What We've Learned About the Buffalo Bills After the Start of Free Agency

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IMarch 12, 2014

What We've Learned About the Buffalo Bills After the Start of Free Agency

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    On Tuesday, free agency kicked off with a flurry of moves, but the Buffalo Bills decided to wait until day two to do their work. General manager Doug Whaley and the front office are committed to a philosophy when it comes to free agency.

    They will not chase after the big-name free agents and break the bank trying to bring them to Buffalo. Instead, they will try to find bargains and look for solid contributors who can provide good value. 

    This list includes five things that we've learned about the Buffalo Bills so far in free agency.

The Bills Were Not Going to Overspend to Retain Jairus Byrd

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    Goodbye, Jairus Byrd
    Goodbye, Jairus ByrdSteven Senne/Associated Press

    The Jairus Byrd drama that has stretched on for a year came to an end when the free safety signed with the New Orleans Saints.

    Byrd got his wish to be the highest-paid safety when he inked a six-year contract worth $56 million, half of it ($28 million) being guaranteed, according to Ian Rapport of NFL.com.

    The final contract offer by the Bills to Byrd is still unknown, John Warwow of The Associated Press reported that the team did offer around $30 million over the first three years of the contract. But it is hard to tell from that report alone as to whether the Bills offered Byrd the annual salary he was looking for.

    One thing that can be surmised from this negotiation is that the Buffalo front office had a number in mind for Byrd and was not going to go above that figure. The team did not give in to his demands, which is good to see from the organization—though it lost a Pro Bowl safety in the process. 

     

The Bills Will Not Spend Big Money in Free Agency

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Based on last year and the first two days of free agency this year, this front office does not seem like one that will chase marquee free agents. The draft is where they will look for their impact players and try and find players of value in free agency.

    Last offseason, general manager Doug Whaley and his staff were able to get productive players like Manny Lawson and Alan Branch without having to break the bank. This seems to be the philosophy again this year, as the team has let the dust settle a bit and is now looking to target the players they want.

    They have already started making moves on day two with three signings. The first move was for guard Chris Williams, who signed a four-year deal for $13.5 million with $5.5 million being guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Next the team brought in cornerback Corey Graham, who is also expected to be a big contributor on special teams. ESPN's Adam Caplan tweeted that Graham's deal was for four years and $16 million.

    Shortly after the Graham deal, ESPN's James Walker reported that linebacker Keith Rivers' agreed to a two-year deal with the Bills worth $5 million. Rivers started eight games for the New York Giants.

The Bills Value Size on Their Offensive Line

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    It has been no secret since Doug Marrone became head coach of the Buffalo Bills that he wants to have a big offensive line. The Bills took another step in that direction with the signing of Chris Williams.

    The former St. Louis Rams offensive guard stands 6'6" and 326 pounds and started all 16 games for St. Louis last year.

    This move has raised some eyebrows: Mike Rodak of ESPN.com called it an "odd risk". There are some question marks surrounding Williams, particularly concerning his health and lack of production. In his six years as a pro, Williams has started 13 or more games in a season only three times.

    Even with those concerns, this signing makes a lot of sense for Buffalo. Williams fits into the coach's vision for his offensive line and fits the team's model for free agency. They brought in a player for a reasonable contract, who at 28 years of age still has time to reach his potential.

    But should he struggle, the Bills now at least have a player with experience at both guard and tackle who can provide depth along the offensive line. 

They Want an Inside Linebacker

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Bills have made it clear they want to add an inside linebacker so they can move Kiko Alonso to weak-side linebacker.

    Last week, the Bills brought in free-agent LBs Jameel McClain and Jasper Brinkley for visits. Brinkley is no longer an option as he signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

    The big name among inside linebackers, and seemingly a good fit for the Bills, is New England Patriot 'backer Brandon Spikes. Based on his tweet, Spikes appears ready to move on from New England, and Buffalo could use a run-stuffing linebacker like him in the middle of its defense. 

    It remains to be seen who exactly the Bills will end up signing, but one thing is for sure: They are definitely in the market for an inside linebacker.

...And Depth at Cornerback

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    With the visit by Nolan Carroll and the signing of Corey Graham, it is clear the Bills wanted to add depth at cornerback. In the early part of last season, the Bills struggled to field a healthy group and even had to move safety Aaron Williams to cornerback at times.

    It is clear with the addition of Graham that the Bills wish to avoid a repeat of that scenario. Graham is an excellent contributor on special teams, too, though it is hard to imagine that he will beat out either Stephon Gilmore or Leodis McKelvin to be one the top two corners. Instead, look for the former Ravens corner to fill the nickel role for this defense.

    The NFL has quickly become a passing league and teams need more than just two good corners. Graham should help a pass defense that was already very good—having finished fourth in the league in passing yards allowed in 2013—get even better.