The Buffalo Bills finally have found stability in the interior of their offensive line over the past two years. They moved to keep that stability going by signing guard Kraig Urbik to a contract extension Tuesday.
The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Urbik has been a stout presence at right guard the past two seasons. His contract was due to run out after this season. Now he has a four-year deal through 2016 that could be worth up to $15 million.
Consider it one down and one or two to go for the Bills’ “middle three.”
Fellow guard Andy Levitre is set to become a free agent after the season. Center Eric Wood has a contract that runs out after the 2013 season. The Bills will want to keep at least one of those two in the fold, if not both. All three are represented by the same agent, California-based David Dunn.
Urbik, 27, was one of the best waiver pickups the Bills have had in recent years. He entered the NFL as a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, but Pittsburgh released him just before the start of his second season.
He saw spot duty for the Bills in 2010, then beat out Chad Rinehart for a starting spot entering 2011. Urbik started eight games at right guard, then moved over to center for five starts after Wood was injured. Urbik has started 12 games at right guard this season.
“He is a big, strong man,” coach Chan Gailey said earlier this season. “I mean he is a barrel-chested, strong human that has got pretty good movement for his size and is a very versatile player. He’s one of those tough guys you’ve got to have inside.”
Offensive line is one of the better units on the Bills’ team. The middle of the passing pocket has been cleaner the past three years than it had been much of the previous decade. The Bills allowed the fewest sacks in the league last season and rank 14th in pass protection this year. They have been among the top five in yards-per-carry the past two seasons.
Urbik ranked 18th among NFL guards last year and stands 24th this year, according to grades on Profootballfocus.com.
Urbik is a Wisconsin product who started 50 games in college. His deal includes a signing bonus of $3.5 million.
Rinehart, the Bills’ top interior line backup entering the season, also is due to become a free agent in March. Rinehart went on injured reserve after seven games this season.
Besides Levitre, the other Bills who get significant playing time who are due to become unrestricted free agents are safety Jairus Byrd, defensive ends Kyle Moore and Shawne Merriman, defensive tackle Spencer Johnson, linebacker Bryan Scott, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and fullback Corey McIntyre.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson needs 109 receiving yards to reach 1,000 yards for a third straight season. Johnson stands 21st in the NFL in receiving yards and is tied for 17th in catches with 69.
“Everybody in this locker room should be feeling like their job is at risk and I think that is the right way to think at this point,” Johnson said Monday. “Hopefully it will light a fire under us and we can win these next two games. I know for sure, I am going to be playing for my teammates, I am going to be playing for my coaches, and I am going to be playing for some personal things. That is just what it has come to. We are not playing for the playoffs anymore. We are still putting on these pads and playing for the Buffalo Bills.”
The Bills promoted receiver Chris Hogan and linebacker Greg Lloyd to the 53-man roster. They took the place of receiver Donald Jones and linebacker Arthur Moats. Hogan, a 6-1, 220-pound undrafted Monmouth product, has been on the practice squad six weeks. Lloyd, 6-1 and 247, was added to the practice squad four weeks ago. He entered the league as a seventh-round pick of Philadelphia in 2011. Jones has been struggling with a calf injury that has caused him to miss two of the last three games. He was placed on the non-football injury list due to an illness related to the calf problem. Moats suffered an ankle injury in the loss to Seattle Sunday.