Crowell out, Thomas in

After losing Angelo Crowell, the Bills may have already found a short-term replacement. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Pat Thomas signed Wednesday. Is Thomas the final answer at linebacker? Or could Cato June still be in the mix? Find out inside...

One day after losing Angelo Crowell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo signed free agent linebacker Pat Thomas to a one-year deal, the Buffalo News reported.

Thomas isn't a big-splash signing. The outside linebacker started nine games last year for the Kansas City Chiefs, but after missing four games to an injury, he never got his starting job back.

Thomas was selected in fifth round by Jacksonville in 2005, never seeing substantial playing time in the NFL until last season. He's been a solid special teams player throughout his career and has favorable size at 6-foot-1, 237 pounds. But Thomas is not an instant starter on any team yet.

Analysis

It's difficult to understand the logic in this signing. Yes, the Bills needed a linebacker to fill Crowell's void.

But Thomas?

Looks a lot like Buffalo settled with an appetizer, rather than ordering an entree.

On Scout.com's free agent rankings, Thomas is listed as the 17th best available inside linebacker. After bringing in Cato June and Freddy Keiaho on visits, the Bills appeared willing to spend a multi-million dollar deal on a starting linebacker.

Thomas is a bargain-bin talent that could be a serviceable fill-in alongside Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell at some point. The Bills -- who scored 54 points at Arrowhead -- know more than anybody that Kansas City isn't exactly reproducing studs on defense. Much like the signings of center Geoff Hangartner and cornerback Drayton Florence, the Bills settled for a second-tier player at a position of need.

Still, maybe it's not over. A league source told me that June could still be in Buffalo's plans. June has visits planned with two more teams. But as an undersized 'tweener, Buffalo's Tampa 2 scheme is the best fit for June. If the price is right, maybe the Bills eventually wind up with June after all. I don't think that war's over quite yet.

It's also worth noting that Alvin Bowen will be back next year. Buffalo drafted the Iowa State linebacker in the fifth round of last year's draft but he tore his right ACL before the season. Bowen was slated to be Crowell's top backup before the injury.

Buffalo's hesitation to unload cash on a top-flight linebacker could be a combination of Ralph Wilson's signature penny-pinching and Bowen's return.

At Iowa State, Bowen was a tackling machine in the Big 12, making the first team twice. At 6-foot-4, 220, he fits Buffalo's defense well. For now, though, it looks like Thomas, Bowen and Keith Ellison would battle for the strong-side linebacker position with the losers being core special teams players.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories