#BillsMafia Roundtable: Breaking Down the Bills Top Needs in Free Agency and NFL Draft

Throughout the next few weeks, #BillsMafia writers Rob Quinn and Jason DeHart will be joined by Chris Trapasso of NFL.com and CBSSports.com to discuss the biggest story-lines surrounding the Buffalo Bills’ offseason.

Today, they offered their opinions on the Bills’ biggest roster needs heading into the free agency period.

Chris Trapasso

This is tricky, because I believe, since 2013, the Bills’ offseason needs have grown smaller and smaller each year. I think many would point to guard as Buffalo’s No. 1 priority but forget that Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson are two young, somewhat promising offensive linemen who, on paper, are ideal fits for the power-running scheme Greg Roman will implement. As I’ve hammered over and over Twitter, Kouandjio doesn’t turn 22 until July. Saying he’s a second-round bust right now is preposterous.However, it’s not “wrong” to believe the Bills could use a solid veteran on the interior of the offensive line next to center Eric Wood.funchessTo me though, the top priority is a change-the-game tight end. Buffalo kinda-sorta had that guy with Scott Chandler, but his inability to block or be consistent as a pass-catcher hurt the Bills offense as it slowly began to rely on him during the end of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tenure and into EJ Manuel’s playing days. Also, with Roman’s history (with Vernon Davis) featuring the tight end and the blocking responsibilities that’ll come from the variety of “heavy” sets in the Bills’ new, complex offense, a well-rounded tight end will go a long way in stabilizing the offense.
After that, sure, a veteran guard is probably priority No. 2, and it’s only not No. 1 due to “The Cys” already on the roster. Mike Iupati is a logical choice coming from San Francisco, but is he going to want the huge money the Bills wouldn’t pay Andy Levitre (who’s not as good as Iupati, by the way) a few years ago? Then again, Roman would likely push for a guard of Iupati’s caliber much more fervently than Doug Marrone ever did.
A quarterback is needed as well, purely due to the numbers game. The Buffalo News published a slideshow on this offseason’s “QB market,” and if fans check that out, they’ll realize that none of the signal-callers available are noticeably “better” than Manuel, and have really shown nothing that says they can come in on a three- to-four-million dollar contract and be a viable starter to “manage” the Bills to 10-6 or 11-5. Someone though needs to be added to the quarterback contingent of Manuel and Jeff Tuel.
No. 4 is another wide receiver. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods have bright futures as the Bills’ No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts, but the team needs a “go-up-and-get-it” boundary receiver…desperately. Maybe the aforementioned tight end could be that guy though.
A traditional fullback is certainly needed too, given the prevalence of the lead-blocker in Roman’s attack. Henry Hynoski, an free-agent from the New York Giants would make sense here.
Rob Quinn:

Guard- Over the past two seasons the Bills haven’t been able to get quality play at the guard position, which has really hindered the offense. Since Andy Levitre left the team after the 2012 season, they’ve used seven different players at either guard spot with little success. Last year’s second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio has been practicing at guard and Cyril Richardson also has potential, but if the Bills want to emphasize running the ball, adding a proven interior lineman should be a priority.The signing of Richie Incognito adds veteran depth, but the position still needs work.

Tight End- No position has seen a greater involvement in the passing game over the last decade as the tight end. Since 1920, there have been 120 seasons of a tight end catching 60 passes and scoring five touchdowns. 80 of those seasons occurred after 2000 and none were with the Bills. Scott Chandler is a serviceable player, but having a big, athletic weapon that can vertically attack the middle of the field is so valuable to an offense. With a deep tight end class in both free agency and the draft, the Bills should look to revamp that position.

Rex Ryan is likely tied to EJ Manuel for the 2015 NFL season.
Rex Ryan is likely tied to EJ Manuel for the 2015 NFL season.

Quarterback- The Bills’ quarterback position certainly isn’t settled, but with only 14 games of experience for former first-round pick EJ Manuel, coupled with the fact that the team doesn’t have a first-round pick, Buffalo shouldn’t rush to find their “franchise QB” in the 2015 offseason. The Bills will need to add a quarterback, maybe two, as Jeff Tuel is the only other passer currently on the roster. EJ Manuel should be given every chance to contribute in 2015 before making a true judgment on his future with the team.

Edge Rusher- Jerry Hughes is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and even if he re-signs with Buffalo, the team will probably need to add some depth there. Mario Williams and Hughes form one of the most disruptive edge rushing duos in the NFL, but if one were to go down with an injury, the Bills would be in trouble.

Wide Receiver- Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are two young, talented wideouts with bright futures in the league, while Chris Hogan proved capable of handling a No. 3 role, but the team still lacks a receiver that can consistently win in contested-catch situations. Hogan is a slot receiver and Marquise Goodwin can take the top off of a defense, but the Bills need to add a true redzone threat.

Jason DeHart:

Quarterback Competition. The Bills have to create depth and competition at the quarterback position. EJ Manuel is in position to be the starter on opening day and it’s up to the Bills front office to find talented players that will either push Manuel to be better or out of the way entirely.

Offensive Line Upgrades- The Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year. They failed to create holes in the run game, and performed terribly against good pass rushers. Cody Glenn seemed to regress as the season wore on and the interior of the line acted as a swinging gate that pass rushers pushed through. The Bills have to determine if any of their recently activity there will yield results quickly. Just last year, the team spent picks on Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson, and signed Chris Williams in free agency. It’s time that they either bear fruit, or the Bills may have to invest even more there.

An Every Down Back- CJ Spiller is likely to leave in free agency which means that either Bryce Brown or a 34-year-old Fred Jackson will assume the starting role.  Brown showed flashes, and he potentially could emerge as a feature back. Jackson still has some left in the tank, but the reality is that the Bills should be looking to add another running back in the draft that can provide speed along the edges, but also carry his own between the tackles, as that’s what Greg Roman’s offenses is predicated on.

Defensive End Depth Jarius Wynn will be a free agent, and Manny Lawson looks to move back to his outside linebacker role, which would leave the defense end positions in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 hybrid scheme aching for depth. Re-signing Wynn should be a priority, and adding another player through the draft would help.  Ryan’s defense is predicated on keeping outside running lanes contained, and that will require a good edge setter in this new defense.

clayAn Athletic Tight End- Scott Chandler is the model of consistency, and at this point has put up statistics that would rank him as one of the best tight ends in Bills history. However, his play has left fans looking for more at the tight end position. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman uses multiple tight ends within his scheme, but has always had Vernon Davis to act as his vertical seam threat, which the Bills clearly don’t have.  They will have to go out and either try to poach one (personally I like Charles Clay) or draft one (EJ Biggs from Iowa St).  Of the four tight ends the Bills carried last year it’s likely only Chandler will be on the opening day roster.

Next, we’ll discuss which players are affected the most by the Bills’ new coaching staff!