The Buffalo Bills have a number of players entering contract years, most notably safety Jairus Byrd, running back Fred Jackson, offensive linemen Andy Levitre and wide receiver David Nelson. If the front office at One Bills Drive is serious about building a winning franchise, these players need to be extended, and quickly.
The Bills will have 32 free agents at the end of the year, and while it will be tough to keep them all, Buddy Nix needs to focus on the key pieces that are becoming the core of the franchise.
Feel free to comment regarding who you want and don't want to see extended!
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The Bills drafted Jairus Byrd in the second round, No. 42 overall, of the 2008 NFL Draft, and he has been nothing but spectacular in the secondary. He is currently signed to a four-year, $4.15 million deal, which ends this year. Byrd has made a huge impact since his rookie season, in which he picked off nine passes.
He is a complete safety, utilizing great coverage skills with his solid skills in all aspects of the game. In his three years with the team he has made 229 tackles, two sacks, defended 21 passes, picked of 13 and forced six fumbles. While it will definitely cost a pretty penny to retain his services, the team has no proven safeties behind him, and it should be the main focus of Buddy Nix to re-sign this ball hawking safety.
ProFootballFocus, a website dedicated to football sabermetrics had this to say about Byrd’s 2011 campaign:
This was the year where Byrd established himself as one of the league’s top safeties, with a season that earned him our third-highest grade of all his peers. He broke up seven passes to go with his three interceptions, while only allowing 51.5% of passes into coverage to be completed. What’s more, for a player who spends most of his time playing deep (84.1% of all snaps), he notched up 35 tackles in run defense, good for 16th of all safeties. He’s a rare beast; a free safety who is active on every play.
Before going down with an injury in a Week 10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, running back Fred Jackson was the focal point of the Bills’ offensive attack. Averaging 5.5 yards per carry, he rushed for 934 yards, scoring six times, while catching 29 passes for 442 yards out of the backfield.
While he is 31 years old, he has definitely outplayed his four-year, $7.5 million contract he signed in 2009. Buddy Nix has stated multiple times that he wants to get a deal for Jackson done before training camp.
ProFootballFocus raved about Jackson’s 2011 performance as well, stating:
Jackson missed six games and yet still had our highest rating for all running backs. That’s how good he was in 2011, and it makes you wonder how much higher he could have gone if not for injury. He was electric to start the year, as the Bills went from laughing stock to playoff contender. Numbers say it all as Jackson averaged 5.5 yards per carry (best for all backs with 150 plus carries), 3.7 yards after contact per carry (most of all backs) and 11.2 yards per reception (the 2nd most of any back with at least 20 receptions). Stunningly productive.
With C.J. Spiller’s production in Jackson’s absence, the Bills could easily have the best running back tandem in the AFC East division once a deal is worked out.
Andy Levitre proved to be the Bills’ most valuable offensive lineman this past year, as he saw time at his natural left guard position, left tackle, and even center. Drafted in 2008 out of Oregon State, Levitre is in the final year of his four-year, $3.56 million deal. He is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the entire National Football League, and his services will be coveted by many teams if he hits the open market.
Levitre can do everything you look for in a guard, as he displays great power in the run game, and holds his own in passing situations. ProFootballFocus rated him one of the top guards in the entire league.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Florida, David Nelson fought his way to earn a role as the Bills’ leading slot receiver.
At 6’5″, 217-pounds, he is a huge target and a major red zone threat. Nelson is playing on a three-year, $1.215 million contract, but will definitely earn more if he were to hit the open market. He lacks the speed to play outside, but he is great across the middle and is a reliable pass catcher.
In just two years Nelson has caught 92 passes for 1,011 yards and scored eight touchdowns. His play improves every week and he is getting more and more comfortable with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bills are looking to be contenders this year after their stellar offseason, and now the front office needs to focus on retaining their own.
These four players are vital to the success of the team, and if Buddy Nix is as smart as we all think he is, he will definitely be working hard this year to keep these players.