Bills Have Talent To Choose From In Off Season..

By PFC Writer Michael S. Moore

After three consecutive 7 win seasons and a poor second half of the 2008 season the Buffalo Bills once again will be looking deeply into free agency to hopefully find a spark. Many questions are surrounding the Bills star linebacker Angelo Crowell who was placed on injured reserve due to a left knee injury early in the season. Will he stay another season, sign a contract extension, or will he part ways with the team? Even with talent emerging out of 2nd year MLB Paul Posluszny who averaged close to 7 tackles a game, the Bills linebacker core is still sub-par from the Daryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett days. Though LB Kawika Mitchell made his presence with his intensity and nose for the quarterback in his first season with the Bills coming over from the Giants, Buffalo still ranked in the middle of the pack in total defense. A defense that in 2003 and 2004 ranked 2nd has dropped out of the top ten mark. With what looks like Crowell’s way out, how will the Bills replace the pro bowl caliber LB? This raises the question where does Buffalo look in the draft, and where do they go in free agency?

Many playmakers, offense and defense will become unrestricted free agents on February 27th. Among the list of popular names; Superbowl starter Kurt Warner, another great QB in Matt Cassel, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh and newly disappointed Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers. Obviously there is tons of talent on the market in 2009, and with 39 million dollars in cap room, Buffalo has more then enough salary to make an attempt at signing star players. With a young developing QB in Trent Edwards and a star RB in Marshawn Lynch the Bills skilled positions look pretty well off. As for the wideouts, newly inked to a contract extension Lee Evans has the big play ability the team needs. With Evans agility and explosiveness countered by 5th year man Roscoe Parrish’s speed and quickness the Bills pose matchup problems in the secondary for most teams. Rookie James Hardy was injured late in the season when he tore his ACL, but has been rehabbing to the best of his ability and his future is extremely bright. At 6’5 James makes an easy target for QB Trent Edwards. The offense being both young and talented is assuring for the future of the program.

Draft day is approaching and in what some call a very limited offensive draft with lack of talent, Buffalo can focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Linebackers like Rey Maualuga from USC, James Laurinaitis out of Ohio State, and Aaron Curry from Wake Forest all look like great picks in the 2009 draft, possibly filling the void of Angelo Crowell who has not yet announced his departure from the team, but both are far away from reaching contract agreements. Also many talented ends in Brian Orakpo and Aaron Maybin who can also flex into a linebacking position with his great strength and tackling ability should still be available at the 11th spot. What if the Bills could make a move in free agency to avoid using a first round draft pick on a position well needed, and attack another soft spot on the team? Other then his recent run in with the law for misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, LeRoy Hill of the Seattle Seahawks seems to make a perfect fit to the team. His physical as well as his mental toughness makes it hard for teams to look past when evaluating the 5th year player out of Clemson. Hill was a huge part of the Seattle Seahawks success in the 2005-2006 season where the rookie had 7.5 sacks and 72 tackles leading the team to its first Superbowl appearance. Since, Leroy has been bothered on and off by injuries, but when healthy has the talent to become a star linebacker in the league. A definite under the radar player in this year’s free agency that could fit-in great in Perry Fewell’s 4-3 defensive scheme. The same of which Leroy is familiar with in Seattle.

Like every year the offseason period for the Buffalo Bills is very important, but maybe even more so this year. The team has plenty of room to improve and the players to help them do that are well within reach. Although the Bills are not traditionally very active in signing free agents outside of their own, the situation couldn’t call for it more. With a defense that could find itself in the bottom five by mid-season next year without any bit of change, possibly losing Crowell could be damaging to the teams progress. The question remains to be answered, what will the Buffalo Bills do in free agency this off season and where will they lean towards in the 2009 NFL draft with the 11th overall pick? Only time will tell as we wait until the 27th of February.