Buffalo Bills' Top Remaining Offseason Priorities
The Buffalo Bills have been an extremely busy organization over the past month executing their offseason plan. It was clear their first priority was to re-sign their own free agents first, and they were able to bring back players like Dan Carpenter and Scott Chandler.
The front office then brought in key free agents who would be able to address weaknesses this team had in 2013. The big name joining the Bills in 2014 is middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who is expected to tighten up a run defense that struggled last year.
Even though the Bills have done a good job so far this offseason, their work is not yet done. They have put themselves in great position heading into the NFL draft and the rest of the offseason to address these remaining top priorities.
Who Is Going to Start at Right Tackle?
Since 2011, right tackle Erik Pears has seen his performance steadily decline, with last year being his worst as a Buffalo Bill. He particularly struggled in run-blocking, an area Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a rating of minus-15.2.
The Bills did not bring in any free agents, which means one of two things: They are comfortable with Pears as the starting right tackle, or they will be addressing the position in the draft.
The Bills currently have the ninth pick, and there is a good possibility that one of the top two tackles, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews, will be available at that point. Both players would be an improvement over Pears and would help make the run game much more effective in 2014.
Finding a Big Wide Receiver
It was clear the Bills wide receivers had plenty of speed last year, but EJ Manuel did not have a big target on the outside when they got close to the goal line. The team brought in free-agent wide receiver Kenny Britt for a visit, but he has since gone on and signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams. There are really no free-agent options left who would be able to have an impact, which would leave the draft as the only option for Buffalo.
If the Bills decide not to take one of the top tackles with their first-round pick, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans could be their selection. At 6'5", Evans is a big body who could match the physicality of the bigger cornerbacks in the NFL.
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller mentions in the video, Evans is excellent at boxing out and gaining position on jump balls. Having a target like that in the end zone will make Manuel's job much easier in 2014.
Begin the Process of Extending Marcell Dareus' Contract
In February, GM Doug Whaley did not deny the fact that Buffalo wants to keep Marcell Dareus and extending him would be a priority. He was quoted on BuffaloBills.com as saying:
It’s on our radar, but right now we prioritize things,” said Whaley. “With this system there’s a lot of things you want to get done. There’s a lot of things you can’t get done because of the cap situation. Limitations from the cap, not our cap situation. I believe our cap situation we can get done what we need to get done, but you won’t get done the laundry list of things that you want to get done.
Now that the spending frenzy of free agency has quieted down, the Bills have a better understanding of the cap situation. They should start thinking about beginning the process of extending Dareus, who has one year left on his rookie contract.
Dareus is coming off of a career year, which was capped off with a trip to the Pro Bowl. He is just entering the prime of his career, and the Bills do not want to run into another situation like the one they just had with Jairus Byrd that would allow the defensive tackle to hit the open market.
Add Depth at Defensive End
It is expected that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be shifting the defense to use more four-man defensive lines. Aside from Mario Williams, the Bills do not have many options at defensive end currently on the roster. The team does have Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson—who played defensive end at NC State—who could fill the role, but there are some questions about how effective they may be.
This is possibly why the Bills are rumored to be interested in trading with the Houston Texans for the first overall pick, according to Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei. If Buffalo was to move all the way up to the first overall pick, it would most likely be for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. A move like this, adding Clowney to an already dominant defensive line, would be an opposing quarterback's worst nightmare.
While fans would love to watch that defensive line, it is hard to believe Buffalo would be willing to give up the picks necessary to move all the way up to No. 1. The more likely scenario would be to add a defensive end later in the draft, like West Virginia's Will Clarke. CBS Sports projects Clarke to go between Round 3 or 4, and he could be the type of player to add depth at defensive end.