What Offseason Moves Are Next for the Buffalo Bills with the Draft Complete?
The NFL draft is over and the Buffalo Bills are full steam ahead in preparation for the 2014 season with OTAs coming up and training camp shortly thereafter. The team has made a number of key signings, trades and draft picks that has given them the roster they will take into 2014.
However, an NFL roster is always changing and evolving, and the Bills may not be done tweaking theirs. The team still has opportunities over the next few weeks to make moves that would greatly benefit them. This could mean anything from bringing in competition at key positions, making cuts or switching positions for players currently on the roster.
These are five moves that the Buffalo Bills could make in the summer months that would help in the coming season.
Release Erik Pears
This is an idea that has been floating around for the better part of five months now. The team drafted two offensive tackles this past weekend, and the Bills may be ready to make the move.
Pears play significantly dropped off last year and with him expected to have a cap hit of 3.45 million dollars, according to Spotrac, he seems like a prime candidate to be cut before the start of the season. The decision will come down to whether the Bills coaching staff feels comfortable moving forward with the tackles currently on the roster.
Chris Hairston would be the veteran of the group, entering his fourth year as a pro. However he has only started 15 games over the past three years. More importantly he is coming off an injury that forced him to miss all of last year, and it remains to be seen what type of shape he will be in.
The Bills did draft Cyrus Kouandjio, whom Bleacher Report's Matt Miller called the "best pure right tackle", however he has his own injury concerns. The team also added Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round, but he has had a number of off-field issues and it's possible that the coaching staff doesn't believe that he's a reliable prospect.
I think releasing Pears makes sense on a number of levels: It makes sense financially, and it opens up a roster spot. However it will really come down to Kouandjio and whether he is as good as Miller thinks and able to beat out Pears for the starting right tackle position.
Who Will Start in the Slot Receiver Position?
The Buffalo Bills wide receiver corps is sure to look much different in 2014 than it did last season. The Bills drafted an elite talent in Sammy Watkins and traded for a big target in former Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams. These moves made the group very crowded, prompting the Bills to send Steve Johnson to the West Coast in a trade with San Francisco.
Johnson spent a lot of time in the slot position last year, and his departure has created an opening in the Bills offense. It does not sound like this is a role that will be filled by one player.
Doug Marrone responded when asked about this very situation (per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News):
Sammy can play the slot. Robert Woods, we felt very comfortable with him being able to play the slot and be very successful there...We even thought about Marquise Goodwin being able to play in the slot and getting in and out of breaks.
Coach Marrone said the team plans on using the OTAs to find out which of these three are suited for the role, but the best possible situation for Buffalo could be that all three are ready. This kind of versatility would allow the Bills offense to get mismatches all over the field and reach its full potential in the passing game.
Bring in Another Punter for Competition
It was nice to see fan favorite Brian Moorman back in a Buffalo Bills uniform.
However, he was not the Pro Bowl punter he was during his first stint with the team. The Bills re-signed Moorman this offseason to a one-year deal despite finishing 31st in the league in yards per punt (41.2).
It was expected the team would bring in some training camp competition for Moorman, but the addition of Jake Dombrowski hardly feels that way. Dombrowski played at Harvard and finished with his college career with an average of 40 yards per punt. He went undrafted after last year's draft, and the closest he got to an NFL roster was a tryout with the Jacksonville Jaguars last April.
This is one position that the Bills front office should continue to search for a potential replacement and training camp competition for Moorman.
Where to Play Corey Graham?
The Bills signed former Baltimore Raven Corey Graham to bolster their secondary and special teams unit. While his role on special teams is pretty well defined, there is still some uncertainty as to where he will fit into the team's secondary.
Last year, undrafted free agent Nickell Robey stepped into the nickel role and played extremely well. This will be a tough role for Graham to take away from Robey and it may not be where he would benefit the defense the most.
General Manager Doug Whaley was asked where Graham fits in best:
Right now he’s got the flexibility to do both. One thing we like about him is he’s a professional. He’s highly intelligent and he’s a good football player so wherever we decide to put him we know he’s going to attack it with vigor and be a professional and be highly productive.
This potentially sounds like what the Bills did last year with Aaron Williams, moving him to safety but sliding him to cornerback if needed. As with the slot receiver position, versatility is not a bad thing, and having a player like Graham who can play multiple roles will only help this defense.
Work out a Contract Extension with C.J. Spiller
Now that the draft is over, the Bills front office should turn their attention to past this season. The Bills have a number of key players who could be free agents after this season and there is no better time to start talking contract extensions than before this season.
One player Buffalo should focus on is running back C.J. Spiller, who has a player option after this season and would potentially be a free agent after this season. It is important for the Bills to start laying the groundwork of a contract extension now and get him signed before the season to avoid another Jairus Byrd situation all over again.
If they are able to work out a deal before the season they could turn their attention to other key free agents like Jerry Hughes, Fred Jackson, Da'Norris Searcy and Brandon Spikes at the end of this coming season.
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