It’s day three of NFL Free Agency and the Buffalo Bills still have a decent amount of capital to work with. After starting off Thursday with little wiggle room, the team released several veterans and chose not to re-sign others which brings its current approximate available salary cap space to around $19 Million (updated since Lorenzo Alexander re-signing).
As Buffalo Rumblings noted, the Bills can also add up to $14.7 Million more in cap space if Marcel Dareus and Cordy Glenn’s contracts are restructured. Even if that extra money isn’t freed up, GM Doug Whaley and the front office will still be able to competitively pursue some of the top players left on the market. Below are 10 available free agents, in no specific order, that could be a good fit for the Buffalo Bills:
1. Anquan Boldin: The 36-year old WR played with the Detroit Lions in 2016 and recorded 67 receptions for 584 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Father time is definitely catching up with the veteran but last season he showed there’s still some juice left in the tank. Boldin is a strong, tough receiver that can help move the chains over the middle and would immediately be the most reliable pass catcher for the Bills.
2. Jared Cook: The 29-year old TE played for the Green Bay Packers last season hauling in 30 receptions for 377 yards and one touchdown in 10 regular season games. Cook really stepped it up in the playoffs though as he almost eclipsed those numbers in only three games, posting 18 receptions for 229 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His biggest grab coming at the end of regulation vs. the Dallas Cowboys along the sidelines which set up the game-winning field goal. The tight end is massive standing at 6’5 and 250 pounds, which seems to be the prototype Sean McDermott and his coaching staff are targeting at the position. Cook wouldn’t come cheap but would provide matchup problems and a bigger target for Tyrod Taylor.
3. Morris Claiborne: The 27-year old CB made 24 tackles and snagged one interception last year in only seven games for the Dallas Cowboys. Claiborne, a former 6th-overall draft pick in 2012, had an up and down first four years in the NFL before turning his play around in a major way this past season. Even though he only played seven games, “2016 Morris Claiborne was a legit stud…” according to Pro Football Focus. Sean McDermott’s secondary could use a talent like Claiborne despite his overall inconsistency. The Bills have been rumored to be “in” on him so we will see if anything develops, though I doubt Buffalo will grossly overpay for his services if it came to that.
4. Stevie Johnson: The 30-year old Bills Mafia VET and WR missed the 2016 season with a knee injury he suffered during the preseason but recorded 45 receptions for 497 receiving yards and three touchdowns during 10 games in 2015. We’ve all seen what Stevie can do on the field as his unique route-running style befuddle opponents when healthy. Durability will be a major question Johnson will have to answer as he’s on the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t played in more than 10 games since 2014. Still, he’s a fan favorite, would come on an affordable deal and could infuse talent into a lackluster Bills receiving corps.
5. Jairus Byrd: The 30-year old safety had a bounce back 2016 with the New Orleans Saints as he recorded 82 tackles and two interceptions. The Bills recently signed defensive back Micah Hyde away from the Green Bay Packers but besides that still have major holes to fill at the safety position. Adding Byrd would provide some stability on the back end and coming off the big contract he left Buffalo for, his current price tag will definitely be more reasonable than it was in 2014. Throw into the mix that Gill Byrd, Jairus’ father is now the head defensive backs coach for the Bills and this is just a reunion waiting to happen.
6. Alterraun Verner: The 28-year old CB recorded 12 tackles, seven passes defended and one interception for the Tampa Bay Buccanears in 2016. Cover 1 owner Erik Turner has done some fantastic work on why Alterraun Verner would be an ideal fit for Sean McDermott’s defense. One reason is that he played under Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator) for two seasons in Tampa Bay. Another is Verner’s effectiveness playing in off coverage which fits the scheme the team will be running. There’s reportedly interest in the CB from multiple teams but it may be worthwhile for Whaley to make a run at him.
7. Andre Smith: The 30-year old Right Tackle is actually visiting with the Bills right now (Saturday morning) and would be an immediate upgrade at the position. Buffalo currently only has Seantrel Henderson on its depth chart at RT and he will be suspended for multiple games in 2017. Smith played for the Minnesota Vikings last season and could help solidify the offensive line without breaking the bank. Even if he does sign with the Bills, I would expect another addition at the position through free agency or the draft as well.
8. Kamar Aiken: The 27-year old WR played for the Baltimore Ravens last year and grabbed 29 receptions for 328 receiving yards and one touchdown. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, Aiken was a focal point of Baltimore’s offense in 2015 as he racked up 75 receptions for 944 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The wide receiver actually started his career with the Bills back in 2011 but didn’t see any significant playing time on offense until he caught on with the Ravens a few years ago. At 6’2 and with 4.45 40-yard dash speed, the Bills could use a player of his caliber and have been reportedly interested (Bills Wire) in his services. If Buffalo can add a weapon to its offensive arsenal like Aiken for around $4M-$5M per year, it could be very well worth it.
9. LaDarius Webb: The 31-year old CB played with the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and made 73 tackles while recording one sack and one interception. Webb is considered to be one of the better defensive backs left in free agency and has been a consistent performer for the Ravens since 2009. He would immediately add depth and a PRO to the Bills secondary while not breaking the bank.
10. Sam Shields: What are the chances Buffalo signs two defensive back from the Green Bay Packers secondary through free agency? Who knows but after this front office (and coaching staff) has shown willingness to scoop players from all around the league, I wouldn’t put anything past them. Shields is a 29-year old cornerback whose a solid coverage defender. He missed most of 2016 with a concussion but performed well in 2015, recording 39 tackles, three interception and 13 passes defended.
Bonus: Dont’a Hightower, ILB ($$$); Vincent Jackson, WR ($); DeAndre Levy, OLB ($$); TJ McDonald, S ($$); Zach Brown, LB ($$$); Breno Giacomini, RT ($)