CAPACCIO: A look at each of the Bills' 2019 UFAs

January 07, 2019 - 7:50 pm
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As the 2018 season was winding down, the Buffalo Bills had ten players who were set to become unrestricted free agents in March.  But just over the last month, they signed both quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Derek Anderson to contracts for the 2019 season (Barkley actually signed a two-year deal).  That left GM Brandon Beane with only eight pending UFAs on his roster, a much different scenario than he team had over the previous two offseasons when they had 22 pending UFAs in 2017 and 18 of them last year. Here is a look at this year’s eight players and their situations, as well as what I think the team could - and should - do with each:

  • LB Lorenzo Alexander

Last week, I gave Alexander my “2018 Bills’ Defensive MVP” for the season he had.  The 35-year old finished second on the team in sacks (6.5), was fourth in total tackles (69) and QB hurries (10), second in pass breakups (9), and was third in tackles for loss (11) and interceptions (2). He’s also forced two fumbles and recovered another.  Throughout the season, Alexander played multiple positions, including strong and weakside linebacker, and lined up on and off the ball as a rush down lineman, as well as his usual stand-up linebacker spot. He’s also, of course, a leader in the locker room and on the field, helping young players like linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Taron Johnson understand roles and alignment. Both had solid rookie seasons. He’s said he wants to play one more season, and the team has indicated they would like him back.  But, of course, the money would have to work out for both sides.  Two years ago, at 33-years old, Alexander signed a two-year, $5.95 million contract.  That’s just under $3 million per season.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable for both sides again this time around.  The Bills should absolutely want to try and bring him back if that’s the case.
 

  • DL Jordan Phillips

The former second round pick of the Dolphins was released by Miami back in October after clashing with their coaching staff.  In Buffalo, he immediately brought a bunch of energy with him as a rotational player on the defensive line, playing in ten games, collecting nineteen tackles, including two for a loss, three pass breakups, and a fumble recovery.  He stated he’d like to come back to Buffalo, but considering his pedigree and talent, as well as the fact that he’s still only 26 years old, there’s a good chance Phillips will have several potential suitors, including the Bills.  Kyle Williams retired and the Bills will be looking to add to that position.  They should be interested in bringing Phillips back, but not getting into any bidding wars, especially after already paying DT Star Lotulelei $10 million per season for the next four years.
 

  • RG John Miler

Miller has had an up-and-down career since being drafted by the Bills in the third round back in 2015.  After a promising start to his career, he battled some injuries and was even inactive at times in 2017, suiting up or only four games.  He had a better 2018, but still never seemed to reach the potential he showed since entering the league.  The Bills need to revamp the right side of their offensive line and that means they should be willing to let Miller go elsewhere while they look at other options.
 

  • RT Jordan Mills

That last sentence I just wrote about Miller also applies to Mills, who has been with the Bills for the better part of four seasons after two years with the Bears, as well as the Cowboys and Lions practice squads.  Like Miller, Mills’ tenure on the right side of the Bills’ line was uneven.  The organization felt he played well enough in 2015 and 2016 to receive a two-year contract extension.  But the last two years have been too inconsistent for the team to feel they need to bring him back.  They should look to upgrade at the spot, but not close the door on Mills returning on a veteran-minimum type of deal for depth purposes.
 

  • OL Ryan Groy

After Eric Wood suddenly retired last offseason, Groy was expected to immediately fill the void at center and, considering how he had played in year’s past in that spot, most felt there wouldn’t be too much of a drop-off.  He was impressive enough filling in for Wood that he was offered a contract as a restricted free agent by the Los Angeles Rams after the 2016 season.  But the Bills matched the two-year deal.  Last offseason, after Wood retired, the Bills also signed center Russell Bodine, which led many to think Groy would move to guard.  But he stayed strictly and center and ultimately lost out to Bodine for the starting spot.  Groy’s play didn’t match what he had shown the pervious few years, especially early in the season.  He was obviously also impacted by the loss of Richie Incognito to his left.  Bodine broke his leg in early December and was placed on injured reserve.  Groy started the final four games and, I felt, played much better than he had earlier in the season.  He’s a nice interior line depth player to have.  But considering his drop in play and the fact that Bodine should be ready to start training camp, the Bills shouldn’t be in a hurry to re-sign him and look at other options first.  They should, however, keep Groy in mind as they see how the guard situation also plays out.
 

  • OL Jeremiah Sirles

Sirles’ most attractive attribute is his versatility. After being claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings during the season, he played mostly tackle, but some guard, and often lined up as an extra offensive lineman in heavy sets. That’s a nice thing to have on any roster. I also thought he played fairly well when called upon, so the Bills should be interested in retaining him, especially if they can do it for a league minimum, which would be surprising if that’s not the case.
 

  • RB/ST Taiwan Jones

Jones was in this same position last offseason, but head coach Sean McDermott and his staff really likes him as a core special teams player and brought him back on a one-year deal. He was then voted a captain by his teammates before the season started. He suffered a gruesome head injury in week two but returned the following week only to be injured again week six in Houston and ultimately placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. He’s listed as a running back and can handle the ball if called upon in an emergency, but Jones is a special teams player, and one the Bills will most likely want back for that same role. He won’t be getting big offers from other teams and it shouldn’t be an issue to bring him back as they did last year.
 

  • WR Deonte Thompson

The Bills and Thompson must have a love-hate relationship with each other because he’s now been with the organization three separate times. All kidding aside, he was one of the mid-season additions to the wide receiver corps that the team overhauled as 2018 went on. He added speed to a lineup that needed it, and a veteran presence to a group that became much, much younger. In fact, by the end of the season, The Bills had Thompson, in his seventh year, and no other wide receiver on the team who had played more than two years in the NFL. He was essentially the “old man” of the group....at 29 years old. The team got virtually no production from Thompson thrrough his five games played. Only three catches for 37 yards. But they like what he brings to the table and there’s no harm in trying to bring him back at a low salary to fight for a roster spot, especially considering receiver is a spot that needs as many bodies as it can to compete for positions and push one another.


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