The Buffalo Bills are only a few players away from being a legitimate contender in the National Football League.
Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix plan on building through the draft, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the Bills must attack free agency and sign proven players if they plan on being successful in 2012.
The Bills have long prided themselves on drafting their football team. Since they are not too far off from a winning record, adding veterans and proven players through free agency can make their roster better immediately.
Since the game of football is a matter of giving and taking, the Bills should not be afraid of letting some of their players test the free-agent market. They should be eying some valuable players as well, and letting some players leave will make acquiring the top-tier free agents much easier.
The draft is great and players can develop in a team's system. However, it usually takes rookies a few years to be the best they can be.
If Buffalo wants to win right away, they must step out of their comfort zone and look to bring in proven talent that they know will help their squad. There are five free agents that are certain to help Buffalo improve in 2012.
If Kansas City cannot agree to a contract with Bowe, Buffalo is a great destination for him.
Bowe is a huge target for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, as he makes remarkable catches and has steady hands. He is physical and a great route runner, making long balls more likely to be successful in Buffalo.
If the team is able to retain Stevie Johnson, the Bills' starting wide receivers would be a nightmare for any defense, with the passing game opening up the field for Fred Jackson. In order to acquire Bowe, the Bills must likely be willing to open their wallets.
Tamme did not have a great 2011 season, which actually works in Buffalo's favor. At 6'3'', he is a big red-zone target for Fitzpatrick that can also make plays down field.
Since he isn't really being talked about heading into free agency, he will be a very cheap addition for Buffalo.
He started the last eight weeks of the 2010 season and recorded 67 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns. The Bills have longed for a tight end, and Tamme can be the consistent pass catcher they have been looking for.
The Bills are switching back to a 4-3 defense and need capable linebackers. The Atlanta Falcons apparently aren't planning on giving Lofton a big payday but Buffalo could certainly use him.
He is only 25 and recorded 147 tackles last year. Even though Buffalo has Nick Barnett, Lofton's talents would help the team.
He and Barnett would be hard-hitting, solid linebackers, and a team can never have too much depth there. If Lofton is locked up for a few seasons, he could be the new face of the Bills' defense.
If Buffalo was going to sign any of these free agents, Williams should be the one. He is 6'6'' and one of the most feared pass rushers in all of football.
He is a two time All-Pro player and would turn one of Buffalo's glaring weakness into a strength. The Bills should overpay for Williams, especially since they play Tom Brady twice a year.
His speed and strength would help them get to the quarterback on a regular basis. Buffalo should do whatever they can to sign Williams because he will be a huge difference-maker for them.
Finnegan is one of the most physical defensive backs in all of the NFL. While he only has a few good seasons left, he can help Buffalo win now.
He is good against the run and frustrates receivers with his dogged play. Buffalo isn't horrible against the pass, but they give up too many big plays.
Finnegan can limit the quarterback's effectiveness throwing the ball down the field and can teach the younger corner backs a thing or two.
While Buffalo cannot sign all five of the listed players, imagine the impact that one or two of them could have on the franchise. Buffalo has a habit of starting the season off hot, then stumbling to a poor record. The addition of experienced players can end the playoff drought.
So while it is important for Buffalo to continue to shape its franchise through the draft, adding some veteran players can go a long way. It doesn't matter how Buffalo makes the playoffs. Since they are only a few players away, they should get busy when free agency rolls around.