Sometimes the best players to bring in are the ones in the stars' shadows.
In a Bizarro World-type situation, the roster is actually looking pretty good, the coaching staff has an identifiable plan in place and there is tangible reason for hope.
So why would the Bills bring in some random players to potentially disrupt the strong chemistry they've worked so hard to establish?
Every successful NFL team has depth, and the only way to establish that is through competition. However, there's still a certain finesse with which clubs have to orchestrate these matters.
Start tossing big names and egos into the mix, and it could be one bumpy ride ahead. Progress could come to a screeching halt, and fanbases could become divided.
On the other hand, if teams can find experienced players who fit their identity and system without disrupting the magic that is swirling about, it could be a huge benefit down the road.
This article identifies five veteran free agents the Bills should consider bringing in for training camp.
None of these names are going to charge your inner Buffalo stampede (at least I don't think so). Yet just because they aren't flashy or splashy doesn't mean these players can't potentially be assets to the Bills' 2012 squad.
Bills starting center Eric Wood has a well-documented recent injury history.
When healthy, he’s an anchor on the offensive line, but after struggling to fill his void once again last season, Buffalo wants to be sure there is a reliable backup ready to fill in.
Scott Mruczkowski is a seasoned veteran with starting experience. He started 13 games for the San Diego Chargers in 2009, and he also has ties to Bills GM Buddy Nix.
At 6’5” and 310 pounds, Mruczkowski has the size, physical tools and game experience to be a valuable commodity for an NFL club. Additionally, he offers versatility, as he can play both center and offensive guard. That’s something head coach Chan Gailey and the Bills’ coaching staff loves.
According to Pro Football Focus (via bigblueview.com), the veteran center graded out extremely well in 2009—his most extensive year as a starter—ranking eighth "[a]mong centers who played 75 percent or more of their team’s offensive snaps."
Collin Brown is currently listed behind Eric Wood on the Bills’ official depth chart. Rookie Mark Asper is next in line.
Mruczkowski has far more experience than both, and his veteran presence would only help the team’s young linemen develop and mature as NFL players.
Corey McIntyre is entrenched as the starter at fullback for Buffalo, but only Dorin Dickerson—who is more of an H-back—is listed behind him on the current depth chart.
For that reason, veteran Ovie Mughelli could be an intriguing player to bring in to training camp.
While the Bills aren’t going to rely heavily on the fullback position, it’s always good to have a Plan B in place.
McIntyre isn’t getting any younger, either. At 33 years old, he’s done a lot of damage in the NFL and has engaged in his fair share of heavy contact.
And while Dickerson is a terrific athlete, he’s sort of the opposite of Big Mac.
Mughelli’s skill set resembles that of McIntyre. ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas described the veteran as “a powerful blocker who had few opportunities to run or catch the ball in his five seasons with Atlanta.”
If that doesn’t sound like McIntyre, nothing does.
The point here is that the Bills could get a good look at Mughelli in case they need him at some point. His blocking skills would help push the running game in training camp while keeping Big Mac fresh as well.
Mughelli is 32 years old and is coming off a torn MCL, so he’d likely come very cheaply to Buffalo.
There’s no harm in kicking the tires.
While the Bills are a little bit deeper across the offensive line this season overall, they’re also young. Tony Moll could help bring some experience during camp.
Moll, a former fifth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers, is just 28 years old with some valuable playing time under his belt. He started games at guard for the Packers as a rookie, and according to Rotoworld.com, he can play four offensive line positions, making him an “ideal swing-type reserve.”
And like other athletic tackles in the league, he’s also a former tight end.
The Bills are actually looking pretty strong across the line. The interior is solid. Meanwhile, rookie Cordy Glenn is battling Chris Hairston for the starting left tackle job, and Erik Pears is holding down the starting right tackle job.
Behind Pears, though, is unknown talent in Sam Young and rookie Zebrie Sanders. Because of Moll’s versatility, he’d be a great camp body to come in and challenge some of the younger players. He’d also provide valuable depth across the entire line.
Visanthe Shiancoe is the sexier name here, but he’d likely ask for more money than what the Bills would be willing to pay (if anything at all).
Instead, Buffalo could take a closer look at another tight end who fits Gailey’s offensive system, and that is Billy Bajema.
Bajema is a blocking specialist who has good hands. He displays a lot of the strengths that Scott Chandler does, though he’s less athletic than the Bills’ starter.
The Bills won’t be featuring two tight ends much. Instead, they’ll run the ball a good amount and spread the offense out with many three- and four-receiver sets, setting up Ryan Fitzpatrick to get the ball into his playmakers’ hands.
Bajema could push Lee Smith, Kevin Brock and Mike Caussin. Smith and Brock are better blockers than Caussin, and Bajema’s experience could enable him to compete.
And don’t let his very, very unimpressive receiving stats fool you. Remember what Scott Chandler’s career numbers looked like before last year?
Bajema would serve as camp competition and a backup plan in the event the Bills need to address the tight end position at some point during the season.
Another former San Diego Charger with ties to Bills GM Buddy Nix, Paul Oliver has a decent resume of game experience. He was starting to progress nicely in San Diego until the depth chart got so muddled that he seemingly slipped through the cracks.
Now, he’s hoping to contribute elsewhere.
Oliver was the first player (of two) selected in the 2008 supplemental draft, as ESPN’s John Clayton reported at the time. Clayton detailed how Oliver was a highly regarded cornerback prospect, but had grade problems coming out of college.
In 57 career NFL games since then, Oliver has posted 144 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.
If the Bills were to bring him in, he’d bolster a safety group that is strong up top but not particularly deep. With Bryan Scott now officially listed as a linebacker, Buffalo could bring in a veteran to compete with youngsters Nick Saenz, Nick Sukay, Joshua Nesbitt and Delano Howell.
Oliver would be a logical low-risk option to do just that.
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