Leading up to the beginning of the NFL's free agency period on Friday, RealFootball365.com will analyze available players the Buffalo Bills should pursue and avoid in this class. Today, we'll start with players whom Buffalo should be interested in, counting down from five to one in the process.
5. Tommy Kelly, defensive tackle
Face it, the Bills' defensive line is a wreck. The team has two grossly overpaid ends in Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay, neither of whom is worthy of his contract, and a feckless tackle corps that is saved only by the second-year progress of young John McCargo. Other than McCargo, the Bills have the likes of Larry Tripplett, whose decent-sized contract doesn't match his underwhelming play, and a slew of backup-at-best DTs headlined by Kyle Williams.
Though Kelly, who has spent his first four years in Oakland, is hardly an elite player or big name, he would help the Bills' defense both in production and versatility. At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Kelly is built well for Buffalo's Tampa 2 defense, and he has the athleticism to complement his size. The 27-year-old Kelly is adequate against the run and somewhat of an astute pass rusher, evidenced by his 13 career sacks, and he can play end in a pinch. The Bills could do worse.
4. Billy Volek, quarterback
The Bills have two young quarterbacks on their roster, Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman, but odds are good that the latter, who lost his job to the former last season, will be traded in the near future. Losman, 26, might be able to resurrect his career elsewhere, but the Bills are set on going with Edwards, a soon-to-be second-year Stanford alumnus who showed positive signs as a rookie.
Volek, presently San Diego's property, has appeared in 30 career games and amassed 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. The 6-2, 214-pounder is set to turn 32 in April, and he'd be a steady, ideal backup for Edwards. If Edwards either performs poorly in Year 2 or gets hurt, Volek would have the ability to step in and manage the offense well.
3. Rosevelt Colvin, linebacker
Admittedly, any team that signs the 31-year-old Colvin would be taking a risk. After all, the eight-year veteran, just released by New England, is coming off an injury-shortened season with the Patriots. However, Colvin played all 16 regular-season games in the three campaigns prior to '07, and he has major connections to Bills head coach Dick Jauron.
Colvin was drafted by Jauron's Chicago Bears in 1999, and the 6-3, 250-pounder eventually became a star in the Windy City. In his final two seasons with the Bears, both of which came under the tutelage of Jauron and in the Tampa 2, Colvin totaled 21 sacks as a strongside linebacker.
The grossly underrated Angelo Crowell is currently Buffalo's Sam linebacker, but he does have plenty of experience on the weak side. Adding Colvin on the strong side and shifting Crowell would give the Bills a terrific linebacking corps that would also include the ultra-promising Paul Posluszny in the middle.
2. Alge Crumpler, tight end
The Bills have consistently lacked a lot of elements needed to make an offense succeed over the past decade or so, and one of those areas of failure has been tight end. The last time the Bills had a TE record 40-plus catches in a season was 2001, which is simply nothing short of pathetic.
With very few worthwhile receivers on the free-agent market this year, it would behoove the Bills to address that position via the draft and grab an impact tight end, namely the 30-year-old Crumpler, during free agency. A four-time Pro Bowler, Crumpler was released earlier this month by the fully rebuilding Atlanta Falcons because of age and salary-cap concerns. He'd be a great security blanket for Edwards, particularly in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
1. Lance Briggs, linebacker
As it does with Colvin, the presence of Jauron certainly enters the fold here. Briggs, arguably the best player available on the free-agent market, was drafted in the third round by Jauron's Bears in 2003, and the 27-year-old has an immense amount of respect for his ex-coach.
"I played for Dick Jauron. I always thought Dick Jauron was a great coach. I liked playing for him," Briggs, a two-time Pro Bowler, said over a year ago.
Unlike Colvin, Briggs is a weakside LB, so the Bills would not have to shift Crowell anywhere. Of course, signing Briggs, who has four straight 100-tackle seasons, eight career forced fumbles and six interceptions, is going to be extremely difficult for any team, especially Buffalo.
The Bills, who employ their own budget that operates well below the NFL's salary-cap maximum, would need to hand Briggs a contract worth anywhere from $50 to $60 million, not to mention the ridiculous bonus money the 240-pounder is sure to command.
Obviously, though, if you're a Bills fan, you have to be coveting Briggs entering the Friday bonanza.