The Buffalo Bills didn’t have money to burn on top-tier free agents this year. They will, however, be welcoming back one familiar face to help turn their defense around.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who missed the final 10 games last season with a knee injury, has restructured his contract. Rather than release Williams outright to save money, the Bills will be bringing back their longest-tenured player. Williams’ 2016 base salary was lowered from $6 million to $4.25 million, with a $500K roster bonus, per a source. The 6-foot-1, 303-pounder will resume his career where it all started – in the middle of Buffalo’s defense — and serve as a pivotal piece in Rex Ryan’s defense.
After also restructuring the contract of kicker Dan Carpenter, the Bills now have $7.57 million in cap space, just enough money to consider adding a veteran in free agency.
On Wednesday, running back Joique Bell, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jim Dray all visited the team at One Bills Drive. Later in the day, the Bills signed Dray, who spent the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
Dray, 29, figures to have the inside track on the No. 2 tight end spot behind Charles Clay. Dray was a tight end when current Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator at Stanford.
After shedding one salary after the next, and letting inside linebacker Nigel Bradham leave for Philadelphia, the Bills’ defense was left with several holes. They’ll likely be relying on multiple rookies stepping in immediately, which made retaining Williams essential.
Buffalo also offered a low tender to restricted free agent Corbin Bryant, the one who replaced Williams last season. But even Bryant has said this is Williams’ job to lose. Maybe no player in the locker room is revered quite like the man who has started 131 career games with 35.5 sacks.
“Trust me, Kyle is a mainstay,” Bryant said last month. “He can stay in Buffalo as long as he wants to – just because of his resume and the things he’s done there. I can’t even compare myself to the things he’s done. That’s not even relevant.”
Now, Rex Ryan must find a way to fuse everyone together. This week, he replaced defensive line coach Karl Dunbar with John Blake. The Bills will likely draft a defensive lineman in the first few rounds if they don’t sign one, too.
Williams had 14 tackles and one sack in his six games last season, but did shine in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 scheme just two years prior with 68 tackles and 10.5 sacks. After officially landing on injured reserve in late November, Williams vowed he’d be back. The vet described the injury as a “meniscal issue” then.
“The thing that’s not measured is what you have in here and what you have in here,” said Williams putting his hand to his head and heart. “And I’ve got plenty of that left to give. I want to see everything, every dream, every goal I’ve had since I’ve been here 10 years ago, I want to see it come true. We’ve got a great staff and we’ve got a lot of guys who believe in one another. So I’m going to give you what I’ve got until I can’t and we’ll figure that out together.
“Up until this point this year, I felt healthy. I felt really good. It’s just the price of doing business sometimes, the nature of this league. You’ve got guys who come back and play. So that’s what my plan is.”