With the state of free agency in the NFL, change is inevitable. Year to year an average of 20 to 25 percent of the roster turns over, sometimes more. Keeping an offensive line together however, is one of the top priorities as continuity there often spells success for an offense. But after a season of missed opportunity Buffalo's front office made some changes.
Melvin Fowler, Duke Preston and Jason Whittle were not avidly pursued by the club to re-sign and Derrick Dockery was released as well as tight end Robert Royal. At least 40 percent of Buffalo's offensive line will be different in 2009, 50 percent if you count Royal.
That's why it didn't take much to convince eight-year veteran tackle Langston Walker that the upcoming offseason practices will be more important for Buffalo's offensive linemen than any other unit on the roster.
"It's just a part of the business," said Walker. "I don't know when free agency was enacted, but it's just what happens. Every year you expect to lose some guys and get some new guys. All you can pretty much do is move forward."
Walker won't have to adjust quite as much as the man to his left, Brad Butler, who will be lined up next to new center Geoff Hangartner. The former Carolina Panther was signed the first weekend of the free agent period.
Still there will be an adjustment for Walker with respect to listening to line calls and such as they're passed down the line.
"We haven't really gone over exactly what the changes are (yet)," said Walker. "I'm sure it'll be Trent's voice I get to hear yelling at me. This is what this time of year is for to learn the new system and whatever we're doing. Then you go into training camp and you work on it and go into the season."
Walker will also have a new primary blocking tight end next to him on the strong side. Robert Royal was the main blocking tight end in Walker's first two years with the club, but that too will change. Whether it's a tight end currently on the roster in Derek Fine or Derek Schouman, or a new addition remains to be seen.
The player that will have to deal with the most change is left tackle Jason Peters. With a new left guard lining up next to him as well as a new center, the communication will take some getting used to as well as the chemistry when it comes to run blocking or pass protecting together.
Peters did not attend any of last year's offseason workouts as he was mired in a contract dispute. Whether that will continue this offseason is a question that's yet to be answered.
"I don't know," said Walker. "I talked to him probably about a month ago, just back and forth. It's the offseason, we're not talking about football. I can't wait for him to get here. He's a great player."
Walker believes there is still plenty of time for the new front five to get accustomed to each other's play. He's confident that come mid-June when they break for the six weeks before training camp, they'll have most of the groundwork laid with respect to chemistry.
"By the time you're done with minicamps you have a pretty good handle on it and you take it into camp and perfect things," said Walker. "Coaches just like we do figure out what works and what doesn't work and then its live bullets."