Buffalo didn’t have as big a splash in the off-season this year, but they’ve made some interesting moves. Following along with our Penguatroll’s thoughts on the Browns, here are mine on the Bills.
- LG Chris Williams. Buffalo had a big hole at left guard last year, but Williams isn’t the guy to fill it. At best, he’s shaky; at worst, he’s shaky and hurt.
- CB Corey Graham. He was a great nickel corner for the Ravens, and will fight Nickell Robey for the 3 spot, working with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. Given that Buffalo plays New England twice a year, that’s a good pickup for them; it gives the Bills four solid cornerbacks.
- LB Keith Rivers. Rivers is a mid-level 4-3 linebacker. There’s a good chance that he’ll start as strong-side linebacker in Buffalo due to how weak they are at the position.
- MLB Brandon Spikes. This is a big pickup for the Bills. Kiko Alonso gets to move to weak-side linebacker and be the “guy who runs around making plays” type instead of the “guy who runs into a defensive tackle” type. Spikes is an elite run defender on a team which has done terribly against the run for a while. His signing should help a lot.
- RB Anthony Dixon. Dixon has potential, but he’ll be a #3 RB in Buffalo. Not a bad signing by the Bills, but I’m surprised nobody wanted to give Dixon a chance at a starting committee job.
- Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was overmatched as a head coach in Detroit, but is a good defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine will be missed, but Schwartz will soften that blow.
- FS Jairus Byrd. Byrd has turned into a great free safety (if not the 9-interception ball hawk we originally saw). His departure opens a role for Da’Norris Searcy at strong safety, moving Aaron Williams to free safety. The Bills are looking okay there, but not as good as if they had Bird-Williams together.
- DE Alex Carrington. The Bills are going back to a 4-3, it seems, and Carrington is a 3-4/4-3 hybrid who wasn’t going to be quite good enough to crack Buffalo’s defensive line. I could see him signing with the Browns and playing a similar role there.
- QB Kevin Kolb. He slipped on a mat and basically ended his career. He might sign on somewhere, but Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb beater couldn’t beat Buffalo’s Donovan McNabb Lite.
Pre-free agency, I would have ranked Buffalo’s needs roughly in the order of: SLB, LG, TE, RT, WLB. They’ve solved the WLB problem by moving Alonso there and signing Spikes. I don’t think they’ve really solved the SLB problem, as the combination of Rivers and Manny Lawson gives them two meh players at an important position. The signing of Williams and re-signing Scott Chandler indicates to me that they probably aren’t going to fix either of those positions this year. They might go after a tackle in the draft, if there are any good enough when they go on the clock.
A lot of people are down on EJ Manuel at quarterback. I’m serious about the Donovan McNabb Lite comment: his upside is basically McNabb, where he’ll wow you one game with two dozen perfect throws, and spend the next game tossing 7-yard worm-burners. It’s frustrating, but everyone knew coming in that Manuel was a project quarterback with a lot of upside. I’m not giving up on him yet.