The bottom line for Scott Chandler after his brief, three-day foray into the open market of free agency was this: His heart was in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bills’ veteran tight end said that’s why he re-signed with the team, agreeing to terms on a two-year contract.
“I’m just really excited to be back in Buffalo,” Chandler said by phone from his home in Iowa. “My family, my wife and I, have really always loved Western New York since we moved there. Obviously, the organization kind of gave me my start. So I’m really excited to be back.”
Chandler’s 53 receptions last season were a career high and ranked 13th among NFL tight ends. He did not figure to go in the first wave of free-agent signings in the NFL. Obviously, there was not a huge-money deal waiting for him. But he did not wait long to see what might develop on the market.
“I wanted to be a Bill,” he said. “As a player you don’t always have as much control as you’d like. I mean, you do have control, but you hire people to advise you, so you listen. It’s so hard, because you have to look at it from a business perspective, a player perspective and a family perspective. And I wanted to be a Bill.”
The two-year contract is the same length he signed in 2011 with the Bills. Chandler, who turns 29 in July, was averaging $2.75 million a year on his former deal.
Chandler is excited about the potential for the Bills’ offense in the second year under coaches Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback EJ Manuel.
“I think, obviously, my teammates and the coaching staff are probably the biggest reason why I wanted to be back,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with Nate Hackett and Coach Marrone. I think if we can keep EJ healthy and practicing, we’re going to be able to grow a lot as an offense.”
“Obviously we’ve got two guys in the backfield that are dynamic,” he said, referring to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. “Then we’ve got a lot of young guys on the outside to go along with Stevie Johnson, who can really do a lot of things. I don’t think we were completely able to showcase all that last year. I’m excited to be back and excited to see where we can go this year.”
Chandler is not a game-breaking threat in the passing game, and he’s not likely to make a Pro Bowl. However, he’s the most effective tight end the Bills have had since Pete Metzelaars left the team in 1994. Chandler’s 655 receiving yards last season ranked second most in team history. He has 14 TD catches over the past three seasons.
Had he not returned, the Bills might have signed someone with lesser credentials, might have been boxed into taking a tight end early in the draft or might have had to rest much of their hopes at the position on a return to health of Tony Moeaki. Signed in December, Moeaki is about Chandler’s equal if healthy. But he has missed two of the last three seasons with injuries.
The Bills still could draft a tight end. After Moeaki, next on the Bills’ tight end depth chart is second-year man Chris Gragg, an athletic, developmental player who spent last season learning on the job. The Bills’ blocking tight end is veteran Lee Smith.
As for signing another two-year deal, Chandler was philosophical after watching an offseason in which stars like Darrelle Revis have been released.
“That’s the way the league is now,” he said. “You don’t get any re-dos. Every year you’re on the chopping block, so you have to go out and prove what you can do.”