2017 Free Agency Preview: Buffalo Bills

Top free agent targets for the Buffalo Bills, players that must be re-signed, team cap space, and more to get you ready for 2017 free agency.

| 3 weeks ago
(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

2017 Free Agency Preview: Buffalo Bills


[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 24, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

While Buffalo is not short on areas that could use an upgrade, they are however short on cap space. GM Doug Whaley has demonstrated in the past though that he’s capable of finding players capable of contributing on the field – Richie Incognito and Zach Brown being two recent examples – at a price they can afford.

Salary cap room

$18,267,833 (24th in NFL; as of 3/6/17)

Biggest needs

  • Wide receiver
  • Cornerback
  • Tackle
  • Quarterback

Notable free agents

  • Stephon Gilmore, CB, 73.2 overall grade in 2016
  • Lorenzo Alexander, Edge, 80.6
  • Robert Woods, WR, 73.2
  • Zach Brown, LB, 84.1

Must re-sign

Robert Woods, WR, 73.2 overall grade in 2016

If we’re being completely honest, Woods is not a guy that Buffalo should feel completely obligated to re-sign, but of all of their unrestricted free agents, Woods makes the most sense of anyone to retain. Outside of Sammy Watkins, the Bills cupboards are completely bare at the wide receiver position and Woods just enjoyed his best season as a pro, earning a 73.2 overall grade (ranked 59 out of 115 qualified WRs) while posting a career-high 1.73 yards per route run (previous high was 1.25 in 2015).

Dream splash signing

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears, 77.6

Buffalo has one star receiver on the roster already with Sammy Watkins. After him, though, the depth chart pretty much walks right off a cliff, especially with Robert Woods hitting the market as well. Jeffery would provide the Bills with a proven second option who is capable of making plays at any level of the field and winning at the catch point even when there’s not much separation. Jeffery is coming off of a down year in 2016, but when he was healthy in 2015, he averaged 2.87 yards per route run, which ranked fourth among qualified wide receivers—one spot ahead of Watkins.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins, 74.5

In 2014 – his second NFL season – Stills was arguably one of the best deep-ball receivers in the entire league; his 64.3-percent catch rate led all receivers by quite a bit and the 370 yards he gained on deep passes (at least 20 yards in the air) ranked 13th among 75 qualified receivers. Stills’ numbers dipped a bit in two years with Miami but the ability to track down the deep ball was still there, evident by his 47.4-percent catch rate in 2016, which ranked 16th among receivers.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals, 74.7

Buffalo has to find a replacement for Stephon Gilmore, but with teams ready to pay a premium price for proven cornerback talent, and Buffalo’s limited cap space, they’re going to need to explore all reasonable avenues, and Kirkpatrick should qualify as one. Kirkpatrick was a 2012 first-round pick who has come nowhere close to living up to that pedigree, but in 2016 he flashed some signs that he was starting to put things together, as his 0.83 yards allowed per coverage snap ranked 12th among 118 qualified CBs, while the 68.9 QB Rating opposing QBs had when targeting him ranked as the 15th-lowest. Kirkpatrick is tied for both the most penalties and missed tackles among cornerbacks over the past two seasons, so there are still glaring holes in his game that he needs to clean up in order to take the next step; but because of those weaknesses, Buffalo may be able to land themselves a cornerback with good coverage skills at a price they can afford.

Brian Hoyer, QB, Chicago Bears, 81.1

With EJ Manuel set to hit free agency, and Tyrod Taylor’s situation being one giant, looming question mark at this point, the Bills need to add a capable quarterback to their roster. If the Bills do let Taylor walk – which they shouldn’t, for the record – then Hoyer can be a serviceable stop-gap until they find their “franchise” guy; if they retain Taylor, he has shown in the previous two seasons that he’s liable to miss at least a game or two thanks to injury, making a serviceable backup a bit more crucial. Hoyer has proven that he can have, at least, limited success as a starting quarterback; and he’s done it in a cold-weather environment, which should make him an extremely attractive option for Buffalo.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

2017 NFL Team Free Agency Previews

DivisionTeam
NFC EastDallas Cowboys
NFC EastNew York Giants
NFC EastPhiladelphia Eagles
NFC EastWashington Redskins
AFC EastBuffalo Bills
AFC EastMiami Dolphins
AFC EastNew England Patriots
AFC EastNew York Jets
NFC WestArizona Cardinals
NFC WestLos Angeles Rams
NFC WestSan Francisco 49ers
NFC WestSeattle Seahawks
AFC WestDenver Broncos
AFC WestKansas City Chiefs
AFC WestLos Angeles Chargers
AFC WestOakland Raiders
NFC NorthChicago Bears
NFC NorthDetroit Lions
NFC NorthGreen Bay Packers
NFC NorthMinnesota Vikings
AFC NorthBaltimore Ravens
AFC NorthCincinnati Bengals
AFC NorthCleveland Browns
AFC NorthPittsburgh Steelers
NFC SouthAtlanta Falcons
NFC SouthCarolina Panthers
NFC SouthNew Orleans Saints
NFC SouthTampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC SouthHouston Texans
AFC SouthIndianapolis Colts
AFC SouthJacksonville Jaguars
AFC SouthTennessee Titans

  • crosseyedlemon

    You have 4 offensive positions listed as “biggest needs” yet Short is the dream signing over someone like Jeffery? I can’t see the logic.

  • Tyler Hayes

    “GM Doug Whaley has demonstrated in the past though that he’s capable of finding players capable of contributing on the field – Richie Incognito and Zach Brown being two recent examples – at a price they can afford.”

    I think Lorenzo Alexander, the guy who had 12 sacks on a veteran minimum deal, was worthy of mentioning, don’t ya think?

    Also, Zach Brown is much more of a priority than Robert Woods. The Bills have no LB’s with speed on the defense, and the only other LB’s they have currently under contract are Reggie Ragland and Preston Brown.

    The dream signing would be Alshon Jeffrey or AJ Bouye, depending what happens with Woods and Gilmore. (Given the “must re-sign” free agent in Brown is retained.)

    Nice try though, I guess.