Jairus Byrd is now a New Orleans Saint. Tuesday night he signed a 6 year/54 million dollar deal with 28 million guaranteed. Now that Byrd is no longer in the plans, that money saved can be spent elsewhere. Here is what they should do:
1.Extend the Young Guys
The Buffalo Bills can use the money to extend two young players that look to be key contributors to the future of the franchise. The first one would be Marcel Dareus. Dareus was a beast for the Bills last year at DT as he registered 8.5 sacks and ended up in the Pro Browl. He looks to be a good fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense and could be a core player in the long-term. The Bills have the option of using the 5th year tag on him (since he was a 1st round pick), but I would rather extend him now and avoid another Byrd scenario where another valuable player leaves. The second play is Jerry Hughes who was obtained last year in a trade from the Colts of linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Hughes thrived as a situational pass rusher, registering 10 sacks and looks to be a great 3rd-down pass rusher in Schwratz’s scheme, particularly in the “wide-9” formation were he would play ay outside of the tackles. Jerry Hughes is a great designated pass-rusher that can be extended cheaply for the near future.
2. Get a Tight End
Right now the only tight ends currently on the roster are Lee Smith, Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg and Mike Causin. Smith is primarily a blocking tight end, Moeaki and Causin have had major injuries in recent years and Gragg is super raw. The Bills could use a veteran tight end that could be a receiving threat as well as be a mentor to Chris Gragg and a potential rookie (if they draft one). The logical choice would be to re-sign Scott Chandler, he knows the system, was the leading receiver for the Bills, and he and EJ Manuel had a good connection in 2013. However his blocking leaves something to be desired and with a power run scheme, the Bills may look elsewhere. Brandon Pettigrew would be the next choice. He played for Schwartz last year, is a better blocker than Chandler and can be a decent receiving threat. Depending on how much money he wants, he could potentially be in the Bills price range.
If the Bills want to go for the athletic tight end who is more of a receiver type, two ex-Texans could also be a possibility with Owen Daniels and Garret Graham. Owen Daniels was recently cut and he would be a veteran guy that could help the younger players. The only asterisk on Daniels is the injury concerns as he only started five games in 2013 for the Texans. However, when he is healthy he is a pretty good receiving tight end that would be valuable (62 catches for 716 yards in 2012). What’s more, after being cut, his asking price might just be a one year-prove-it-deal. The second choice would be Garret Graham, another Houston Texan. Graham is about the same size as Daniels but is younger and was hardly utilized until this year when he broke out with 49 catches for 545 yards and 5 TDs. Any of those tight ends can be a good option and would allow the Bills to use their top draft picks elsewhere, especially since the top of the Tight End class doesn’t look that great Post-Combine
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
The Bills could also spend free agency getting some veteran guys that can help take the defense to the next level. CB depth is a priority and they already are looking at it by having Nolan Carroll come in for a visit. Corey Graham is another possibility and each can be at the very least a nickel DB and provide depth as well as ensure Justin Rogers never has to start again. A middle linebacker is another need as their run defense was atrocious and would allow Kiko Alonso to move to WLB. The market for this position is thin and outside of Brandon Spikes (who hates Buffalo), Jameel McClain is the only other option (he actually visited Buffalo too). Safety might be another position if they don’t like Duke Williams at FS. The safety market dried up pretty quickly but I’m sure there is one veteran guy that could hold the fort at least a little while until Duke or a draft pick gets ready.
On the defensive line a starting DE is a need. The only guys in free agency that won’t ask too much are either Jason Babin or Willie Young, both of which have played in a Schwartz system. Getting one of those guys would not only allow valuable depth and a solid starter at the d-line but also allow a future young draft pick have time to develop. Plus it means Hughes won’t have to be a 3-down player, which is a good thing.