Jerry Hughes free agency foray could be different

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DE Jerry Hughes locked up quarterbacks all year in 2014, and because of that the Bills are hoping to lock up the impending free agent for the next few years.

GM Doug Whaley confirmed on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 that talks have commenced between the club and the Hughes camp.

"I know (Senior VP of Football Administration) Jim Overdorf has been in touch with his representatives and started the process," said Whaley. "We want him back. He's a great part of our defense. He brings a lot of energy, and hopefully we can get it done sooner rather than later."

Hughes came to Buffalo prior to the 2013 season in a straight-up trade with the Indianapolis Colts for LB Kelvin Sheppard. The Bills were obviously the bigger beneficiary.

Hughes matched last year's production with 10 sacks in 2014, significantly outdoing his numbers with the Colts. This feat makes him just the fourth Bill to record 20 sacks within the first two seasons of being with the team.

"[I'm] just a guy who can go out there and play football. I don't think I have too much to prove," Hughes said. "I always knew I could play football. It's just a matter of me getting the opportunity to go out there and do it and the Bills organization did so I'm very thankful for that opportunity."

Hughes became a full-time defensive end this year in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. And while he was just as productive despite the move, it proved beneficial to the defense as a whole: the run defense jumped from 28th in 2013 to 11th this season.

Hughes' production could put the Bills front office in a financial bind. For one, Hughes will be a hot commodity on the open market which raises his price tag so if he were to return to Orchard Park, the price would need to be competitive. Add in the fact that the three highest-paid players on Buffalo's 2014 payroll in terms of average annual salary were Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus and it begs the question. Will the Bills invest heavily in their defensive front a fourth time?

Whaley made the Bills sound willing to do so.

"We'll do everything we can to keep him," he said.

There is always the franchise tag option, which didn't seem to faze Hughes. The tag can spark controversy, but Hughes did not sound like he had a problem with it.

"No not at all," he said. "If they use it, you'll see me back next year ready to roll, ready to play."

Aside from the tag that would ensure his return, the one thing in favor of seeing Hughes back in Buffalo is the fact that he'd like to be back.

"I definitely want to be back," he said. "You saw what we were able to do this season. The group of guys we had, to be so close, you definitely want to come back and take another shot at it, to see how we fall out to next year."

He added the bond he has with the other three D-lineman is weighing on him a lot and is an important factor into his decision. Knowing he began his career with a club where he wasn't a fit could influence his willingness to go elsewhere more than most impending free agents.

"It's huge," Hughes said. "You definitely want to be somewhere comfortable. Somewhere where you know it kind of feels a little bit like home. That definitely plays a huge role. 

"Just to kind of work with the guys, see how well we work together, just to know all the talent we have together, you know that we're so close. Just going throughout the season, replaying all the games that we've had, that we kind of went through, just so close. You definitely want to come back and continue it"

As for whether there's a better situation out there, Hughes is unsure. He again cited the camaraderie he and the rest of the defensive front have, and said he hasn't put too much thought about where he might end up. He just wants to stay healthy this offseason and eagerly awaits the time when he can suit up again, no matter where it is.

"We love playing football so I mean that's probably going to be the tough part, just sitting through the offseason watching teams who we've played throughout the year on TV, that's probably going to be the toughest," Hughes said. "I'm anxious to just get the season rolling again."

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