when he made four interceptions, but was squeezed out of their rotation. The fourth-year pro made the most of his opportunity in Arizona as he led the team pass breakups (11) and interceptions (4) despite being a frequent target with Peterson on the other side. Cooper also finished fourth on the team in tackles.
He’s likely to command a sizable contract, but not with other free agent corners at the top of the market.
Another value option could be Pittsburgh CB Ross Cockrell. A former Bills draft choice, Buffalo could presumably return him to the fold at a reasonable rate.
2 - Linebacker - Sean Spence - Tennessee
Bills status at the position: Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown are the key free agents at linebacker. Brown’s big season is likely to lead to a big pay day, one that Buffalo might not be willing to pay. Alexander would like to return to Buffalo, but even if he does his role could be reduced in a 4-3 scheme.
The skinny on Spence: Sean Spence is a former third-round pick of the Steelers, and has been a backup for most of his career. Some believe a big reason why is because he’s been miscast in a 3-4 system. Coming out of Miami in college his ideal fit was thought to be a 4-3 system where he’s covered up and can run free to use his speed to make plays.
Spence is still very athletic at 26-years old and should be affordable not having the time on the field to boost his production and value. GM Doug Whaley could tab another backup linebacker in Tennessee and find a free agent who could prove to be much more valuable in Buffalo’s new scheme than that of the Titans.
Another option if he’s allowed to escape is Oakland WLB Malcolm Smith. The problem is he’s probably the most valuable defensive player on the Raiders roster after Khalil Mack, so he’s likely to be re-signed.
3 - Offensive tackle - Ricky Wagner - Baltimore
Bills status at the position: Buffalo has a free agent in right tackle starter
The skinny on Wagner: After an inconsistent 2015 season, Wagner had a strong 2016 campaign with Baltimore at right tackle. The four-year vet allowed just two sacks in 14 starts and was assessed just three penalties on the season. A former fifth-round pick, Wagner, 27, figures to command a contract that could average between $6M and $6.5M per season.
Another possible option is Detroit free agent right tackle Riley Reiff, but the word out of Detroit is the Lions will try to keep Reiff on their roster.
4 - Quarterback - Landry Jones - Pittsburgh
Bills status at the position: Everyone knows there’s a big decision to be made on
The skinny on Jones: Jones has appeared in just 15 games in his NFL career, but eight of those came this past season and he completed almost 62 percent of his passes. That might not sound overly impressive until you look at the rest of the free agent quarterback class.
Jones is not the answer to fill a role as a full-time starter, but he’s a capable spot starter who can be effective with a strong rushing attack.
5 - Safety - T.J. McDonald - L.A. Rams
Bills status at the position:
The skinny on McDonald: The Rams safety had a productive season coming back from offseason shoulder surgery. The former third-round pick (2013) was fourth on the Rams in tackles and logged a pair of interceptions serving primarily as a strong safety.
McDonald has an athletic skill set (40-inch vertical, 4.5 speed) that offers coverage ability in addition to supporting the run. At age 26, McDonald has yet to reach his NFL ceiling.
6 - Wide receiver - Kenny Britt - L.A. Rams
Bills status at the position:
The skinny on Britt: A former first-round pick (2009), Britt is a player the Bills have kicked the tires on in the past. His size (6-3, 223) is a much needed asset in Buffalo’s receiving corps and this past season he put up solid production in a poor Rams passing offense with 68 catches for just over 1,000 yards (1,002) and five touchdowns. That production could drive his price too high for the Bills liking on the free agent market, in which case they may have to consider a more affordable option like Baltimore free agent Kamar Aiken (6-2, 215), a former undrafted rookie signing of the Bills.