There are usually two ways for teams to approach special teams in the NFL.
Some, like Green Bay, opt to give undrafted rookies and low draft picks a shot on the 53-man roster and that group winds up filling out the coverage units. Others roll with veterans. With two more signings Tuesday, it appears Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan is deciding to go the veteran route to fix his rocky special teams units.
Buffalo signed linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and safety Colt Anderson, two players with plenty of special-teams experience. Both players visited One Bills Drive last Friday.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Alexander was originally an undrafted pickup in 2005 and has lasted this long thanks to his play on special teams. He appeared in all 16 games last season for the Oakland Raiders, was in Arizona the two seasons before that and particularly excelled on special teams for six seasons with the Washington Redskins (2008-12).
In 2012, Alexander earned a Pro Bowl berth. He may provide depth at linebacker as well.
Used sparingly on defense through his career, Alexander’s best two statistical seasons were in 2010 when he started 12 games for the Redskins with 57 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, and 2012, when he had 46 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a backup.
Anderson, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, played for the Indianapolis Colts the last two seasons, primarily on special teams.
He latched on originally as an undrafted free agent out of Montana with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, then spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before moving on to Indianapolis. In his six full seasons, Anderson has seven starts, 89 solo tackles and one interception.
After losing cornerback Ron Brooks and running back Boobie Dixon this offseason, the Bills needed depth on special teams. And the proven Alexander and Anderson have a combined 105 special-teams tackles.
In signing so many veterans this offseason, the Bills won’t have much room for undrafted free agents on the roster. Essentially, they shed several salaries to make room for left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito and then decided to plug holes deeper on the roster with low-cost veterans – such as safety Robert Blanton, tight end Jim Dray, inside linebacker Zach Brown and cornerback Sterling Moore – rather than gamble that a seventh-rounder or undrafted free agent can deliver immediately.
For a team originally built to win now last offseason – with signings such as LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay – that’s probably the smart way of doing business.
Right now, the Bills have 75 players on the roster. They can take 90 into training camp.
Chances are, General Manager Doug Whaley will still need to land a starter or two (or three) again on draft day for the Bills to bounce back but the aggressive veteran signings suggest this is a team still in a win-now frame of mind.