The Buffalo Bills did well to fill some holes on their roster in last weekend’s NFL Draft.
But as you might expect for a team that has gone 6-10 the past two seasons, there are still some positions that could use an upgrade – or at the very least added competition for the penciled-in starter.
General Manager Buddy Nix expressed an interest prior to the draft in continuing to explore the veteran free agent market.
“You know, I think it’s very likely,” he said. “We brought in Nick Barnett after camp started and he played two good years for us. So we’ll be in business up until we start the preseason. There’s still guys out there.”
Barnett was signed in 2011 two days after he was released by the Green Bay Packers.
“Players will be released. There’s still some cap work that needs to be done on a lot of teams so there will be good players popping up. You just have to be ready, and we track them,” said Tom Gibbons, the Bills’ director of pro personnel. “If there were to be a player come available, I don’t think there’d be any question that we’d sign him ... up until camp if we felt the player could help us.”
Should the Bills choose to go bargain hunting in the current market, here are a few players who fit positions of need.
Brandon Moore, left guard, New York Jets: Moore has started 137 consecutive games for New York since 2004, including every game the past eight seasons. Moore, who will be 33 in June, took over as a starter in New York while current Bills coach Doug Marrone was working as the Jets’ offensive line coach. Moore would immediately go to the top of the Bills’ depth chart at left guard, the position left void when Andy Levitre signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans. Moore has visited Miami and Detroit, while also drawing some interest from Chicago and Dallas. A report from NFL.com last month suggested Moore was looking for “starter money,” a possible reason he remains unsigned. A one-year contract in the range of $3 million could be a good match for both sides.
Sheldon Brown, cornerback, Cleveland Browns: Brown started 14 games for the Browns last season and had 60 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed. He played 903 snaps last season. Opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 85.1 when throwing against Brown, according to advanced statistics complied by the website profootballfocus.com. Brown, however, is 34, so age is working against him.
The Bills surprisingly did not select a cornerback last weekend – a position Nix has said he likes to take in every draft. However, the team believes fourth-round pick Duke Williams can be used in that role some. As it stands now with Aaron Williams being moved to safety, the Bills’ starters on the outside are Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, with Rob Brooks and Justin Rogers in the slot, or nickel cornerback role. The Bills also have T.J. Heath and Crezdon Butler. They finished last season on the 53-man roster.
Karlos Dansby, inside linebacker, Miami Dolphins: The Bills hosted Dansby on a free agent visit prior to the draft, but as Nix put it: “I would just say it did not work out, to be honest.” However, that was before the Bills traded inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts. Nix did indicate that the Bills would keep dialogue open with Dansby, who had 134 tackles and started all 16 games last year for the Dolphins.
The Bills used a second-round pick on Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has the flexibility to play inside or outside. Alonso is penciled in as a starter next to second-year man Nigel Bradham. Dansby, 31, would seem to have some good years ahead of him. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder set a career high in tackles last season. He could play in the middle or on the weak side, and also serve as a mentor to the Bills’ promising younger players at the position.
Bart Scott, inside linebacker, New York Jets: Somewhat surprisingly, the Bills haven’t gone to the former Jets well in an effort to bring in players who could serve as “coaches on the field” for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. Scott, who’s a week or two away from being fully recovered from offseason surgery on his toe, could fit in that role. He’ll be 33 in the upcoming season.
Dallas Clark, tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s very much uncertain that Scott Chandler will be ready by opening week after tearing the ACL in his left knee in December. The Bills added Chris Gragg in the seventh round of the draft, but have very little experience at the position, which has been picked over pretty well in free agency. Clark, who will be 34 at the start of the season, had 47 catches and four touchdowns last year. He should be capable of keeping the seat warm until Chandler is 100 percent.
The Bills successfully waited out the market for Alan Branch, and were able to add him on a one-year deal last month. Nix and Co. are taking a similar approach with other veteran options.
“We’ll keep looking, and if they fit we’ll be in the market,” Nix said.