Unrestricted free agency opens in the NFL with the start of the new league year on March 9. With 22 players set to hit the open market, the Buffalo Bills have plenty of decisions to make between now and then. The Buffalo News will take a look at each player with an expiring contract, and offer a verdict on what the team should do. Next: Justin Hunter.
Position: Linebacker. Age: 27. 2016 stats: 16 games (16 starts), 149 tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, one interception.
Working in his favor: Brown turned in a career season at the best possible time, finishing second in the NFL in tackles while playing on a one-year contract for just over $1 million. He's right in the prime of his career, and has the speed that teams crave at linebacker. Brown looks like he would be an ideal fit in new coach Sean McDermott's 4-3 defense as the weakside linebacker.
Working against him: The above-mentioned production isn't working against Brown, but rather the Bills. The chances that he lands a lucrative offer in free agency, especially given his age, are very real. A new coaching staff may not necessarily agree with the idea that Brown looks like a good fit in the defense, either. Additionally, there were rumblings about Brown's effort level down the stretch last year, particularly when the playoffs were basically out of the question.
Verdict: The Bills don't have much money to spend – about $20 million with a need to sign 45 more players to have a 90-man roster – but Brown should be their top priority in free agency. His production last season, and ability to play all three downs, makes him an absolute must to keep. Inside linebackers don't usually break the bank in free agency, so the Bills should be able to find common ground with Brown on a new deal.