Debating Which Bills Free Agents Will Be Back in Buffalo Next Season

Josh Cembellin@@JoshCembellinCorrespondent INovember 23, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Jairus Byrd #31 and  Kelvin Sheppard #55 of the Buffalo Bills celebrate Byrd's interception in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 15, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 19-14.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills still have a fighting chance at reaching the playoffs in 2012, so this isn’t about throwing in the towel and looking ahead to 2013. Nevertheless, there are several important free agents the Bills need to make a decision on for next year, and the evaluation process has been ongoing.

Many felt Buffalo would be sitting at a better record than 4-6 heading into Week 12. Regardless of the situation, though, there have been several reasons for optimism both for the final six games and for next season.

Key soon-to-be free agents like Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre have played a big part in that optimism. But which free agents will return, and which will start the next stage of their journey in another city?

Here are Buffalo’s 2013 free agents, along with a breakdown of who I believe will be back and who will not.

This list of free agents is courtesy of and


Jairus Byrd

Byrd is quickly evolving into not only one of the game’s best safeties, but also one of the Bills' top defensive players. He has a knack for making plays and being around the ball, which is a testament to his instincts and knowledge of the game. Because he’s become such a leader in the secondary, Buffalo has to make sure it can re-sign him to a long-term contract

Will he be back? Yes


Andy Levitre

In his fourth year with the Bills, Levitre has solidified himself as one of the better interior linemen in the NFL. He has quietly become an anchor on the offensive line. Playing next to Eric Wood, who was also drafted in 2009, Levitre has helped build a sturdy foundation on the inside. With rookie Cordy Glenn already ahead of the game, this offensive line is only going to get better over the next few years. Keeping Levitre around, though, is a big part of that.

Will he be back? Yes


Tyler Thigpen

The Bills clearly aren’t satisfied with Thigpen as a long-term backup. They signed Vince Young in the offseason, gave him a shot and ultimately were disappointed with his performance. Staying proactive, they made a trade for Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the preseason. Thigpen is just 28 years old, but all signs point the Bills rolling with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson and a rookie next season.

Will he be back? No


Donald Jones

Considering the way 2012 has unfolded, the Bills are still searching for that reliable No. 2 receiver. Jones has continued to make more strides this year, catching 34 balls for 391 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. Meanwhile, rookie T.J. Graham has taken longer than expected to get comfortable with the offense. Set to be a restricted free agent, Jones should be back on the cheap in 2013.

Will he be back? Yes


Tashard Choice

Choice has actually done some good things since coming to Buffalo. Unfortunately, his skill set pales in comparison to those of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Spiller is clearly taking over in the backfield, and with Fred Jackson set to turn 32 in February, the Bills will likely move on from Choice and look to add a more explosive player in the draft.

Will he be back? No


Kraig Urbik

When healthy this season, Urbik has quietly had a great year. He’s been impressive as a run-blocker, and his pass protection is getting better. He and fellow right guard Chad Rinehart have been battling for playing time the past couple years, and it would make sense for the Bills to re-sign both restricted free agents and give them another year to play for a long-term job.

Will he be back? Yes


Chad Rinehart

Much like Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart has been a strong contributor at guard for the Bills. He’s still young with room to grow, and his game experience makes him even more valuable. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old out of Northern Iowa battled injuries this year, and his season came to an end after the Bills placed him on IR early in November. Once healthy, he’ll challenge for the starting right guard position and fortify the depth along the offensive line.  

Will he be back? Yes


Leodis McKelvin

You have to hand it to Leodis McKelvin. Before the season, he had a huge target on his back as a candidate to either be released or be on the hot seat. Instead, he has stepped up both on special teams and on defense. The former scenario was expected, as he’s a dynamic return man. But his growth as a corner has been a welcome sight for the Bills, and he stands a good chance at returning next year to add some valuable depth in the secondary.

