Last night, the Buffalo Bills came to an agreement with starting right guard, Kraig Urbik, on a four-year, $15 million deal. Urbik was a waiver wire gem acquired by GM Buddy Nix in the 2010 season after he was a third round draft pick out of Wisconsin by the Pittsburgh Steelers a year earlier. He has made an impact for the Bills, starting 26 games at guard, and also center. With the quality play of left guard Andy Levitre and center Eric Wood, Urbik was often an overlooked cog in the Buffalo offensive line, but he is a versatile player that was a great value to the team, in terms of contract and skill.
The Bills have a whopping 21 free agents this year, and while just how many will be retained remains to be seen, but the re-signing of Urbik is definitely a step in the right direction. Nix has been very good at retaining his own, citing the long-term deals with DT Kyle Williams, WR Stevie Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Johnson, and the CB Terrence McGee restructured deal. In the three years he’s been GM, only two starters have walked in free agency, MLB Paul Posluszny, who wanted a ridiculous amount of money, and LT Demetrius Bell.
Now, Levitre and free safety Jairus Byrd still remain at the top of the list for key re-signings.
LG Andy Levitre
Levitre is just 26 and is in his fourth year out of Oregon State. He as drafted 51st overall in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He has started 62 of a possible 62 games, and hasn’t suffered any injuries. His play gets better every game, and he is a focal piece of the Bills’ offense. He rarely gets called for penalties, and is becoming one of the top guards in the National Football League.
FS Jairus Byrd
Byrd was also a second round pick of that 2009 NFL Draft, selected 42nd overall out of Oregon, and he has been an indispensable piece of the Bills’ defense. A true playmaker, Byrd has racked up 18 interceptions in his four years in the league, including nine in his Pro Bowl rookie year. Additionally, he has forced nine fumbles, recovering five. He is one of the most sound tacklers on the roster, and is arguably one of the top safeties in the league. Byrd will garner a ton of interest on the open market, which is why it would be better to get a deal done sooner or later. While money will be important, so is winning, which he told BuffaloBills.com
“You’ve just got to look at where the team is headed, what’s going on with the situation. You’ve got to take in a lot of things. That’s something that when the time comes I have to do.”
CB Leodis McKelvin
Leodis McKelvin will be interesting in free agency. He was a top cornerback in the 2008 NFL Draft, selected 11th overall by the Bills out of Troy. He has been far from elite in his five seasons, making 165 tackles, breaking up 28 passes, recording six intereceptions, and forcing two fumbles. He has spent time at both outside cornerback positions and in the slot, trying to figure out where he can be dominant. He is having one of his best years to date this season, and Nix loves cornerbacks, but how much money will McKelvin command on an open market? He has become a top return man in the league, which will improve his monetary value this offseason, as he averages 16.3 yards per punt return and 26.5 yards per kick return, with four scores in his career.
DE Kyle Moore
Kyle Moore is another one of Nix’s waiver wire gems. He claimed Moore off of the Detroit Lions practice squad in November of last year after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of USC. This year, Moore has appeared in 10 games, starting six due to injuries to defensive ends Chris Kelsay and Mark Anderson. He has made 18 tackles and three sacks in that time. Moore is a liability against the run, but is a solid pass rusher that shouldn’t cost too much to retain.
WR Donald Jones
Donald Jones was an undrafted free agent of the team following the 2010 NFL Draft. He has been groomed into a starting role, and has made a decent impact this year as the Bills’ third leading receiver with 41 catches for 447 yards, and four touchdowns. In an interview last week, Buddy Nix explained how he coveted a big receiver in the offseason, and that Stevie Johnson should be playing in the slot. Coupled with the move for T.J. Graham, who is supposed to be a big-time, outside playmaker, Jones will probably see his snaps reduced next year. However, he should be brought back for depth purposes. He’s a restricted free agent, so he should be able to be retained extremely cheap.
FB Corey McIntyre
Chan Gailey’s offense rarely calls for a fullback, but McIntyre is a valuable asset to the special teams unit. Last year, he was 16th in the NFL in special teams tackles, with 16. However, he is 33 years old, so its hard to determine if he will be back or not.
LB/S Bryan Scott
Bryan Scott has seen his playing time increase this year as a nickel linebacker in Dave Wannstedt’s defensive scheme. He was retained on a one-year, $825,000 deal as a free agent last season, and it seems as if he is just a stop-gap until the team can find an adequate replacement for him. He is a very versatile player, recording 57 tackles, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles in his hybrid role. He’s a leader and knows multiple positions, which is a huge plus for a player on their last legs, but unless the Bills find a true upgrade over him, he will probably be back.
DT Spencer Johnson
Spencer Johnson is playing in the last year of a five-year, $17.5 million contract. With the emergence of Alex Carrington, he is now the fourth defensive tackle on the depth chart, and at 31, he probably wont be retained in the offseason. His production has pretty much dropped off every year that he’s been in Buffalo, and Buddy Nix stated that he wants former second round pick, Torell Troup to step up when he returns from injury.
Other Free Agents:
RB Tashard Choice
TE Dorin Dickerson
QB Tavaris Jackson
WR Ruvell Martin
LB/DE Shawne Merriman
S Mana Silva
C David Snow
QB Tyler Thigpen
OT Thomas Welch
OG Keith Williams
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