Bills Sign Brandon Spikes
The Bills took a big step toward shoring up the fifth-worst run defense in the league by signing MLB Brandon Spikes to a one-year, $3.25 million deal. The Bills are familiar with the former New England Patriot, having lined up against him within the AFC East for the last four years.
Spikes is the early favorite to take over in the middle, with 2013 rookie standout Kiko Alonso slated to move to weak side linebacker and newly acquired Keith Rivers will man the strong side.
While Alonso was productive from a statistical standpoint last season, the Bills actually think Alonso’s move to the weak side will make him more productive with more room to roam. DeAndre Levy saw success in this role in Jim Schwartz’s defense in 2013.
Spikes is one of the league’s best run stuffers, though his deficiencies in coverage have kept him off the field in passing situations for much of his time in New England. It’s not yet clear if he’ll be trusted to play three downs in Buffalo, though it’s likely we’ll see Spikes come off the field.
While Spikes should improve the Bills’ rush defense, his signing might concern Buffalo fans a bit, considering he was cast out of New England after he couldn’t fall in line with Bill Belichick and “the Patriot way.” According to a report by The Buffalo News, he was banished to injured reserve after being late for a team meeting during the postseason, he caught heat for being out of shape, and he even asked out of a game because he was “dehydrated.”
Spikes has been fined multiple times by the NFL for illegal hits and he’s also been fined repeatedly for wearing the wrong color shoes, which if nothing else shows poor decision-making. During his rookie season, he was suspended four games for violating the substance abuse policy. His positive result reportedly came about because of the medication he was taking to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was also suspended in college after trying to gouge the eyes of an opposing player.
With Spikes out of the mix, the Patriots will likely roll with Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins at linebacker. Over the last six games of 2013 including two playoff games, Collins put up 30 total tackles, one sack, one interception, and six passes defensed. While it’s tempting to assume he’ll break out in 2014, Mayo and Hightower currently project as the every-down linebackers. Without nickel snaps, Collins’ production will likely mirror what we saw out of Spikes.
In a two-down role last season, Spikes put up 86 total tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery, and three passes defensed. These numbers ranked Spikes as the No. 70 linebacker in PFF’s IDP scoring. It’s not yet clear how the Bills will deploy their subpackage defense. There’s a chance Spikes will play all three downs, though it’s more likely we see him come off the field in the subpackages. In that case, Alonso will be the only Buffalo linebacker with fantasy value.
There is one more key takeaway from Spikes’ signing. While Schwartz has been coy about what scheme he’ll be running, this move suggests Buffalo will be switching back to a 4-3. In that case, Mario Williams will undoubtedly be designated as a defensive lineman. That’s good news for fantasy owners, as Williams will remain a strong IDP option.
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Johnny B. Davis is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy. He likes to root out raw, young dynasty talent and spread the gospel of IDP. Follow Johnny on Twitter @JohnnyBDavis