With 2012 NFL free agency set to commence, the Buffalo Bills are in a prime position to land a top-tier playmaker, such as defensive end Mario Williams or wideout Vincent Jackson, among others. The Bills have the cap room to make a splash this year, and with the recent re-signings of some key players, it's becoming obvious that Buffalo is a player-friendly organization.
Here, I'll preview some of the primary needs, and the free agents the franchise should seriously consider taking a look at.
DE Mario Williams
It's becoming more and more clear that the former No. 1 overall draft pick by the Houston Texans is ready to test the free-agent market. While rumors have him going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to their surplus of cap space, I think that with the Bills' transition back to the 4-3 defensive front would be perfect for him.
Williams excelled in the 4-3 as a defensive end, he managed just five sacks in five games under the Texans' defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' base 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.
For his career, the 6'6", 283-pounder out of North Carolina State has racked up 241 tackles, 53 sacks and forced 11 fumbles. It would take a lot of money to bring in Williams, but imagining him alongside Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus could cause the often-stingy Ralph Wilson Jr. to hand over a blank check to Williams.
WR Vincent Jackson
Bills general manager Buddy Nix was the one who selected wide receiver Vincent Jackson and may want to bring him to an up-and-coming offense lacking the one position where Jackson excels.
Last season, the 6'5", 230-pound wideout caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards and nine scores. In his seven-year career, he has reeled in 272 catches for 4,754 yards, while finding the end zone 37 times.
Bringing in a player of Jackson's caliber would place defenses in a predicament of whether to double Johnson or Jackson, leaving a lot of space over the middle for players like David Nelson and Donald Jones to thrive.
After Johnson signed his long-term extension, the Bills have a shot to have one of the most explosive wide-receiver tandems to compete in the AFC East.
WR Laurent Robinson
When Miles Austin went down with an injury, Laurent Robinson picked up where Austin left off, having the best season of his career. He reeled in 54 passes for 858 yards and found the end zone 11 times, while averaging roughly 16 yards per reception.
If the Bills lose out on the Vincent Jackson sweepstakes, Robinson could be a viable No. 2 option.
Other Options: Pierre Garcon (IND), Marques Colston, Robert Meachem (NO) Steve Smith (PHI)
CB Cortland Finnegan
The Bills are in dire need of cornerback help, as former first-rounder Leodis McKelvin was replaced on the depth chart by a rookie seventh-rounder by midseason. Additionally, veteran corner Terrence McGee was forced to restructure his contract in order to stay on the active roster.
The Bills are looking for a hard-nosed defense, whether it be in the front seven or the secondary. Bills fans have far too long watched as Tom Brady picked the Buffalo secondary apart, and Finnegan could be the answer.
In his career, he has racked up almost 500 tackles, while picking off 14 passes.
The top ranked free-agent corner on the market, and better yet, Jason Cole of Yahoo! has reported that Finnegan has been texting with Vincent Jackson on a possible package deal.
The only issue with Finnegan is that he is 28 and may be looking for one last big contract, and I'm not too sure the Bills would be willing to pay what he demands.
Other Options: Tracy Porter (NO), Brandon Carr (KC)