CAPACCIO: Five UFA linebackers who could fill roles for the Bills

March 07, 2019 - 12:53 pm
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We all know the major needs for the Bills, and they are basically all on the offensive side of the ball.  Offensive line.  Wide receiver.  Tight end.  On defense, there’s some work to be done on the defensive line, as well.  Beyond that, most wouldn’t think the Bills have too many pressing needs at linebacker now that they’ve re-signed veteran Lorenzo Alexander to return in 2019.  With Alexander (SLB), Tremaine Edmunds (MLB), and Matt Milano (WLB), the starters seem to be set.  However, as I’ve pointed out several times here and on air, I believe linebacker is an under-the-radar position the team could target in free agency, especially on the strong side. 

Yes, Alexander is back and will most likely be a big part of what they do on defense again. However, he’ll be 36 years old this offseason and has indicated this will be his final year in the league. Signing a younger, solid SLB now allows the team to have even more options in different situations and also have Alexander’s full-time replacement already on the roster.

Beyond those starting three, the Bills have a very uncertain depth situation.  Deon Lacey, Julian Stanford, and Corey Thompson have experience and can be short-term fill-ins, but if the team needs someone to step in for several games, they may need to upgrade. 

So if they do look to add to the group, here are five players who could fill roles for the team:


Anthony Barr (SLB)

Current team: Vikings
Age at start of season: 27

Thomas Davis (SLB)

Current team: Panthers
Age at start of season: 36


Jake Ryan (MLB/SLB)

Current team: Packers
Age at start of season: 27


Preston Brown (MLB)

Current team: Bengals
Age at start of season: 26


Denzel Perryman (WLB)

Current team: Chargers
Age at start of season: 26

Ryan is a throw-back type of linebacker.  A downhill guy who can really help plug holes to stop the run.  But he’s also coming off a major knee injury that cost him his entire 2018 season.  But that probably means he’ll come a lot cheaper than most other free agents at the position.  For the Bills, he can play pretty much any linebacker spot, but he’d mostly fit as a backup to Edmunds in the middle or Alexander on the strong side.  He’d be a depth player and help on special teams.  He’s not going to be rushing the passer much, but his three years pre-injury in Green Bay were very productive as a tackler, racking up 206 stops in three seasons.  


Preston Brown (MLB)

Current team: Bengals
Age at start of season: 26

Yes, that Preston Brown.  The same Preston Brown who played for the Bills from 2014-2017, played over 1000 snaps each season, and led the team in tackles every year he was in Buffalo, including a league-leading whopping 144 stops while in the middle of McDermott’s defense in 2017.  The Bills were reportedly even interested in bringing Brown back last offseason, but he got an offer from his hometown Bengals and left for Cincinnati.  There, Brown missed games due to injury for the first time in his career, playing only seven games, starting all of them, logging 42 tackles.  Of course Buffalo wound up drafting Edmunds in the first round last year, and he’s the entrenched starter, so that means Brown would purely be a backup now in Buffalo.  He may get a starting gig somewhere.  He could go back to Cincy.  But if the market doesn’t play out like that for him, it would be a seamless transition for him to walk right back into the Bills defense as a depth player who knows the system.

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Denzel Perryman (WLB)

Current team: Chargers
Age at start of season: 26

The Chargers are working to bring Perryman back.  But if they’re unable to and he hits the open market, he’s going to be an intriguing player who brings a lot of upside when he’s on the field.  That’s been the issue, though, for him through his career - staying on the field.  After missing two games his rookie year in 2015, Perryman missed four games in 2016 then essentially played half-seasons in both 2017 and 2018.  Last season, in only nine games, Perryman logged 51 tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups.  He’s considered a good coverage linebacker, which is something the Bills could use, especially behind Milano, who is good in coverage himself.  That’s where Perryman would have to fit, as a backup to Milano.  And with Milano coming off a broken leg at the end of last season, the Bills might want to add some extra insurance behind him.  If Perryman can get a starting job somewhere, he should obviously take that.  But with his recent injury history, there might not be a team willing to commit to him having that role and the money that would command.  If that’s not the case, hell be a valuable backup. 

 



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