Cornerback (Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin, Drayton Florence) – The Bills have a pair of young corners with potential in Williams and Rogers, but neither have exactly been proven. McGee saved his job by restructuring his contract earlier this month, but who knows if he can stay healthy. Florence had a bad 2011 after a good 2010. Leodis McKelvin is Leodis McKelvin. So suffice to say, there’s room to upgrade here. I’d be surprised to see Florence and McKelvin both on the opening day roster. McKelvin surprisingly isn’t owed much money this season, and that may save him.
Center (Eric Wood, Colin Brown) – Wood is great, and Brown got some experience at the end of the season. This moves to “No need” if the Bills re-sign Kraig Urbik, who can play center when needed.
Offensive Guard (Andy Levitre, Michael Jasper?) – I’m breaking my own rules here in not calling this “High Need” because I’m going to assume the Bills will re-sign Kraig Urbik and/or Chad Rinehart, who are both restricted free agents. Otherwise Levitre is the only guard on the roster who has played an NFL game. Levitre, fortunately, is awesome. No worries there. Urbik will be fine at left guard if he’s re-signed. The wild card is Jasper, Buffalo’s enormous project player who probably best projects as a guard. I can’t imagine the Bills kept him around all last season if he wasn’t showing some progress. It will be very interesting to monitor his progress once camp opens.
Defensive End (Kyle Moore, Chris Kelsay, Shawne Merriman?, Dwan Edwards? Alex Carrington?) – Oh boy. Here’s where it starts to get ugly. As of today there’s a real chance the Bills would start Kelsay and Merriman at end. That’s a huge problem. I don’t think there’s a real solution on this roster. This will be a big priority in free agency and the draft.
Wide Receiver (David Nelson, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Kamar Aiken, Ruvell Martin, Marcus Easley, David Clowney) - Three big names missing from this list: free agents Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, and Derek Hagan. Johnson’s obviously the big one, and I’d be surprised if he’s not back. Parrish probably won’t be back. Hagan was a guy who I thought was really good in his short time in Buffalo at the end of last season, so I’d welcome his return. Johnson and Hagan coming back would lower this need significantly, but there’s still some question marks. And if Johnson doesn’t come back, it’s time to panic. Nelson is what he is (a solid #3 type slot receiver), but no one else is a proven NFL receiver on this roster. Marcus Easley has a ton of talent, but will he ever make it to a regular season game healthy?
Outside Linebacker (Nick Barnett, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Robert Eddins, Shawne Merriman?) – Barnett will be great as the weakside linebacker in the 4-3. But who will emerge as the strongside linebacker is anyone’s guess. Moats, Batten, and Eddins will all get a crack at it, but I’d really like to see a free agent or a high draft pick brought in here. I just don’t see Moats and Batten as full-time NFL starters. The Bills could also really use a backup for Barnett on the weakside.
Offensive Tackle (Erik Pears, Chris Hairston) Pears got a contract extension and will be a fixture at right tackle for the next few seasons. He’s solid. As for the left side, the Bills only have second-year man Hairston for now. Hairston was drafted as a project and exceeded everyone’s expectations by playing pretty decently when pressed into action in 2011. I don’t think you can say “here’s our left tackle of the future,” but you could do worse for a backup tackle at the very least. 2011 starter Demetrius Bell is a free agent, and it will be interesting to see which way the Bills go with him. He had far and away his best season in 2011 before he got hurt…but he ALWAYS gets hurt. The man is just either horribly unlucky or made of glass. The Bills have to bring in someone new here, even if Bell is re-signed.
Tight End (Kevin Brock, Fendi Onobun, Lee Smith, Mike Caussin) Yeah…that’s not an inspiring list right there. Of course, the big name missing is Scott Chandler, who is a free agent. The Bills will clearly look to get him back, or else there’s a huge problem here. As for the guys on the roster now, Smith’s a decent blocking TE, and everyone else is something of an unknown. The Bills will likely look to grab someone in the draft even if Chandler re-signs.