The free agent market sits just a few days away with the negotiating window for teams opening on Monday to contact agents for players with expiring contracts. Although a handful of top end players were essentially taken off the market with the franchise tag this past week, most of whom were pass rushers, there are still some playmakers who will be drawing early interest when the signing bell rings on Wednesday.
The question is how active will Buffalo be in the early going?
Bills GM Brandon Beane, a recent guest on the ‘Rapoport and Friends podcast’ acknowledged that the club has money to spend, but they’re not going to get into any bidding wars.
“We have money, but we have to be judicious and cautious with it,” Beane said. “You can’t go on spending sprees for two reasons. You don’t want to overpay guys because then they can’t live up to expectations and two you don’t want to get into the cap hole we were in before. We also want to grow our own, so we have to be smart.”
What’s available at wide receiver and offensive line?
A position that is of interest to the Bills is wide receiver, where unfortunately the depth of talent on the outside appears thinner than it was last offseason.
“Receiver position is much different from last year as far as quality,” said NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Where there does appear to be depth of talent is at the slot position. Players like Cole Beasley, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Adam Humphries and Golden Tate are all expected to reach the market.
“The Colts really need a slot receiver,” said Wesseling. “So I think Tampa free agent Adam Humphries make a lot of plays. He’s incredibly tough and gets yards after the catch.”
Slot receivers are rarely viewed as number one receivers in the pecking order, though New England’s Julian Edelman has dispelled that traditional contention.
Bills GM Brandon Beane doesn’t appear interested in labeling receiving talent in a pecking order either.
“I’m not one who subscribes to a number one receiver. Receivers come in all sorts of sizes,” said Beane. “You have some guys who are 6-5, 6-6 who out-jump people and go over the top. Then you have some 5-7 or 5-8 who are making plays. There are different sizes and flavors. We’re just looking for good football players. Good receivers who can make plays that Josh (Allen) can count on so when he throws the ball they’re where they’re supposed to be and they’re going to make the plays.”
With respect to offensive line, one of the better tackles in Tampa’s Donovan Smith and guards in San Francisco’s Mike Person were taken off the market by their respective clubs with long-terms contract agreements. There is still some quality talent at both tackle and guard, but the free agent class at those positions is not seen as deep.
The Bills have some holes to fill knowing that they have three free agents of their own up front in Ryan Groy, John Miller and Jordan Mills.
“We have some guys who are free agents who we could bring back, but if all of them left we could have two or three holes,” Beane said. “We’ve done our homework. We’ll see what happens in free agency. We’ll try and make sure we add a couple of those back if it’s not those same guys, then guys coming from other teams and then the draft.”
This position group will garner a lot of attention around the NFL
The biggest development with respect to the free agent market is the quality of the safeties available. From proven multiple Pro Bowl veterans like Baltimore’s Eric Weddle, who was a cap casualty, to a player just beginning to reach his prime in Giants free agent Landon Collins.
Appearing on the ‘Rapsheet and Friends’ podcast, NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo didn’t think the Giants would let their former first-round pick test the market.
“I am surprised. The part that I guess I’m most surprised about is the guy was a locker room leader,” said Garafolo. “I thought that would be the reason they would hang onto him.”
As for potential landing spots, some national media are already predicting who will be pursuing Collins.
“If Landon Collins makes it to the market the Colts are going to be all over him,” said NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling.
Other top end safeties include Houston’s Tyrann Mathieu, Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Washington’s Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Chicago’s Adrian Amos.
The Bills aren’t in the market for a veteran safety with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer firmly entrenched as starters and their veteran signing of Rafael Bush last offseason in the fold as well.
What fits make the most sense for Buffalo?
The bottom line for Buffalo is determining who will blend in well with their current roster, upgrade a position in need of one and not cripple their salary cap situation.
“There are some good players we won’t target either because their value is too high, or we don’t feel they’re a fit for our organization or the scheme that we run,” said Beane. “We’re just trying to put the right values on guys and also find the right fits.”