2013 NFL Free-Agency Wish List for the Buffalo Bills
Remember how much fun it used to be to create a Christmas list as a child?
I would list anything and everything I wanted in the hopes that Santa Claus would deliver them all my way. I never received everything I wrote on my Christmas list, but "Santa" always gave me what I needed and then some.
Twenty-plus years later, and I'm writing a new list that excites me more than any Christmas list: a Buffalo Bills free-agent wish list!
I've come a long way as a child, so you won't see me listing any players that the Bills truly don't need (example: any running backs).
Also, I'm all for the Bills upgrading at quarterback, but there is no true option available via free agency. Thus, the position will not be addressed.
Instead, I'm focusing on three positions of need for the Buffalo Bills and options at the positions that would upgrade the 2013 Buffalo Bills roster.
Feel free to weigh-in yourselves. Tell me who you think the Bills should target in free agency in 2013 in the comment section below!
Re-Signing Impending Free Agents
Before the Bills go out shopping for new acquisitions, it's important that they re-sign their own players. There are two players the Bills need to find a way to bring back: Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre.
Both players are top-five in their respective positions, so bringing them back to the Bills should take priority.
2012 stats and rankings among free safeties: 37 tackles (tied for 10th), three interceptions (second), three forced fumbles (first), one fumble recovery (tied for first) and six passes defended (sixth).
The numbers speak for themselves and show that Byrd is clearly in the elite category of free safeties. On a team with plenty of issues on the defensive side of the ball, it's important that the Bills keep a player as talented as Byrd.
Levitre is Buffalo's best offensive lineman and one of the top left guards in the NFL.
Through seven games, Levitre is responsible for giving up one-half of a sack. He's also only been called for two penalties—a false start and a penalty for holding.
Both players are high-priority in terms of re-signing, so the sooner the Bills start negotiating with their top impending free agents, the better.
Other Notable Impending Free Agents
David Nelson, Donald Jones, Kraig Urbik, Bryan Scott, Kyle Moore, Leodis McKelvin, Spencer Johnson.
The Buffalo Bills are currently averaging 24.4 points per game, good enough for 13th best in the NFL. The team is holding its own offensively, but help at wide receiver is needed. Below are three options the Bills could explore.
Option No. 1: Dwayne Bowe
Last year, the Bills made free-agency noise when they signed Mario Williams to a $100 million contract. The odds of signing another free agent to a large contract isn't likely, but if they were looking to shell out a large sum of money, Bowe may be their guy.
Bringing in Bowe would give the Bills legitimate options on both sides of the field at wide receiver. He'd be an excellent complement to Stevie Johnson. Both Bowe and Johnson are coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and each player could reach the mark for a third consecutive season without having a top-tier quarterback throwing them the ball.
Bowe does have ties to the team currently, as he played under Chan Gailey in Kansas City. If Gailey somehow manages to keep his job going forward, it may entice Bowe to join the Buffalo Bills.
That being said, it's not likely that Bowe and the Bills will be a match due to the contract Bowe is looking to receive.
Option No. 2: Brandon Gibson
Gibson is a wide receiver that I enjoy watching. In his fourth season, Gibson is on pace to have his best year yet in the NFL. Through seven games, Gibson has 25 receptions, 335 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Gibson is on pace to finish the season with 58 catches, 766 yards and four TDs.
If the Bills are looking to sign an under-the-radar wide receiver, Gibson is my choice. Gibson's current team, the St. Louis Rams, is not likely to re-sign the wideout, as they have younger options with Brian Quick and Chris Givens. The team is more likely to re-sign Danny Amendola, the favorite target of Sam Bradford.
The Bills' most glaring need on the defensive side of the ball, in my opinion, is at linebacker. Currently, the Bills are starting Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard and Nigel Bradham.
Barnett is the most talented of the trio and can play inside or outside. His versatility benefits the team, and he is the one linebacker you notice each week when watching the Bills.
Bradham, a rookie out of Florida State, recently took over one outside linebacker spot from Arthur Moats. His athleticism is something that the Bills coveted, and he is likely to have a starting job in 2013.
The weak link of the group is current MLB Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard was handed the starting job from the Bills and has not done his job consistently. If the Bills were wise, they'd at least consider moving Barnett back to the middle of the defense.
Option No. 1: Shaun Phillips
Phillips is an intriguing linebacker that has the ability to get to the quarterback. In the midst of his ninth NFL season, Phillips currently has 64.5 career sacks.
Phillips, at 250 pounds, would be more of a situational pass-rusher for the Bills. This would allow Bradham to get his fair share of snaps and keep Phillips fresh.
Phillips would be a welcome addition to a crew of linebackers who have struggled to get to the quarterback. Through six games, Phillips has 4.5 sacks, more than all three of the Bills starting linebackers combined.
Phillips also has a connection to the Buffalo Bills, as he was drafted by current general manager Buddy Nix.
Phillips would provide quality depth to a team lacking in talent at linebacker.
Option No. 2: Erin Henderson
Henderson, currently with the Minnesota Vikings, is outstanding against the run. Considering the Bills' woes against the run, Henderson would be welcomed in Buffalo with open arms.
The Vikings only signed Henderson to a one-year deal, so there is a great chance that he hits the free-agent market in 2013. Henderson may not be a star player, but he'd help the Bills improve against the run.
The Buffalo Bills drafted cornerback Stephon Gilmore in Round 1 of the 2012 draft.
The former South Carolina Gamecock has had a few rookie moments, but he's also thrived on the field.
Look no further than his game against Larry Fitzgerald. Lined up against one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Gilmore held Fitzgerald to one catch for 14 yards. The Bills seem to have one of their cornerback spots locked up.
The other spot, however, is wide-open. Aaron Williams, a second-year corner out of Texas, has been abysmal. Williams currently leads the NFL in most touchdowns allowed at the cornerback position.
Williams has only played 16 games in the NFL. There is a good chance that he improves, as cornerback is one of the toughest positions in the NFL. That being said, the Bills need to look at other options available in free agency.
Option No. 1: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
In my opinion, Rodgers-Cromartie has everything you look for in a star cornerback. He has all of the intangibles you want, and he's shown flashes of the talent.
That said, DRC has lacked consistency at the cornerback position. At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie is still relatively young. Whoever signs him will hope that Rodgers-Cromartie can finally put it all together and become the star cornerback that many felt he'd become.
Option No. 2: Quentin Jammer
Who better to mentor Williams than Quentin Jammer? Jammer, another alumnus of Texas, could teach Williams the ropes. Jammer, currently 33, could rotate with Williams and add depth and a veteran presence to the team.
Jammer, like Shaun Phillips, was drafted by Buddy Nix. This may give the Bills an edge in courting the former Longhorn.
Optimism for 2013
There are no sure things in free agency, and minus Dwayne Bowe, I tried to avoid guys who would come with a hefty price tag.
For the Bills to improve, they need to roll the dice on a few players in free agency. If they hit on one or two players, then the Bills would finally take that next step in terms of credibility.