Buffalo Bills Make a Play for Free-Agent Tight End Fred Davis

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIMarch 24, 2013

Fred Davis is the top tight end free agent on the market.
Fred Davis is the top tight end free agent on the market.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Free-agent tight end Fred Davis has been identified as a player of interest to the Buffalo Bills, based on a Twitter update from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Bills fans had been wondering what the heck was going on lately. But the Bills front office exhibited signs that it is aware free-agency season is still open for business when senior management flew to Washington Saturday evening to meet with Davis.

Buffalo sent its big guns to do a sales job on Davis, who so far has been underwhelmed by the standing offer from his old employer, the Washington Redskins. The contingent included Doug Marrone, Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley and other team officials. That kind of effort should speak volumes to Davis about how much the Bills want to sign him.

The only other developments since 2013 free agency began were Buffalo's decision to sign ex-Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Manny Lawson in the first week, and the release of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

You know that the Bills were focused on doing their due diligence by conducting private workouts with quarterbacks Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel and Landry Jones. It is a good sign to see that the Bills weren't too wrapped up in meeting quarterbacks to address other positions of need.


Why Do the Bills Have Interest in Fred Davis, and What Does He Bring to the Table?

Davis had a solid 2011 season, when he established career highs with 59 receptions and 796 yards. He also caught an impressive 15 passes that went for at least 20 yards, which led the Redskins. Davis averaged 13.5 yards per catch, and 39 of his receptions went for a first down. He scored three touchdowns on the year.

That was the good news. The bad news came later that season, when it was revealed that Davis violated the NFL's substance abuse policy. He served his suspension later that season. In the 2012 preseason, Davis was repeatedly tested to make sure that he was clean in addition to going to therapy sessions.

Despite the substance abuse issue, the Redskins still opted to give Davis their franchise tag in the 2012 offseason. Davis was able to keep himself out of trouble, but his 2012 season took a big detour when he tore his Achilles tendon in Week 7.

That ended his season, which resulted in 24 receptions for 325 yards and no touchdowns. He caught 24-of-31 targets and had four catches that went for at least 20-plus yards.

It was interesting that Davis was never able to connect for a touchdown pass with Robert Griffin III during the first seven games, since tight ends are such a great target in the red zone. But if he leaves in free agency, we will never know if the pair could have developed better chemistry down the road.

Since the Redskins had used the franchise tag in 2012, they would have to compensate him 120 percent of his 2012 figure, so they chose not to use the tag on him this year.

In addition, the Redskins are still coping with the $36 million fine they received from Commissioner Goodell in 2012. The Redskins had to eliminate $18 million from their salary cap as a result. So, all Washington can do is give Davis a low-ball offer, which is why Buffalo can swoop in at the 11th hour and try to steal him away.

An article by Rich Tandler of RealRedskins.com revealed that Cleveland was supposedly the only other team interested in Davis. The Redskins have low-balled Davis with their offer since so few teams were expressing interest in him. That was the case until Buffalo jumped into the picture Saturday night.


Bills Tight End Position Could Use an Upgrade in Talent

Since Scott Chandler tore his ACL in Week 16 last year, the Bills have no assurances that he'll be ready to roll in time for the start of the 2013 season. Based on the progress of his rehab, Chandler could wind up going on the PUP list to begin the year.

Chandler is taller at 6'7" and weighs 263 pounds. Davis is 6'4" but weighs about the same at 258 pounds.

Davis has made 155 career receptions for 1,973 yards and 12 touchdowns. His career average is 12.7 yards per reception. Chandler has amassed 82 receptions in his career for 968 yards and 12 touchdowns as well. His average is 11.8 yards per catch. Both players are 27 years old.

The other tight ends on Buffalo's roster—Mike Caussin, Lee Smith and Joe Sawyer—are considered better blockers than they are receivers.

H-back Dorin Dickerson could line up as a tight end, but his role is to move around on the offense, and he is still developing his game.

Since Chandler's return is up in the air, it makes sense for Buffalo to explore options to upgrade the position. With the departure of Chan Gailey, who really didn't feature tight ends in his spread offense, the Bills would have the ability to throw multiple tight end formations at their opponents, like the New England Patriots have successfully done.

Obviously, there is risk in attempting to sign a player coming off of a torn Achilles injury. No doubt that will be factored into the Bills' offer. But if they can wrap up Davis with a three-year deal that allows for him to be in Buffalo for the prime years of his career, that would make tremendous sense.

The more tools that Nathaniel Hackett is provided, the more plays, formations and variations he can run to help keep defenses confused and off balance.

Hopefully this is a deal that will materialize and give Bills fans hope that the team is doing more than providing lip service this offseason.