The 2014 free agency feeding frenzy is about to begin. NFL teams are like sharks who smell blood in the water this time of year. They are chomping at the bit for the chance to sign that difference maker who could be the perfect fit to get their team into the playoffs, or better yet win it all.
In the course of a couple days, a glaring team need can become a strength or a position that no longer needs to be drafted. My problem with free agency is there is no way of ever knowing where a guy will sign, until he actually signs (see Buffalo’s signings of Terrell Owens and Mario Williams) so trying to link guys to different teams seems fruitless.
With this in mind, I’m taking a slightly different approach. I’m going to take an empirical look at 2014 free agents. By that, I mean I’ve looked at the positions of need, which are the same as in my 2014 NFL Draft Wish List with the obvious addition of free safety, and the type of player that will best compliment Buffalo’s existing pieces.
Although there are the couple needs I’ve stated, I see the Bills only being able to address free safety through free agency. I just don’t feel any other position has enough talent or depth to be better than a drafted option. Don’t get me wrong, some good players are available at positions of need, but I don’t think the Bills will be able to sign any huge difference makers. Additionally, the Bills drafted two safeties in last year’s draft so I don’t see Buffalo going that route in the 2014 NFL draft. Signing someone to replace Byrd and help develop/push the younger players would be ideal.
In the Jim Schwartz defensive system, the Bills will need a coverage safety with great ball skills that can play man coverage if needed. A safety with this skill set allows Schwartz to play man and blitz five, depending heavily upon the defensive line to generate a pass rush.
Best Case Scenario: Jairus Byrd
Obviously every team would love to sign Byrd. I’m not ready to say re-signing him to the type of contract he wants is out of the question, and I’m not the only one. I think Byrd wants to stay in Buffalo, but he also wants to see what’s available to him in free agency. That’s why the team didn’t franchise tag him. He is by far the best safety and is arguably the best player available this off-season, so I don’t blame him for testing out the market. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him back in Buffalo come September. Since his rookie season, Byrd has been a dominant ball hawking safety. Keeping him on this defense gives it a chance to be scary good.
More Likely Option: Malcolm Jenkins
I believe Jenkins is the perfect kind of hybrid safety for the Bills. As a converted cornerback, Jenkins has the ball skills and hands to get interceptions and break up plays. His better than average size with good speed also allows him to always be in the position to make plays. Another plus is that he comes from a system predicated on forcing turnovers.
I’m still overwhelmingly in favor of building through the draft, so don’t miss my upcoming articles showcasing some select players on my wish list and how they could have meaningful impacts immediately for the Bills.