The Bills linebacking corps was one that was going to see change this offseason and the wheels are already turning with free agent Keith Rivers agreeing to terms. Some roles are also changing with that unit as GM Doug Whaley laid out some initial plans moving into the 2014 season.
In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Friday morning Whaley confirmed that rumored plans to move Kiko Alonso to the weak side linebacker position this fall are now underway.
"That right now is the plan," said Whaley. "We're going to move Alonso outside. We think with his athletic ability and his speed and instincts, why limit him by having him take on those big guards, let's cover him up and let him run and hit."
On the strong side Manny Lawson, signed last year at this time in free agency, effectively manned the position finishing third on the team in tackles. His role however, will also be changing with the addition of Rivers, who sounds like the favorite for the strong side linebacker role full time.
"He's a four down linebacker," said Whaley of Rivers. "He can play the first and second downs, the typical run downs. He can stay in on third down and cover because he's got athletic ability and then he contributes on teams. So that's an incredible value pick for us with a guy who can play four downs. He's going to compete for that starting spot."
Whaley gave strong indication that Lawson will still be on the field a lot, but in more of a hybrid linebacker-defensive end role.
"He's going to bring us something as an outside linebacker, but also come off the edge as a defensive end," said Buffalo's general manager. "His versatility is going to be utilized in this system that we feel is going to be very valuable for us."
Where he lines up will likely be determined by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's varying fronts and personnel groupings.
All these changes of course leaves a hole at middle linebacker, which could be filled by a prospective free agent. Buffalo had Jameel McClain and Jasper Brinkley here on free agent visits. The two have since signed with the Giants and Vikings.
Other visits figure to take place in the near future.
"At inside backer we have some guys on campus that we're excited about and we'll keep our eyes open for anybody else that's out there," said Whaley.
The player on campus Whaley is referring to is Ty Powell, who will be part of that middle linebacker competition this offseason.
"Ty Powell is a guy that we're excited about," said Whaley. "It's a guy we brought in last year off the New York Giants practice squad. He played on special teams and came in and played in the defensive package during the season so we're excited about him and we think he'll take that next step coming up this season."
Other safety spot up for grabs
Whaley also confirmed that with the free agent departure of Jairus Byrd that Aaron Williams is the team's top safety and the three other safeties on the roster will compete for the other starting safety role.
"We expect big things out of Aaron Williams," said Whaley. "For what we saw this year at safety even though he went back and forth, to have four picks and the way he played and the impact he had on certain games like the Jacksonville game, those are impactful plays. It's exciting and we know he's going to take that next step with another year and not have to bounce back and forth.
"Then the young guys that we have on the roster, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks and (Da'Norris) Searcy, we think with the competition between those three will give us a guy who can come out and help us win."