Free agency is upon us, and it couldn't be more of a different class than in years past. Without a new CBA signed, nearly 200 would be free agents are now restricted. You also have rumors that teams are not going to spend as much as in years past because of the impending work stoppage in 2011.
As for my team, the Bills are in desperate need of talent. I've jettisoned a lot of their core players from last year, while being able to pick up a few draft picks. My strategy is to try and build my core players from within the NFL draft. Like I've said before, experts are saying this draft class is one of the deepest in history.
As for what I'm looking for in free agency, I want to add young free agents and veteran role players who can bridge the gap to younger guys for 2011. With the salaries of Evans, Owens, Schobel, Williams and Kelsay gone; I now have more money to play with.
Now, forgive me before we get started. There are some players that I didn't get to when I was doing my evaluations of the Bills roster.
Donte Whitner & Roscoe Parrish
Donte was a part of my Kevin Kolb deal. However, if the Kolb deal falls through, I still have to figure out what to do with Whitner. I've already spoken about my feelings towards Whitner in Volume II of this series. The rumors making the rounds is that the Redskins may be interested in acquiring his services. What's with the Redskins getting former Bills players? Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, London Fletcher, Derrick Dockery and Mike Williams have all played for the (Ron) burgundy and gold. Even Greg Williams and Jerry Gray coached there.
It shouldn't shock anyone that the Redskins are always into making trades or signing free agents. Besides their owner acting as if he's running a fantasy football team, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are known for always preferring veteran players over establishing young draft picks. The Redskins need a safety and have always been rumored to wanting the services of Parrish. As for Parrish, I'm not paying a punt returner 3 million dollars a year.
Purposed Trade: Bills trade Roscoe Parrish and Donte Whitner to the Redskins for a 3rd and 7th round pick. (Editor's note: Either way Roscoe Parrish will be off my team for a low round pick or his outright release)
Now that we have the roster moves out of the way, it's time to dive into the free agent market. Let the second guessing begin.
Going into free agency, I would have loved to go out and pay a boat load of money for a nose tackle like Vincent Wilfork or Casey Hampton. However, those players, along with a number of other nose tackles are going to be franchised. I'm not going to give up two first round picks and a ton of cash for guys pushing 30 and above. The only legit nose tackle on the open market is Jason Ferguson of the Dolphins, whose 36 and coming off a serious knee injury. So for now, I'm going to rule out NT until the draft. However, I do need to add some sort of defensive lineman that is not only young enough, but smart enough to know how to play in a 3-4 defense.
Enter Marcus Spears
Now look, Marcus Spears isn't the type of player whose going to get 10 sacks a year. However, he plays exceptional well against the run. He's only 27 and has played exclusively in a 3-4 defense as an end. Now, he is a restricted free agent and I haven't heard anything about the Cowboys being interested in retaining his services. The Boys do have a pretty hefty payroll. Even without the cap, Dallas may decide to not go all New York Yankees this offseason because they have invested a billion dollars into their new stadium. They also have to worry about resigning Miles Austin, who won't come cheap.
Since Spears is restricted, I'm willing to send over one of my third round picks and give him a new deal. As for his contract, it's going to be a little less than what Chris Canty received last year from the Giants.
Proposed deal: Bills trade their 3rd round pick (Baltimore's pick from the Lee Evans deal) for the rights to Marcus Spears, who will then sign a new deal for 26 million dollars over 5 years.
During my tenure as GM, I haven't really talked about my current linebacking core. Yes, I will be moving Aaron Maybin to OLB. Paul Pozluszny is going to stay inside, which should be a benefit for him since he won't have to cover as much territory like he did in a 4-3. As for Kawika Mitchell, I'm not a fan of putting him inside because he's coming off a severe knee injury and I don't think he could handle the physical pounding. So more than likely, Mitchell will be moved to the outside.
Now, I have an inside linebacker spot open and it's definitely NOT going to Keith Ellison. I was thinking about adding an inside linebacker early in the draft. However, with the Bills not exactly having a lot of experience in the linebacking core, I think it's crucial to get an experienced linebacker that has worked in a 3-4 defense.
Enter Larry Foote
Foote is right on tip of my age range for this football team (Turns 30 in June). He's a free agent from the Detroit Lions, but made his bones playing in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense as an inside linebacker for seven seasons. Up until last year, the guy didn't miss a start for almost six years. He's a versatile inside linebacker that will get you almost 100 tackles a year. Foote will also bring in Super Bowl championship experience. I'm sure Bill Cowher will give Chan Gailey a call and give him a glowing recommendation.
Now, Foote is definitely not going into the prime of his career. As a matter of fact, his better days may be done. Foote's a transition guy that I plan on having stay in Buffalo for maybe a year or two. Foote has been looking for a long term deal, but I think at his age, it's going to be tough for him to get that. So, I'll give him a three year deal, but more than likely he won't see the final year of it.
Bills sign Larry Foote to a 3-year contract worth 7.5 million dollars.
This is by far the Bills strongest part of their team. I may look to add another safety for depth via the waiver wire or late in the draft. However, I will be sure to have a long heart to heart talk with Leodis McKelvin. Considering that some scouts rated him higher than Darrelle Revis coming out of college, I would expect for McKelvin to come out this season and establish himself as a legit corner. I know he only played 3 games last year and had issues with his lawn care, but he still hasn't proven to me that he's worth the first round status. To quote Sting: "I'll be watching you."
-Part 2 of free agency is the next article below-