Will he be back? Yes


Dorin Dickerson

Although he has a unique skill set as an H-back, Dickerson might not be able to fit into this team’s long-term plans. The Bills brought him in to add some creativity to the offense and create mismatches, but it’s clear that Dickerson is more of a luxury player than a consistent weapon. It’s nothing against him, but the Bills can’t really afford to take up a roster spot for a player with such a limited role.  

Will he be back? No


Spencer Johnson

Johnson will be 31 years old in December, and as a veteran with a solid resume, he’ll likely seek more money than the Bills are willing to give him. He still has some gas left in the tank and can play at a high level for his skill set, but Buffalo has too much depth at the top to warrant offering him a new multi-year deal as a backup.

Will he be back? No


Tarvaris Jackson

Buffalo didn’t go out and trade a seventh-round pick (which could become a sixth-rounder) for Tarvaris Jackson just to have him ride the bench in 2012. Jackson is an experienced veteran who is an upgrade over Thigpen as a future backup. Unfortunately, he came to the Bills just as the regular season was set to kick off, and he’s spent his time learning the system and playbook without seeing a ton of reps. Thigpen should be out, Jackson should be back as the No. 2 behind Fitz and the Bills will likely draft a rookie to sit behind them.  

Will he be back? Yes


Ruvell Martin

Martin’s best asset is his special-teams abilities, but outside of that, he doesn’t offer the Bills a lot of upside. He just turned 30, and although he has good size (6’4”, 214 pounds), it’s tough to see the Bills holding on to him as they attempt to solidify the position with more talent.  

Will he be back? No


Corey McIntyre

McIntyre is a bulldozer. A classic blow-’em-up blocker who doesn’t do much else on offense, he’s a valuable contributor in the run game. McIntyre is also an important special teams player. He’ll be 34 in January, but Buffalo may offer him one more short contract to keep the nucleus of the run game intact.

Will he be back? Yes


Shawne Merriman

The Bills had already parted ways with veteran pass-rusher Shawne Merriman. Unfortunately, injuries forced them to come calling for his services once again at midseason. Merriman has actually looked okay since returning, especially against the Dolphins on Thursday night. But it’s clear that he wasn’t in their plans before this year got underway, and he won’t be in their plans once the season is complete.

Will he be back? No


Kyle Moore

As an unexpected surprise, defensive end Kyle Moore has provided a spark for Buffalo’s defense. Moore was thrust into playing time due to injuries along the defensive line. So far, he has taken advantage of the opportunity by showing impressive skills rushing the passer and creating pressure. He still needs to improve his run defense, but Moore’s development as a pass-rusher should earn him a new contract with Buffalo.  

Will he be back? Yes


Bryan Scott

Scott has essentially converted into a linebacker in the Bills new 4-3 defense. While it’s unclear what will happen with defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt and his system next year, Scott is a versatile player and an important locker-room presence. This season, he has recorded 43 tackles, a forced fumble, two recovered fumbles and three interceptions. He’ll be 32 years old by the time next season comes around, but he’s earned a two-year deal.

Will he be back? Yes 


David Nelson

After coming to the Bills as an undrafted free agent, Nelson has carved out a role as a reliable slot receiver. He became Fitzpatrick’s safety net, and with Nelson injured this year, the offense definitely felt his absence. As a big target with smooth route-running abilities, he’s a good bet to re-sign as a restricted free agent.

Will he be back? Yes


Colin Brown

Brown is set to become a restricted free agent in 2013, and it makes a lot of sense to re-sign him. He has experience in Buffalo’s system and has already found playing time in his brief career. A serviceable player like Brown is valuable along the offensive line, especially as insurance to Eric Wood, who has a history of being injured.

Will he be back? Yes


David Snow

Snow signed with the Bills just this year as an undrafted rookie, and he was called up from the practice squad in October. The Bills likely see enough in the 23-year-old to warrant keeping him in the fold. Teams can never have too much depth on the offensive line, and Snow’s ability to play center makes him even more valuable. A probable practice-squad player, Snow isn’t a flashy free agent but should be back next year.

Will he be back? Yes


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