Real simple concept here: as we head into free agency and the draft, where do the Bills need the most help? We know the obvious places of need (linebacker, defensive end), but let’s go ahead and check on every position. I’ll evaluate that position based on players who are under contract as of today - so Stevie Johnson won’t be part of the WR group, for instance. I’ll rate each position as high need, some need, low need, or no need.
Running Back (Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Johnny White) - Jackson and Spiller will be among the game’s best running back combos. White provides a lot on special teams. Don’t see the need to tinker here. And if the Bills re-sign Tashard Choice, I may scream.
Kicker (Rian Lindell) - Solid kicker who just signed a new contract. Not going anywhere.
Punter (Brian Moorman) - Had a nice 2011 season after holding off a challenge in training camp. No reason to make a change.
Long Snapper (Garrison Sanborn) - No reason to replace him. He’s as good as anyone in the NFL.
Fullback (Corey McIntyre) - The Bills don’t really use a fullback in the offense much, and McIntyre’s a very good special teams player. Works for me.
Defensive Tackle (Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kellen Heard, Torell Troup, Spencer Johnson, Dwan Edwards?, Alex Carrington?) I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for the Williams/Dareus combo in 2012. They’re going to make life hell for centers and guards across the NFL. After those two, the Bills have a TON of guys who can play inside. There’s no problems here.
Safety (Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Da’Norris Searcy, Joshua Nesbitt) - Byrd and Wilson represent one of the league’s best safety tandems. Byrd quietly had a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2011, and Wilson was having a tremendous year before he got hurt. Searcy is a fine backup. Nesbitt, a converted college quarterback, snuck onto the active roster a few times while Wilson was hurt. Not sure what the Bills have in him. Not a ton of need here, but if Bryan Scott is not re-signed bringing in another backup could be wise.
Quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith?) - Fitz haters will scream that QB should be higher, but unless I’m really misreading Bills management, the team is still all-in on Fitz. And with his contract, I’m not sure if they have a choice. I’m still sold on Fitz though, so I’m not complaining. The team might take a developmental guy late in the draft or bring in a veteran to compete with Thigpen for the #2 spot, but don’t expect a big splash to be made here.
Middle Linebacker (Kelvin Sheppard, Chris White) – This position will essentially function as “two-down run stopper,” and the coaching staff seems to have confidence Sheppard will do the job. White will get a look as the backup, and Nick Barnett could slide back inside if needed. If the Bills want to add a veteran (or retain someone like free agent Andra Davis), that’d be okay, but probably not necessary.