The Buffalo Bills new regime has shown that they aren’t afraid to make moves, as displayed by the signing of Shawne Merriman, releasing Marcus Stroud, and now inviting safety Bob Sanders to pitch him into signing with the red, white and blue.
In my last post, I discussed several offensive players that would make an impact on the Bills via free agency.
Now, I’m going to evaluate some of the defensive free agents(assuming a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached) that would dramatically improve the Buffalo Bills front seven.The Bills defense has been awful, so there are quite a few additions to be made.
The Buffalo Bills currently have three defensive ends on their roster after the release of Marcus Stroud; Dwan Edwards, an aging veteran signed last year via free agency, Alex Carrington, entering his second season with limited action on the field, and Spender Johnson, who hasn’t really done anything in his career.
With the worst run defense in the National Football League, the Bills need not only talent at the defensive end position, but depth and experience.
With the Bills utilizing a 3-4 defensive front, defensive ends are a bit more difficult to find, as they need to solid in defending the run as well as having the agility to seal the edge.
Defensive ends in the 3-4 front generally would play inside as a tackle in the 4-3 scheme, meaning they need to be a bit more versatile.
Stephen Bowen, Dallas Cowboys
Stephen Bowen isn’t a player that will make the highlight reel every Sunday, but he is a consistent two down player with a high motor that doesn’t stop. At 6’2 305 pounds, the 26 year old has made 72 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and forced a fumble in his five years in the National Football League.
Cullen Jenkins, Green Bay Packers
Cullen Jenkins was an integral piece of Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive front that led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, lining up next to nose tackle B.J. Raji.
Jenkins is 30, but is dominant in stuffing the run, and gets great leverage on offensive tackles.
In his seven year career, Jenkins made 194 tackles, 29 sacks, five forced fumbles, while defending 16 tackles.
Just last year, he made seven sacks. The Packers certainly would like to have him back, but they have quite a few marquee free agents, and if available, Jenkins would be a solid addition for a year or two.
Ray McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
Ray McDonald is an excellent football player,and I would love him as a member of the Buffalo Bills. McDonald has an incredible combination of strength and speed, and he is the athleticism to consistently seal the edge.
He isn’t great in his pass rush, but he stops the run, and that is a priority for the Bills.
Marcus Spears, Dallas Cowboys
Marcus Spears of the Dallas Cowboys missed eight games last year due to injury, but I would not mind if the Bills took a flier on him.
The 6’4″ 311 pounder out of Louisiana State is the prototype of a 3-4 defensive end. His size, strength, athleticism, and agility allow him to collapse the pocket, and shed blocks with ease.
In his six year career, the 27-year old has made 185 tackles, eight sacks, forced three fumbles, and batted down nine passes.
The Bills current nose tackle Kyle Williams had a career year last season, and was arguably one of the best performing defensive linemen in the National Football League.
However, like the defensive end position, the Bills lack depth inside, and with the hybrid looks they will be utilizing, more bodies are needed.
In a 3-4 defense, there is only one defensive tackle, and he has to take on two gaps, rather than a single man-on-man war. Williams was an undersized nose tackle at just over 300 pounds, as the prototypical nose guard is 320-340 pounds.
Johnny Jolly, Green Bay Packers
Johnny Jolly was coming off of a solid 2009 season, in which he made 39 tackles, with a sack, a force fumble, and an interception, but he was arrested for possession of codeine, causing him to miss the 2010 season.
If the Bills decide to take a chance on him, Jolly is a solid run defender, and can play both defensive end and tackle in the 3-4 front. Due to his arrest, he may be available for a reasonable price.
Paul Soliai, Miami Dolphins
He is 27 years old, and at 6’4″, 355 pounds, Soliai is what you look for in a traditional two-gap nose guard, and would allow the Bills to be a lot more flexible with Kyle WIlliams.
Last year was Soliai’s first year seeing significant playing time, and he made 39 tackles and two sacks. While the stats aren’t eye popping, he was solid in taking on blockers, and was a focal point of the Dolphins defense.
Soliai has great balance which allows him to get leverage on his blockers, and definitely assisted Cameron Wake in his 14 sack year.
In a 3-4 defense, there are two inside linebackers, and they are used interchangeably to blitz the passer, defend the run, and drop back into coverage.
Kevin Burnett, San Diego Chargers
Despite being 28 years old, Kevin Burnett of the San Diego Chargers still brings the heat on defense. At 6’3″ 240, he has the size you look for in an inside backer.
Burnett made 95 tackles, six sacks, forced two fumbles, batted away five passes, and intercepted two passes.
He could be signed for a reasonable price, and would definitely be a huge upgrade over Akin Ayodele or Andra Davis.
H.B. Blades, Washington Redskins
Many of you may be more familiar with H.B.’s relative, Benny, former all star Miami Hurricane and Detroit Lions safety, but I think Blades would work out well with the Bills.
He has been a backup his entire four year career, but at 26, he still is young enough to develop. Blades is durable, as he has played in all 48 games, and even more importantly, he is great against the run.
However, he isn’t fast, and struggles with lateral movement. He is a physical player, and would add depth on run downs and special teams.
D’Qwell Jackson, Cleveland Browns
D’Qwell Jackson has had a productive career ever since he came out of Maryland five seasons ago. In his career he has racked up 407 tackles, three sacks, four interceptions, while defending 11 passes.
He has great lateral range and is relentless in his pursuit, whether it is stopping the run, taking on a fullback, or covering the underneath routes.
Jackson would be an ideal signing for the Bills, as Jackson and Posluszny would be an amazing inside linebacker tandem, and take a lot of pressure off of the young defensive ends.