2011 NFL Free Agency: Vince Young and 4 Players the Buffalo Bills Must Grab
Doug Whaley was recently promoted to Director of Player Personnel. While Buddy Nix has final say, we all know that those who get promotions are likely to want to work a little harder. Despite a draft that has gotten rave reviews from some, the Bills still have many holes to fill, as they are in year two of the three-year rebuilding process that Nix and Chan Gailey are embarking on.
Whaley knows as well as anyone that this year is the most critical of all the years in that framework set forth by Nix. A backspin in this effort makes next year a lame-duck year for all the involved parties and yet another change that Bills fans would not look forward to.
Now, based on the draft there are five big holes that the Bills must try to fill in order to get this season going in the right direction.
The primary need areas that the Bills still have are on the offensive line (two spots) a pass-rushing outside linebacker, a veteran quarterback and possibly a tight end.
Based on the draft and the current players on the roster, I will say that the Bills are doing a lot better on the defensive line, although not entirely solid, and also at defensive back. However, in addition to re-signing some of their own players and developing the talent already on board, they need to make an effort to sign the following players once free agency finally begins.
Jared Gaither, OT, Baltimore Ravens
The Bills must get it done in the trenches. With that being said, it is easy to see why despite the influx of bodies on the defensive line over the last two drafts and some offensive linemen, the Bills need to continue to beef up.
During this period of free agency they should bring in at minimum two starter-quality offensive linemen; anything less would be offensive.
Gaither is a lineman who many teams have had their eye on for some time. Being 6'9" and 300-plus pounds, it's easy to see why. When healthy—and that is a very important factor—Gaither has the potential and ability to be a franchise left tackle.
While the Bills would be blessed for that kind of potential to be fulfilled, at the bare minimum Gaither would be a solid starter and an upgrade over Demetrius Bell, who could be moved to the right tackle position.
Marshal Yanda, OL, Baltimore Ravens
Yanda will be a reliable and reasonably young (26) offensive lineman to plug in on the line for the Bills next year. It is never the most popular move to spend big money on a lineman, and the Bills have had their share of misses, but this guy should be a solid pickup.
He has been with the Ravens since 2007, and he has started 42 of 53 games in his career and all 16 last year. Yanda paired with Gaither again would give the Bills a formidable offensive line. He has the ability to fill in at three of the five offensive line positions, but I see him as a guard.
The Ravens would be awfully sad about losing both Gaither and Yanda to the same team, but a move like this needs to happen.
Ray Edwards, DE/OLB, Minnesota Vikings
The Bills without a doubt need pass rushers like perhaps no other team in the league. The fact is they need pressure from the outside to spark their talented defensive backs to make more plays. Switching to a 3-4 defense was problematic for the Bills, as their best pass rushers were put in positions that didn't suit them very well.
Enter Ray Edwards. He has played in a 4-3 defense for the majority of his career, where he received little attention, with behemoths Pat and Kevin Williams and sack-master Jared Allen taking attention away from him. The last two years he has put up a solid eight sacks a season. However, this lack of production is troubling considering how much attention he isn't getting.
The key factor is that Edwards is on the smallish side even for a 4-3 end. While I do not see him coming to Buffalo to play defensive end in a 30 front, I think he could make a great outside linebacker in their scheme and put his hand in the ground when they go to a four-man front, as they will continue to as they fully transition to a 3-4 defense.
Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders
Why would the Bills spend what is likely to be a pretty good chunk of change on a guy who plays a position the Bills do not use much?
Well, it's pretty simple: Good coaches try to utilize their playmakers. Chan Gailey seems to be a pretty good coach, and getting Jonathan Stupar or David Martin confused with a playmaker is not something that he would likely do.
Miller would give the Bills a formidable pass-catching tight end and easily be in consideration for the Bills' best tight end ever. Pete Metzelaars and almost any other man to line up at the tight end position for the Bills would be hard pressed to put up the numbers that Miller has over the past four seasons. With over 2,700 career receiving yards, the Bills would finally have a playmaker at the position.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
After failing to address the quarterback position in the draft, it is quite clear that the Bills need to bring in a veteran to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick. For all intents and purposes the solid, steady Fitzpatrick is the starter for 2011.
However, Vince Young provides an intriguing option. He needs a place to rehab his image. He needs an offense that will take advantage of his skill set and a fanbase that will be patient with him and surely not too critical.
Signing Young would not be too far off for the Bills. After all, they did target three players with similar skill sets to Young's in the draft (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick). Based on team needs and their draft spot, the Bills did not pull the trigger on any of them, but signing Young would give them a chance to add a dynamic passer-runner to their offense, and this change of scenery might be the thing Young needs to get his career back on track.
So on the high end of the spectrum you rehab a former Pro Bowler and get him up to the franchise quarterback level, or at the low end you have a decent athletic change of pace quarterback that can pull out a few wins and alter game plans from time to time.
The biggest question is whether or not Vince Young will bring with him the drama that plagued his time in Tennessee. If the no-nonsense duo of Gailey and Nix gives this guy a pass, I think Bills fans should be willing to take a chance.