It’s a big week in the NFLwith free agency set to begin at 4 pm on Wednesday. The Buffalo Bills have already had a fairly active offseason thus far, signing veterans Vontae Davis and Chris Ivory to fill voids at cornerback and backup running back. They still have plenty of other needs to address though as they enter the new league year, especially after trading quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Friday.
Following that trade, Buffalo will have over $35 million in cap space to spend this offseason, of that $9 million will be allocated to their rookie pool assuming they use all nine picks they currently hold. That could depend largely on what areas they chooses to address in free agency this week. Let’s take a look at 10 players the Bills could pursue on the open market…
1) DT Star Lotulelei – There’s a natural link between Lotulelei and the Bills, given the five-year veteran’s early-career success in Sean McDermott’s defense down in Carolina. During his rookie season in 2013, Lotulelei recorded a career-high 34 tackles, including three sacks. And even though his numbers have gradually regressed in the years since, he’s still got plenty in the tank at 28. Last season, the Bills defense ranked 29th in terms of rushing yards allowed per game and could really use Lotulelei’s physical presence in the middle of the defense ideally alongside Kyle Williams should he choose return. According to Spotrac, Lotulelei’s market value is estimated at $8.4 million annually.
2) OLB Nigel Bradham – The former Bills linebacker hits the open market for the second time in his career, but this time around he’s a Super Bowl champion. Bradham was not retained by the Bills following 2015, largely due to the fact that he wasn’t a good fit for Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense. It wasn’t much of a surprise when he opted for signing with the Eagles and rejoining his old defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who coached him during his first three seasons in Buffalo. In two years with Philadelphia, Bradham played in 31 regular seasons games as well as each of the Eagles three postseason contests earlier this year. With the Bills back to running a 4-3 defense under McDermott and LB Ramon Humber set to hit the open market as well, Bradham could be an option at outside linebacker. For what it’s worth, SportsLine.com listed Buffalo as having the best odds to land the 28-year-old at 3/1.
3) WR Paul Richardson Jr. – Wide receiver is easily one of the Bills most pressing needs this offseason. In 2017, Bills receivers accounted for just 1,474 yards, while TE Charles Clay and RB LeSean McCoy combined for over 1,000 yards themselves. That’s not ideal, and one reason for such a huge discrepancy in terms of receiver production was the offense’s lack of a deep threat. Enter Paul Richardson, who ran a 4.40 forty at his combine back in 2014. During his first three years with the Seahawks, Richardson wasn’t much of a contributor, especially after he ended his rookie season with a torn ACL in the playoffs. When he finally returned late in his sophomore campaign a hamstring injury saw him land on the IR. Through two seasons he had 311 receiving yards and one touchdown. Finally healthy he played 15 games in 2016 before really breaking out this past year, posting career highs in receptions (44), yards (703) and touchdowns (6). Richardson could be the perfect threat for Buffalo’s offense to take the top off opposing defenses. It’s estimated that Richardson will garner north of $6 million annually.
4) QB Sam Bradford – Buffalo’s long-awaited parting with quarterback Tyrod Taylor leaves them with one quarterback on the roster for 2018 in Nathan Peterman, which makes finding a quarterback priority number one this offseason. Now, the Bills may have their sights set on moving up in the draft and selecting one of these rookies. Whether they go that route or not, signing a veteran is still an option. With prized free agent Kirk Cousins expected to sign with Minnesota, Buffalo will have to choose from what’s left if they want a veteran and according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, they have expressed interest in former Vikings signal caller Sam Bradford. Pelissero noted that they’re interested in Bradford’s former teammate as well, Case Keenum – who led Minnesota the NFC Championship game this past season – but his price tag will likely be much higher than Bradford’s.
5) LB Avery Williamson – Williamson could command a big payday when he hits the open market. In 2017 with Tennessee he compiled 92 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Rumor has it he’s interested in returning to the Titans, but if they can’t agree on his value he’ll have plenty of other suitors when free agency opens Wednesday. Williamson will only be 26 next season, so he’d keep the linebacker position youthful for Buffalo. Schematically, Williamson has been playing as an inside linebacker in Tennessee’s 3-4 defense, but would be just fine transitioning into being the sole middle linebacker in McDermott’s 4-3 look.
6) WR Taylor Gabriel – From cut by the Browns in 2015, to playing in the Super Bowl with the Falcons two seasons ago, the first four year’s of Gabriel’s career have been a fun story to follow. Like Richardson, Gabriel can really take the top off a defense with his blazing speed, which is just what the Bills are looking for in a receiver. As the third option in Atlanta these past two seasons he caught 68 passes for 957 yards and seven touchdowns, six of which came in 2016. Financially, Gabriel should be a bit more affordable than Richardson too.
7) DE Adrian Clayborn – Signing Clayborn is going to cost you. Spotrac has his average annual salary estimated at north of $9 million. He’s also not the youngest guy out there, set to turn 30 before next season. That said, there’s no reason to think Clayborn can’t still produce. His sack numbers increased in each of his three years with Atlanta, culminating in a career-high 9.5 sacks this past season. Again, the Bills defensive line could use some revamping and pairing the Iowa product with Jerry Hughes on the opposite side of it could have fans flashing back to 2014 when Buffalo led the league in sacks with Hughes and Mario Williams. Considering how much McDermott likes to rotate guys along the defensive line too, it could keep Clayborn producing at a high level into his early 30s if they were to give him a multi-year deal.
8) QB A.J. McCarron – McCarron could be another veteran quarterback the Bills look to sign if they miss out on Bradford as well. What’s worrisome about the former Bengal is the fact that he’s only played in 11 games during his first four NFL seasons and started just three of them. That could also be what makes him intriguing to teams though since unlike many of these other veteran options, there’s some untapped potential there. He could be a franchise QB or he could be a complete flop. For a team like Buffalo that may go the veteran route or potentially pair a veteran with a rookie, McCarron may be worth a shot.
9) C Weston Richburg – The awkward situation concerning Eric Wood’s retirement has yet to be sorted out, but once it is, Buffalo will be without a center heading into 2018. One option for satisfying the void is simply sliding Ryan Groy to the position. Groy did a bang-up job filling in for Wood after he broke his leg in 2016. However, it’s not as if the Bills don’t have other issues to address along the offensive line and they may value Groy as a guard. If so, Richburg could be a realistic option for them at center. He finished last season on the IR after just four games due to a serious concussion. Prior to that though, the 26-year-old had only missed one game during his four-year career and he started every game for the Giants in 2016.
10) LB Jon Bostic – Like Richburg, Bostic saw his 2017 season come to an end on the IR after suffering a right knee injury in Week 15. Prior to the injury though he was a bright spot in a weak Colts defense. In the 14 games he did play, Bostic racked up 97 tackles and proved to hold his own in coverage as well. That’s an important quality for linebackers to have in McDermott’s defense. He’s only 26 too – a year older than Preston Brown – so he’d be a youthful option for Buffalo at middle linebacker if they are comfortable with his injury history to offer a contract.