The Buffalo Bills essentially rebuilt their roster last offseason, getting rid of several big name players in order to rebuild from the ground up. While they somehow made the postseason with a rebuilt roster, it still left them with several holes at key positions, and depleted their depth immensely.
This offseason, the Bills are going to have some tough decisions to make in regards to who they bring back, and who they let walk, especially as they try to build on their exciting 2017 campaign. While the Bills have few big name free agents, they do have some key players hitting the market, including one of their biggest surprises of 2017.
This is what I think the Bills should do regarding their 2017 free agent class.
CB EJ Gaines – Stay
When the Bills acquired EJ Gaines in the Sammy Watkins trade, it seemed as if he was almost just filler, as the Bills traded Ronald Darby and needed someone to start at CB. Gaines stepped in, and his play on the field made him much more than filler. Gaines was great as the Bills second corner, grading favorably by all metrics, and making fans forget all about Ronald Darby. The key stat regarding Gaines? The Bills went 8-3 in games he played, and 1-4 when he didn’t. Call it coincidence, but Gaines allows the Bills to play a lot more free on defense, and despite his injury concerns, should be the team’s top priority in free agency.
LB Preston Brown – Walk
Preston Brown is a nice player. He led the NFL in tackling in 2017, and is a captain of the Bills defense. However, his stats make him a player that will likely be highly coveted in free agency, and due to that, highly paid. Brown would be nice to have back at a reasonable price, but his athletic limitations, especially in Sean McDermott’s scheme, make it tough to justify paying him big money. Brown is good, but he isn’t irreplaceable, especially at his likely price tag.
DT Kyle Williams – Stay
How much fun was it to see Kyle Williams finally make the playoffs as a Buffalo Bill? The pure joy of a man who’s been through the heart break nearly as long as some of us was contagious, and if he wants to continue playing, the Bills should bring him back. Williams may not be the wrecking ball he once was, but he’s a leader, and the top locker room presence on the team. The Bills still need to find an answer at DT, but if Williams wants to return, you let him return.
WR Jordan Matthews – Walk
While EJ Gaines was the trade stud, Matthews was surely the dud. Matthews never produced much with the Bills, not surprising considering the Bills lack of success through the air, especially to WR’s. Matthews was productive in Philadelphia, and he’ll likely get paid as though his season in Buffalo was a fluke. Matthews isn’t the game changing WR the Bills need regardless, and unless he’s willing to stay for little money, Matthews can walk in free agency.
RB Mike Tolbert – Walk
I know he’s a locker room guy, and a special teams player, but he isn’t a running back, especially on a team built on the ground game. Tolbert is just too old and slow to truly be looked at as a reliable option behind McCoy. It’s time to end the experiment.
Other free agents:
Stay – WR Brandon Tate, CB Leonard Johnson, WR Deonte Thompson
Walk – CB Shareece Wright, LB Ramon Humber, SS Colt Anderson, QB Joe Webb, DT Cedric Thornton, RB Taiwan Jones, SS Shamarko Thomas, RB Travaris Cadet, WR Jeremy Butler, OT Seantrel Henderson