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.
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
- Wide receiver
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
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 NFL Team Free Agency Previews
|NFC East||Dallas Cowboys|
|NFC East||New York Giants|
|NFC East||Philadelphia Eagles|
|NFC East||Washington Redskins|
|AFC East||Buffalo Bills|
|AFC East||Miami Dolphins|
|AFC East||New England Patriots|
|AFC East||New York Jets|
|NFC West||Arizona Cardinals|
|NFC West||Los Angeles Rams|
|NFC West||San Francisco 49ers|
|NFC West||Seattle Seahawks|
|AFC West||Denver Broncos|
|AFC West||Kansas City Chiefs|
|AFC West||Los Angeles Chargers|
|AFC West||Oakland Raiders|
|NFC North||Chicago Bears|
|NFC North||Detroit Lions|
|NFC North||Green Bay Packers|
|NFC North||Minnesota Vikings|
|AFC North||Baltimore Ravens|
|AFC North||Cincinnati Bengals|
|AFC North||Cleveland Browns|
|AFC North||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|NFC South||Atlanta Falcons|
|NFC South||Carolina Panthers|
|NFC South||New Orleans Saints|
|NFC South||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|AFC South||Houston Texans|
|AFC South||Indianapolis Colts|
|AFC South||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|AFC South||Tennessee Titans|