Bills FA: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go

Can the Bills afford to pay Jerry Hughes with Marcell Dareus' contract running out after the 2015 season? Should C.J. Spiller return? Ryan Talbot looks at Buffalo's FA class and gives his opinion on what the Bills should do.

Should they stay or should they go? That’s a question that the Buffalo Bills front office needs to ask themselves about some of their free agents. The founder of recently said that the Bills should have about $26-$27 million in cap space following Mike Williams’ release. More cap space could become available based upon cuts the team may make. That said, that’s plenty of money to resign key free agents, add some new players and sign any draft picks. With cash to spend, here’s a look at Bills who can leave following the season and what the team should do.

Jerry Hughes

The Bills traded Kelvin Sheppard straight-up for Jerry Hughes. It’s turned out to be one of the best trades in the history of the franchise. In his two seasons with the Bills, Hughes has 97 total tackles, 19.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 74 quarterback hurries. He’s entering his prime (currently 26 years old) as a pass rusher and he’s improved significantly against the run. The only negative to Hughes’ game is that he takes a lot of penalties. That said, Hughes has taken on some of the league’s best left tackles and given them fits. He won’t come cheap, but the Bills need to figure out a way to sign Hughes long term. The worst case scenario for the Bills is placing the franchise tag on Hughes. Regardless, he’s the one free agent that the Bills must bring back.

C.J. Spiller

Spiller can void the last year of his rookie contract and it’d be a shock if he didn’t end his deal with Buffalo. His production with the Bills has fallen off significantly in the last two seasons and he needs to find an offense where he can thrive. He may not get many big offers in free agency, but even signing a one-year deal with a team that would utilize his talents properly would be better long-term for Spiller.

Brandon Spikes

Spikes has been terrific in his season with the Bills. He’s the team’s best run stopper at linebacker and only Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes have a higher run defense rating on the Bills (Subscription Required). Buffalo has used Spikes wisely, keeping him off the field on obvious passing downs. Due to this, Spikes has only seen 491 snaps as of this writing. He’s a player worth bringing back next season for his play against the run and the leadership he’s shown with the team. That said, the Bills will have to get Spikes to lower his salary to remain with the team. In 2015, Spikes would backup Preston Brown at MLB and may see even fewer snaps at the position.

Da’Norris Searcy

At the beginning of the season, Searcy seemed like a replaceable player on the Bills. With the end of the season upon us, my stance has changed a bit, although he’s still certainly replaceable. Searcy has had a good season with Buffalo, especially against the run. In coverage, Searcy has three interceptions, a career high. At the safety position, Searcy ranks sixth in the league against the run and 13th overall per PFF. Entering Week 17, Searcy has 58 total tackles, 0.5 sacks, one forced fumble and three interceptions. Searcy is a good fit in Jim Schwartz’s defense, so a return isn’t out of the question. However, the Bills have Duke Williams waiting in the wings and even Bacarri Rambo shined when given the opportunity against the Packers. The Bills may be planning to have a Williams/Williams starting safety combination next year and then add cheaper depth behind him.

Erik Pears

There is no reason for the Bills to bring Erik Pears back next season. He’s been horrendous at right guard and at 32 years old, he’s on the downside of his career. Only one guard in the NFL is ranked lower at Pro Football Focus. Buffalo needs to rebuild their offensive line and Pears cannot be in those plans.

Chris Hairston

Hairston is only 25 years old and he’s had some bad luck during his time in Buffalo. That said, he’s been healthy this season and only played 23 total snaps. If Hairston can’t find playing time on this offensive line, I can’t see a scenario where Buffalo would want him to return.

Marcus Easley

Marcus Easley has contributed little as a wide receiver to the Bills, but he’s become a terrific special teams player. The current coaching staff values special teams play and if the staff returns, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Easley was given a contract offer.

Lee Smith

He’s a terrific blocker but that’s just about all that he contributes to the team. Buffalo has Scott Chandler, MarQueis Gray and Chris Gragg under contract and it’s doubtful that Smith returns. Tight end is a position that Buffalo needs to upgrade and bringing Smith back does not help.

Jarius Wynn

Wynn missed some time with a knee injury, but he’s played decently as a backup defensive end. He has one sack on the season and 12 quarterback hurries. Wynn has also played well against the run. He was on a team friendly contract this season ($635K) and if he’s willing to return at a similar price, he could come back in 2015.

Stevenson Sylvester, Larry Dean and Deonte Thompson

Dean has contributed at special teams but this trio staying or leaving doesn’t really impact the Bills.


Chris Hogan, Corbin Bryant and Jordan Gay are all ERFA. It wouldn’t be a surprise if all three return. Hogan is an absolute given among the three. Bryant has played well in a reserve role at defensive tackle and Gay has done well as the kickoff specialist. Carrying a kickoff specialist isn’t a given in 2015, so Gay’s spot may be in jeopardy.

Marcus Thigpen and Nick Sukay are both RFA. Thigpen has done well since joining the Bills as a return specialist, so there’s a chance he returns. Sukay is an unknown at CB, but unless the coaching staff is really high on him, he probably won’t return in 2015.

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