Bills Free Agents: Who's Staying & Leaving?

In coming weeks, the front office at One Bills Drive have many decisions to make. Some current players on the roster are likely to be cut for extra salary cap leeway. Eyes will be transfixed to free agents from other teams who might conform well into club needs. Focus will also transfer to the NFL draft, an event figuring to go a long way towards determining the future direction of the club.

Another significant decision the front office must make concerns their own free agents. Come March 3, Buffalo has 18 of their own free agents; 10 unrestricted, 3 restricted and 5 exclusive right free agents set to hit the market.
A closer look at the impending Buffalo free agents and who might be staying or going elsewhere in 2006:
UNRESTRICTED
NATE CLEMENTS
Why Keep Him: 2005 aside Clements is one of the more gifted and complete corners in the NFL. While not be on the level of Champ Bailey he's not far behind. When he's on his game, he's positively among the league's ten best corners. He's also one of the NFL's best tackling corners, an equivalent of former Bill Antoine Winfield. Last season was a monstrosity for Clements but in his defense nobody outside of London Fletcher really had a good year. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray often played his corners too far off the line which played opposite to Clements' strength. A physical corner, new coordinator Perry Fewell will better utilize him. Finally, at $5.89 million, the price to franchise him is almost $3 million cheaper than it would've cost last year.
Why Not To Keep Him: $5.89 million is a lot of money on a team that desperately needs to fill holes on both sides of the line. Great shutdown corners play great regardless of what surrounds them and Clements was far from great in 2005. He was abused in games against Miami, Cincinnati and the New York Jets, surprising being a contract year. Also, Clements wants to test the market and may become bitter if he's tagged; threatening to become a clubhouse distraction the club doesn't need.
Potential Suitors: Houston (with a ton of cap room), San Francisco, Oakland.
Final Destination: Buffalo. Bills will franchise him and work on long term deal.


