Buying or Selling Latest Free-Agent Buzz Surrounding the Buffalo Bills
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I came very close to naming this article, "Buying or Selling Latest Free-Agent Buzz Surrounding the Buffalo Jets."
Some would have caught onto the joke, but others would have rushed to the comment section to correct my "mistake."
The NFL's free agency period is exactly one month away and right now, there's not much news on the Bills front. However, if you do a search for the Bills and free agency, there is one common theme: soon-to-be-former-New York Jets.
It makes sense. Mike Pettine, Buffalo's new defensive coordinator, will want players players familiar with his defense.
When Rex Ryan left the Baltimore Ravens to become head coach of the New York Jets in 2009 and Mike Pettine came along as defensive coordinator, a significant part of their master plan was to sign former Raven defenders who could communicate the system to their new teammates.
Please keep in mind, this isn't a wish list. This is based purely upon players who are being linked as possible free-agent additions to the Buffalo Bills.
WLB Bart Scott
Some Bills fans "can't wait" for the Jets to release Bart Scott.
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Let's go back in time to 2009. Fifteen minutes into free agency, Mike Pettine, Rex Ryan and company were in Bart Scott's driveway. Scott loved the gesture and it was a major reason he signed with the Jets.
Talk about taking it back old-school! I was getting recruited! They were recruiting me big-time! Can you see the precedent they're setting? Remember Jerry McGuire? You're going to have players asking their coaches now, 'Why don't we have that kind of relationship?'
In 2013, things are going to be a bit different for Scott. Currently, his contract is an $8.65 million hit to the Jets' salary cap. Needless to say, Jets beat writer Manish Mehta is very confident that Scott will be a cap casualty:
Jets will get under salary cap when they cut LB Bart Scott, OLB Calvin Pace & OL Jason Smith in coming days/wks. Clears $27.7M of space #nyj
— Manish Mehta(@MMehtaNYDN) February 7, 2013
With the Jets, Scott played weak-side linebacker. Coincidentally, Buffalo just released WLB Nick Barnett. Coincidence? You tell me.
Let's not sugarcoat this potential move. Buffalo won't be getting the Bart Scott that the Jets desperately wanted in 2009. They'll be getting the 18th-best ILB in a 3-4 defense according to Pro Football Focus.
Scott graded out as a plus-1.1 overall rating. His highest rating came in the pass rush category where he obtained a plus-1.5. Against the run, Scott scored a plus-0.6. His coverage rating was a minus-0.1 and his penalty rating was a minus-0.9.
Truthfully, these stats were better than I expected.
Scott is familiar with Pettine's system and fits Buffalo's need for a pass-rushing WLB. He is on the downside of his career, but would still be a valuable addition to a defense learning new terminology.
OLB Calvin Pace
Calvin Pace is on the downside of his career.
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With a cap hit of $11.6 million, Calvin Pace's days are likely numbered with the Jets.
Brian Galliford of BuffaloRumblings.com had this to say about Pace in a piece on potential Bills free agent targets:
Think of Pace as a healthier, slightly younger (he's 32) version of [Bryan] Thomas—he hasn't been productive in quite a while, but will know the Ryan/Pettine defense like the back of his hand.
Pace is coming off of an atrocious 2012 season according to Pro Football Focus.
According to the site, Pace ranked as the 31st OLB in a 3-4 system. His overall rating was an abysmal minus-17.4. As a pass rusher, Pace graded out as a minus-16.3 and in coverage he was a minus-4.4. His only positive ratings came against the run (plus-0.7) and penalties (plus-2.6).
It's important that Buffalo brings in a few players that are familiar with Pettine's system, but Pace's better days are behind him. The Bills will be better off finding a linebacker that fits Pettine's defense in the draft.
FS LaRon Landry
Landry's durability is a concern.
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According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Bill Polian ranks Landry as a tier 'A' free agent, one who's worth paying starter-caliber money. Here is what Polian had to say:
Landry had a good year for a bad team. He's a striker, a big hitter. While he is a little older, he's still a pretty serviceable player. We're closer to B territory now, but for a team looking for a safety, he could do a good job.
Considering the hype around his season, I expected to find some impressive stats on his season. Instead, Pro Football Focus rated Landry as the 65th-best safety in 2012.
Here is a breakdown of his ratings:
Overall Rating: Minus-3.5
Run Defense: Minus-1.6
Pass Rush: Plus-0.2
Pass Coverage: Plus-0.2
These ratings are telling.
However, Mike Pettine's opinion of Landry will carry more weight.
In a fantastic piece by Tim Graham, Pettine's quotes about Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith from the 2012 season are chronicled.
Here is what Pettine had to say on Landry's physical play:
The thing with Landry is this is a physical football player, as we know. There's nothing he does when he hits a guy that is illegal. He lowers his target. He does everything the way you want. He's not out there to injure, but he's going to hit you.
Simply put, I don't trust Landry to stay healthy.
In 2012, he played the full 16-game schedule for the first time since 2008. Landry is a hard-hitter and I'm sure the Bills will gauge his interest, but there will be less expensive options available.
FS Jairus Byrd
Byrd should be the Bills' top priority in free agency.
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I couldn't make an entire slideshow on Jets free agents. Instead, it's time to discuss one impending free agent currently on Buffalo's roster, Jairus Byrd.
Byrd had an outstanding season for Buffalo in 2012 and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance. On an article for ESPN Insider, Bill Polian listed Byrd as tier A free agent, just like LaRon Landry. Here is what Polian had to say: "Timed speed is a question mark, but instincts, toughness and production are not."
Pro Football Focus listed Byrd as its second-best safety in 2012 behind only Eric Weddle.
Overall Rating: Plus-23.8
Run Defense: Plus-3.7
Pass Rush: Minus-0.5
Pass Coverage: Plus-20.0
Looking at his 2012 production, you'd think that Byrd would be a high priority in terms of being re-signed. However, as of February 1st no talks had taken place. The article states that the team's brain trust was still in the process of evaluating their roster.
If Buffalo doesn't reach agreement with Byrd, he is a likely candidate for the franchise tag. The price to tag a safety is $6.798 million.
Byrd is too valuable to let walk away, so I expect to see him donning a Bills jersey in 2013 and for many years to come.
WR Danario Alexander
Alexander displayed big play ability for the Chargers.
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On February 7th, the Bills announced they would not tender Donald Jones.
Currently, Buffalo will be trotting out the following WRs in 2013: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith.
It's pretty apparent that Buffalo will need to add a wide receiver via free agency or the draft.
Alexander went on to catch 37 passes for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns in 10 games.
Alexander was rated as the 48th-best WR in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Below is a breakdown of his ratings:
Pass Receiving: Plus-6.5
The Bills saw enough potential in Alexander to bring him in for a workout. Unfortunately, he passed and went on to have a decent season in San Diego. That said, Buffalo doesn't have Philip Rivers as its QB.
It'd be risky to invest money in someone that has had such limited success. If Buffalo wants to upgrade at WR, they'll need to pay.
The 2013 NFL Draft has plenty of intriguing WR prospects, so Buffalo may be wise to draft an outside wide receiver rather than attempt to sign one.