BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
The NFL’s free agency period doesn’t begin until March 11, but it’s where the Buffalo Bills’ focus will quickly shift following the NFL Scouting Combine.
Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley has already stated that the Bills have a value plan.
“I think we’re going to stay that course, value picks, guys that can come in and contribute and we get a real good return on our investment,” Whaley told WGR’s The John Murphy Show on Jan. 21. “We just set it up before we came down here. We set up the unrestricted free agents by position. What we’ll do is we have certain positions that we think will be interesting to us and we’ll pull out certain guys that we think we’ll be able to look at and talk to or try to get and when we get back we’ll give it to the coaches and have a free agent board set up just like a draft board by position and regardless of position.
Besides possibly resigning Jairus Byrd, Whaley’s comments make it seem unlikely that the Bills will target the top free agents on the market. Instead, the Bills should be looking for valuable, under-the-radar free-agent signings, such as the five possibilities below.
Mike Pollak, OG
Pollak spent the 2013 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, his third team in six years in the league. Pollak played on a modest, one-year, $780,000 deal and appeared in eight games, starting five of them. Pollak performed very well on the field, earning a +6.2 overall grade for the season from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Six of Pollak’s appearances were at right guard, but he played one game at center and one game at left guard. His versatility could help Buffalo along its interior offensive line.
Akeem Jordan, ILB
Brandon Spikes and Donald Butler are big-name free agents at inside linebacker, but Akeem Jordan is a free agent to watch. In 2013, Jordan played in all 16 games for the Kansas City Chiefs, starting 10 of them. Jordan’s greatest strength is playing against the run; in fact, Pro Football Focus ranked Jordan as the NFL’s fifth-best inside linebacker in the NFL against the run in 2013.
Jordan isn’t a three-down linebacker, but he would fit a need on the Bills as a run-stopper.
Kenny Britt, WR
Britt is still a big name, but he has had quite a fall from grace. After piling up more than 1,400 receiving yards between his first two seasons, Britt’s production has fallen off significantly in the past three years, in which he has totaled less than 1,000 receiving yards.
Britt has had injury issues, off-field problems and his fair share of drops, but he should receive a second opportunity somewhere in the league. Looking for a large wide receiver, Buffalo could be intrigued by Britt’s 6’3″ frame. While Britt guaranteed that he’ll be a No. 1 receiver in 2014, he’ll most likely have to settle for a short or incentive-laden deal. For the Bills, Britt could be a low-risk, high-reward free agent signing.
Chris Clemons, FS
If Jairus Byrd leaves the Bills, Chris Clemons is a solid replacement option. Clemons is unlikely to receive a deal close to what Byrd or T.J. Ward will get on the market, but he’s a rather productive safety. In 2013, Clemons started all 16 games for the Miami Dolphins and accounted for 93 total tackles.
In coverage, Pro Football Focus gave Clemons a +7.2 rating, the ninth-best among all NFL safeties 9th in the league among all safeties. Clemons isn’t as strong as Byrd against the run, but he’d still be an instant starter in Buffalo should Byrd go to a new team.
Kassim Osgood, ST
Technically, Osgood is a wide receiver, but whoever brings him in will do so for his special teams ability.
Doug Marrone said following the end of the 2013 season, according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News, that the Bills needed to add core special teams players. Osgood is an older player at 33 years old, but he still ranked eighth in the NFL with 15 special teams tackles last season. Signing Osgood wouldn’t garner much press, but he’d be an important part of Buffalo’s “core” on special teams.