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Grading the Buffalo Bills Offseason Moves so Far

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IMarch 23, 2012

The Bills are likely very happy to not be on the receiving end of Mario Williams' fierce pass rush anymore.
The Bills are likely very happy to not be on the receiving end of Mario Williams' fierce pass rush anymore.Bob Levey/Getty Images

With over $30 million in cap space, it's no surprise that the Buffalo Bills have been so active in free agency.

Well, maybe it is when you consider that they haven't been this active in free agency in years past despite an abundance of cap space.

This year is different, though, and the Bills appear committed to building a winning franchise.

Signings

DE Mario Williams: A+

A slam dunk for the Bills. By picking up Williams to pair with defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, the Bills are in the discussion as one of the best front fours in football.

Super Mario will likely have no trouble transitioning back to his more comfortable position as a defensive end, and at 27 years old, the Bills pick him up just in time for what should be the prime of his career.

That's a scary thought for the rest of the AFC East when you consider how productive he's already been.

DE Mark Anderson: B

As productive as Anderson was (10 sacks on 444 snaps), we've seen this before: a highly-productive year, followed by increased expectations as a full-time contributor, which ultimately leads to disappointment when the realization hits that he still can't play run defense.

He did fairly well against the run as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 toward the end of the 2011 season, but whether he can carry that production across a 16-game season remains to be seen, and has yet to be done by Anderson.

That being said, if the Bills are willing to use him in a complementary role to Chris Kelsay, who is more of a run-stuffing defensive end, they should be pleased with the results. Still, four years and $27.5 million (per Jason La Canfora of NFL.com) is a lot to give a player who played just 47 percent of his team's defensive snaps in 2011.

Re-Signings

TE Scott Chandler: A-

Chandler was drafted in the fourth round in 2007, but didn't make his first start until December 2010.

He had a red-hot start to his 2011 campaign, reeling in nine passes for 89 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games of the season. After that, he cooled off faster than water in the freezer by hauling in nine passes for 68 yards and two scores in the next five games. 

He picked it back up toward the end of the season, but the Bills would love for him to carry that production over the course of a 16-game season.

After signing a two-year extension last week, he'll have an opportunity to do that. He will also have the help of a new tight end coach, legendary Bills tight end Pete Metzelaars.

These antics got Stevie Johnson in trouble during the season, but didn't stop the Bills from extending him this offseason.
These antics got Stevie Johnson in trouble during the season, but didn't stop the Bills from extending him this offseason.Elsa/Getty Images

WR Stevie Johnson: A-

The latest in a long history of wide receivers to break out in their third year, Stevie Johnson was due for a decent payday.

The Bills paid a modest price for his services going forward, coughing up $36.25 million over a five-year contract with $19.5 million guaranteed, according to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com.

In an offense that loves to spread it out as much as Chan Gailey does, it's important to keep the best receivers around. This is especially true since the Bills recently extended Ryan Fitzpatrick, and as the two have grown closer and more familiar with one another, it is important that they have an opportunity to build off that relationship.

Especially since it's been so fruitful already.

K Rian Lindell: B+

Lindell is 35 years old and has been up and down throughout his career. His best season came in 2006 when he attempted 25 field goals and made 23 of them for a 92 percent conversion rate. His 2011 season was cut short by injury.

Both Lindell and Dave Rayner were up for contracts. Rayner was Lindell's replacement and completed just 10 of his 15 field-goal attempts. Thus, this was a case of the lesser of two evils.

Even at 35 years old, Lindell should still have something left in the tank—at least more than Rayner.

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01:  Kirk Morrison #58 of the Buffalo Bills plays against  the Detroit Lions  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 1, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Detroit won 16-6.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

LB Kirk Morrison: B

After five consecutive years as the leading tackler for the Oakland Raiders, Kirk Morrison cashed in with the Jacksonville Jaguars and has only seen his production take a hit since then.

His unproductive 2010 season was followed by a virtually invisible 2011, but with the Bills returning to the 4-3 defense, now seems like the best opportunity for him to return to form.

Morrison logged over 100 tackles in each of his first five years in the league. His best year came in 2007, in which he had 96 tackles, a sack and four interceptions. The Bills could use that type of production at the second level as they continue to fill out the linebacking corps for 2012.

WR Ruvell Martin: B-

After being on and off the roster during the 2011 season, Martin has earned himself at least another crack at the lineup. He wasn't heard from until Week 16, but had seven receptions for 82 yards in the final two games of the season combined.

He averages 15.1 yards per catch on his career, but at 30 years old, one has to wonder how long he can keep that up. As was the case with Derek Hagan, though, this is an example of a player familiar with the system getting a chance to make his presence felt.

And at 6'4" and 217 pounds, he also gives the Bills another big body in the red zone. Fitzpatrick will love that when the team looks to spread 'em out inside the 20.

WR Derek Hagan: C+

Hagan hasn't earned a starting job, but he has a surface-level understanding of the offense. As the Bills look to build on the success of last year, the most important thing they can do is to keep players around that are familiar with their system.

He may not be the type of receiver that will blow the doors off a defense, but he has hauled in 20-plus receptions in four of his six seasons in the NFL. Solid depth, if nothing else.


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