*1 – Offensive line stabilized *Putting the franchise tag on Cordy Glenn all but ensures Tyrod Taylor’s blind side will be effectively protected in 2016. Buffalo was also able to re-sign Richie Incognito after some back and forth negotiations went right up to the opening of the free agent market.
“It is a huge asset to this ball club to have Cordy [Glenn] under contract,” said Incognito. “He is one of the premiere left tackles in the league. To line up with Cordy and Eric Wood and put our hands in the dirt for the next couple of years, and see how good we can be is the exciting part because we all make each other better.”
Extending a qualifying offer to restricted free agent OT Jordan Mills, and the encouraging news about Seantrel Henderson’s health gives the Bills viable answers for each of their starting offensive line positions.
*2 – Filling the void at defensive end *The release of veteran DE Mario Williams was a fiscal necessity. His contract was cost prohibitive and with the need to keep OT Cordy Glenn on the roster and the drop off in Williams production in 2015, moving the 31-year old pass rusher off the squad was a logical move. Now comes the task of refortifying the position.
“It’s going to be an interesting plan because the defense is going to look a little different this year and there are going to be a couple of different possibilities this year with Manny Lawson and Jarius Wynn,” said GM Doug Whaley. “A guy we added late in the year in Max Valles out of Virginia. And then any possible additions we get through free agency, the draft or trade, so there will be some possibilities and we have some of them on the roster right now.”
With plans to go to a more traditional 3-4, the requirements of the defensive end position figure to change a bit and could shift at least some of the seven players listed as defensive ends on Buffalo’s current roster to more of an outside linebacker role. That’s why adding a five-technique defensive end, most likely through the draft, could be part of the offseason plan.
*3 – Wide receiver options *Buffalo retained the rights of restricted free agent Chris Hogan, by extending a qualifying offer to the wide receiver.
The Bills also very quietly added size to the receiver position this offseason. In January the club added three receivers who all stand 6-2 in Jarrett Boykin (6-2, 215), Greg Little (6-2, 220) and Greg Salas (6-2, 210).
By no means are they household NFL names, but Little has a pair of 50-catch seasons on his NFL resume and Boykin is two years removed from a 49-catch season with Green Bay. They along with the crafty Salas have provided offensive coordinator Greg Roman with an element of size and physicality to the receiving corps that was absent in 2015.
With a draft class that is thin on explosiveness and game breaking speed, collecting talent with NFL experience could prove to be the better play.
*4 – Speeding up linebacker *Though it appears that there are just six linebackers currently on the roster, there figures to be some role shifting for some players with Buffalo expected to run a more conventional 3-4 scheme in 2016. Players like Jerry Hughes and Max Valles could line up more in a true outside linebacker role with at least one in a pass rusher role at all times.
The Bills linebacking corps will still be in need of additional speed at the position, especially if Nigel Bradham is not re-signed. The Bills have some players capable of filling gaps against the run, but when it comes to coverage they’ll need some new answers for their subpackages.
*5 – Who’s behind Aaron? *Aaron Williams is fully cleared from the neck injury that cost him most of the 2015 season, but even he has stated that he won’t know the true future of his career until he makes that first hit. With that in mind it would behoove the Bills to secure viable options behind him on the depth chart.
“We lean on our medical staff and they’ve cleared him completely to play. If we would’ve made the playoffs he would’ve been out there,” said Whaley. “Now when he goes out there he’s just like any other player. There’s a chance for injury, but this specific injury he had there’s not a propensity for him to have it again. So we’re not worried about that. That goes along with what I said before if there’s a safety out there that we think can help us we’ll take him. But it won’t be predicated on the thought of any uncertainty with Aaron Williams. He is cleared to play and would’ve played had we made the playoffs.”
Jonathan Meeks is a player who could be a factor, especially after Buffalo did not extend a qualifying offer to Bacarri Rambo. Duke Williams is still part of the mix. Future free agent signees Jonathan Dowling and Phillip Thomas will be two years removed from their last NFL action, and are wild cards in the mix.