It's been a busy first week of free agency for the Buffalo Bills. According to multiple media reports the Bills have agreed to terms with DE Mario Addison, DT Vernon Butler, DT Quinton Jefferson, RB Taiwan Jones, LB AJ Klein and LB Tyler Matakevich.
For the Bills in free agency, the Carolina connection keeps on delivering. The Bills brass targeted Carolina free agent veteran pass rusher Mario Addison as reports indicate he reached a three-year agreement with the club and Buffalo followed with the acquisition of Addison's teammate and fellow free agent Vernon Butler on a two-year agreement. Buffalo then capped their defensive line remodel with Seattle free agent DE Quinton Jefferson as he also reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year deal.
In the first week of free agency, the Bills made their defensive line one of the stoutest in the AFC.
Addison, 32, is a proven sack producer with at least nine sacks in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 11 in 2017.
A Panther for the last eight seasons, Addison had Bills head coach Sean McDermott as his defensive coordinator for five seasons (2012-2016). He comes to Buffalo with new defensive line coach Eric Washington, who coached him in Carolina the past nine seasons.
To say that Addison eminently understands the defensive scheme run by the Bills would be an understatement. He's expected to blend in quickly.
The same could be said for Butler, a mountain of a man at 6-4 and 330 pounds. A first-round pick of the Panthers in 2016, the 25-year old earned a starting role this past season and posted career highs in tackles and sacks with six.
Butler only had one year in Carolina with McDermott as his coordinator but was coached by Washington for each of his four NFL seasons. Again familiarity will allow Butler to compete with former teammate Star Lotulelei for the starting nose tackle role.
A two-year starter in Seattle, Jefferson, 27, has been an underrated and versatile defensive lineman for the Seahawks. A stout run defender, Jefferson can also push the pocket inside. He set career highs in 2019 for tackles and sacks.
Buffalo's defensive line, which had lost a pair of linemen in free agency, reloaded quickly and is arguably deeper with a pair of stout interior players and a more productive sack specialist in Addison.
LBs Klein and Matakevich to fill void left by Alexander; RB Jones returns
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said at the NFL combine that it would be unlikely to find one player to replace all the roles that were filled by the now retired Lorenzo Alexander. So Buffalo reportedly agreed to terms with a pair of linebackers who will fill the void on defense and special teams.
Klein, 28, is yet another free agent with strong Carolina connections. Originally, a fifth-round pick of the Panthers in the 2013 NFL draft, Klein played four seasons in Carolina under then defensive coordinator Sean McDermott before signing a free agent contract with the Saints.
In his time with the Panthers, Klein played all three linebacker positions with starts at strong side and weak side linebacker and serving as the backup to Luke Kuechly. Though he played mainly middle linebacker in New Orleans, it's anticipated that Klein will compete to replace Alexander at the strong side linebacker position.
Buffalo's addition of LB Tyler Matakevich was made with their special teams unit in mind. The former Pittsburgh Steeler has been a special teams standout since the Steelers made him a seventh-round pick in 2016.
In fact, over the last four seasons, no NFL player has more special teams tackles than Matakevich's 37.
The Bills doubled down on improving their special teams cover units with the addition of Taiwan Jones. For Jones, 31, it's his second stint with the Bills after serving as a core special teamer with the club from 2017-2018. Jones was poised to be a productive gunner on the punt team among other units, but injuries compromised his effectiveness for the Bills. His 2017 season ended prematurely due to a broken arm. In 2018, he was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury.
Last season he played for Houston in a similar special teams role.
At season's end Buffalo's front office said they needed to improve their special teams unit, which made strides in its first year under new coordinator Heath Farwell, but GM Brandon Beane said they still had more room to grow.
Knowing core special teamer LB Julian Stanford is a free agent coupled with Lorenzo Alexander's retirement, the Bills evidently felt it was important to strike early in the market to land two of the more effective special teams coverage players in the league.