The Buffalo Bills recently released long-time safety George Wilson, leaving many fans to believe that third-year man Da’Norris Searcy will be a starter at the position. Searcy, a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, had begun to see an increased role during the 2012 season, playing 279 snaps. He recorded 39 tackles and forced two fumbles during his limited action.
However, Searcy is more of a run-defending, in the box safety, and isn’t really an asset in pass coverage. While he deserves to see an even bigger role with the team, it can’t be assumed that he’s ready to take on a full-time role in which he’d play 750-800 snaps.
Defensive backs are crucial to Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme, and as BuffaloBillsDraft.com points out in their breakdown, the Jets used seven defensive backs a league-leading 17% of the plays. This makes safety, particularly strong safety, an important position that the Bills could be addressing this offseason.
William Moore, 27, Atlanta Falcons
William Moore has been an underrated member of the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary, and finally earned a Pro Bowl appearance as an alternate this year after recording 76 tackles, forcing two fumbles, intercepting four passes, and defending eight passes. The former 2009 second round draft pick out of Missouri is excellent in run support, but is a complete safety in that he is great in pass coverage. At 6’0” 221 pounds, he has the size and bulk to be a big hitter without sacrificing athletic ability.
LaRon Landry, 28, New York Jets
LaRon Landry’s name has been circulating among Bills fans recently, as Mike Pettine has had nothing but praise for the former No. 6 overall pick. Landry Is quite the physical specimen, and at 6’0” 220 pounds he’s a human highlight reel known for de-cleating ball carriers. Landry played in all 16 games for the Jets this year after signing a one-year “show me” contract in the offseason. He made an impression, recording 99 tackles, four forced fumbles, and intercepted two passes en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. Landry has been rumored to want upwards of $6 million per year as a free agent this offseason, but the connection with Pettine certainly makes Landry a hot target for the Bills.
Jamarca Sanford, 27, Minnesota Vikings
Jamarca Sanford probably isn’t known to many fans outside of Minnesota, but he’s a versatile defensive back that has the athleticism to play coverage as a free safety, in addition to playing the strong side. The former seventh round pick out of Ole Miss finally earned a starting job in 2011, and since then has recorded 134 tackles, five forced fumbles and two interceptions. Sanford was excellent in coverage during the 2012 season, and according to ProFootballFocus, he allowed just 14 receptions and 41 yards after the catch. He stands 5’10” and weighs 200 pounds and is a solid run defender.
Patrick Chung, 25, New England Patriots
Patrick Chung is just 25 years of age, but has a lot of experience in the secondary. He started 51 games for Oregon (with Jairus Byrd), before being a second round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2009. The 5’11” 215 pounder saw a decrease in playing time this season, as he far too often went for the big hit, instead of taking correct angles and wrapping up the ball carrier. In his 542 snaps this year, Chung picked off two passes and made 44 tackles. He’s an impressive run defender and average in coverage ability. He’s physical, but he’s shown intelligence at times. He’s very young and has a lot of room to grow into a very good player.
Corey Lynch, 27, Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals free agent safety Corey Lynch is probably a more realistic target for the Bills’ secondary than any of the other free agents listed above. He played all 16 games this year and recorded 46 tackles and two interceptions. He’s not great in any one aspect of the game, but he’s a solid all-around player.