TREY TEAGUE
Why Keep Him: Has been Buffalo's lone reliable lineman for past four seasons. Successfully made transition from tackle to center.
Why Not To Keep Him: With Duke Preston in the mix and cheaper, club will let him walk.
Potential Suitors: New Orleans, Green Bay, Miami.
Final Destination: New Orleans. Helps take the sting from losing LeCharles Bentley.
RON EDWARDS
Why Keep Him: His injury last season will likely keep his free agent value on the market down. Prior to '05 Buffalo felt confident enough in him to let Pat Williams go to Minnesota. If Bills cut Sam Adams it's almost vital to keep Edwards. Even if Adams is kept and a tackle is taken early in the draft, Edwards would provide quality depth, something he did for two seasons prior.
Why To Let Him Go: Was a starter in 2002 but never established himself as a full-time player. Has been injured in two of past three years and is a major health hazard with a bad shoulder.
Potential suitors: Green Bay, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Final Destination: Buffalo. A cap-friendly deal will be made as Edwards can provide quality deepness and start if necessary.
JOSH REED
Why Keep Him: Roscoe Parrish's progression to a third receiver in the NFL is far from fully developed. Parrish is small and plays as such. He looks like every hit he takes may send him to the trainer's table. Reed is an underrated blocker, a key component to a thriving running game.
Why To Let Him Go: After four years Reed has never been the pass catcher the team counted upon when drafting him in the second round. Had 58 catches his second season but has done little since. Reed also has a knack for dropping balls at most inopportune times. He'll want second or third receiver money in the open market but doesn't merit it to this franchise.
Potential Suitors: Cleveland, Seattle, New England, Atlanta, Pittsburgh.
Final Destination: Pittsburgh. Run first club could be good fit for an efficient run blocker. Losing Antwaan Randle El in free agency would open up a slot some feel Reed could fill. Clearly not a game-changing starter but in ideal situation could raise his game a notch.
RYAN DENNEY
Why Keep Him: Played well in spots and had a career-best four sacks last season. Some consider him to still have upside and won't cost big bucks to retain.
Why Not To Keep Him: It's been four years and never developed into the type of a player a second round selection justifies. Buffalo may look to upgrade at end to replace starter Chris Kelsay. If so, Kelsay would be first off the bench.
Potential Suitors: Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia.
Final Destination: Detroit. May lose two defensive ends in free agency. Would look to fill a backup spot.
KEVIN THOMAS
Why Keep Him: Before missing all of last season to knee injury Thomas was a decent nickel corner. Had an interception and forced fumble in 2004.
Why Not To Keep Him: Eric King took over his spot last year and doesn't look in any hurry to give it up. Jabrari Greer is also in the mix, making the need for Thomas insignificant.
Potential Suitors: San Francisco, New York Jets, Oakland.
Final Destination: San Francisco. Banged up secondary would give Thomas a good chance to stick.
JUSTIN BANNON
Why Keep Him:
Accepts his role as a backup defensive tackle and in spots can be effective. He'd likely return at a minimum salary cap hit.
Why Not To Keep Him: Buffalo will raise the quality on the defensive line and Tim Anderson will presumably stay above him on the depth chart. Staying in Buffalo leaves a possibility Bannon wouldn't make the final roster.
Potential Suitors: Seattle, Washington, Arizona.
Final Destination: Washington. Skins' will likely lose Lional Dalton and could use the depth.
GREG JERMAN
Why Keep Him: Pure backup tackle, has experience coming from Miami. Actually stepped in for Mike Williams last year before being injured himself, starting three games. His injury facilitated Jason Peters full-time move to tackle. He'd come cheap.
Why Not To Keep Him: Bad ankle is a concern and couldn't hack it on a bad Miami team before getting cut and coming to Buffalo.
Possible Suitors: Dallas, Chicago, Carolina.
Final Destination: Stays in Buffalo and serves as third or fourth tackle on chart.
MIKE SCHNECK
Why Keep Him: How many Pro Bowl long snappers do you know of?
Why Not To Keep Him: Marv Levy suddenly decides special teams don't matter.
Potential Suitors: Buffalo, Buffalo and Buffalo.
Final Destination: You can do the math from here.
SHANE MATTHEWS:
Why Keep Him: He played for Dick Jauron in Chicago. The way Jauron has luck with quarterbacks staying healthy, Matthews may be starting by week five.
Why Not To Keep Him: A new third quarterback will be brought in.
Potential Suitors: University of Florida, Houston Gamblers, Buffalo Destroyers.
Final Destination: The retirement home.
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(The Bills have the right to match any offer any of these free agents get or receive compensation in the form of draft picks for each player lost. The round of the pick depends on where the player was drafted and/or the price of the qualifying offer given by the Bills)
SAM AIKEN
Why Keep Him: One of the best special teams players on the best special teams unit in the NFL.
Why Not To Keep Him: A team makes a ridiculous offer.
Potential Suitors: Dan Snyder likes to throw money around in Washington, you never know. Final Destination: Buffalo
MARIO HAGGAN
Why Keep Him: See Sam Aiken
Why Not To Keep Him: See Sam Aiken
Potential Suitors: See Sam Aiken
Final Destination: See Sam Aiken
JOSH STAMER
Why Keep Him: See Mario Haggan and Sam Aiken
Why Not To Keep Him: He decides to make more dreadful Channel 7 PSA's.
Potential Suitors: The Barnes Firm.
Final Destination: Going on a limb here. Buffalo Bills.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHT FREE AGENTS
(These players have no bargaining power and will remain with the Bills if they want them)
JASON PETERS
Why Keep Him: As of right now is Buffalo's best offensive lineman. That's saying a lot since he was a tight end at the beginning of camp last year. Established as a right tackle and depending on what route the Bills take this spring might be moved to the left side.
Why Not To Keep Him: There is no reason not to keep him, other than Peters asking for Walter Jones type of money. Peters will be a key if the Bills are to turn a pathetic offense around.
Potential Suitors: Every general manager looking to convert next oversized tight end into a tackle.
Final Destination: Buffalo
JABRARI GREER
Why Keep Him: Will battle Eric King for nickel corner spot.
Why Not To Keep Him: Bills decide before draft they will take a corner on day one.
Potential Suitors: Jets, Miami, Oakland (if Buffalo didn't tender an offer.)
Final Destination: Will remain in Buffalo, at least for now.
JONATHAN SMITH
Why Keep Him: Capable of big plays returning punts and "Fast Freddy" is a cool nickname.
Why Not To Keep Him: Roscoe Parrish.
Potential Suitors: Houston, Pittsburgh, New England.
Final Destination: Pittsburgh. Could challenge for punt return duties if El leaves.
LAWRENCE SMITH
Why Keep Him: Was starting guard for part of 2004.

Why Not To Keep Him: Was starting guard for part of 2004.
Potential Suitors: Any team interested in a guard that started for Buffalo in 2004 and was injured for all of 2005.
Final Destination: Will have to play his way on to a team in training camp. For Smith's sake, we'll go with Houston.
SHAUD WILLIAMS
Why Keep Him:
Served as Willis McGahee's backup last season and ran for 161 yards. He's now experienced at the NFL level.
Why Not To Keep Him: Isn't a strong enough runner to fit the type of offense Jauron wants Buffalo to employ. Buffalo will likely look to free agency, Lionel Gates or perhaps later in the draft to find a better backup.
Potential Suitors: Minnesota, San Francisco, New York Jets, Kansas City
Final Destination: Jets. Nobody knows who their starting running back will be next year, let alone the backup.
Final Scoreboard
Staying: Clements, Edwards, Jerman, Schneck, Aiken, Haggan, Stamer, Peters, Greer.
Going: Reed, Denney, Teague, Thomas, Bannon, Matthews, J. Smith, L. Smith, Williams

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