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Vic Carucci's Bills analysis: There still might be a place for Barnidge

The Buffalo Bills have no reason to feel comfortable about their tight end situation.

Charles Clay, their best player at the position, is trying to push through a chronic knee problem. His production has been far from overwhelming, which is also a problem mainly because his $9 million salary-cap number ranks fifth on the team.

The other incumbent tight ends on the roster -- Nick O'Leary, Blake Annen, and Logan Thomas (who couldn't get on the field in the five games during which he was on the active roster last season) -- have done nothing to distinguish themselves as anything more than bodies taking up roster space.

Of the newcomers, all signed as free agents, Wes Saxton shows promise because of his impressive displays of athleticism. But whether that will actually translate into his doing anything significant as a tight end is unknown.

Rookies Jason Croom and Keith Towbridge are long-shot prospects.

That leaves the Bills needing to look to the outside for the lone possibility of an upgrade. For now, the only hope is Gary Barnidge, whom they had in for a visit.

It doesn't take much to conclude that Barnidge is looking for more money than the Bills, and other NFL teams, are willing to pay at this point. He knows he has something to offer that the Bills could use, which is the ability to make a difference as a receiver. The Cleveland Browns cut him right after they drafted tight end David Njoku, and their youth movement didn't have room for the 31-year-old Barnidge.

"But I still have plenty of years to play," he recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio.

He proved that with the way he has performed the past two seasons in Cleveland, his first two as a starter in the league. In 2015, Barnidge caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, he had 55 catches for 612 yards and two scores.

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Barnidge says he would love to be some team's "(number) one guy," but the Bills have no intention of paying him that way. They're stuck with Clay's burdensome deal that was made to pry him away from the Miami Dolphins as a restricted free agent in 2015. Besides, spending big for a 31-year-old tight end doesn't fit the long-term thinking that is driving the bulk of their roster decisions.

Additionally, based on what Tyrod Taylor has shown the past two years at quarterback, throws to the tight end over the middle haven't exactly been a prominent part of the Bills' offense.

If Barnidge doesn't get any nibbles from other interested clubs -- he says the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars have also reached out to him -- he might be willing to settle for a modest salary for the Bills that gives him the chance to show he's their most valuable reserve … and maybe even more than that, depending on Clay's health.

For the time being, Barnidge intends to be patient, which makes perfect sense. He can wait through the balance of the offseason and perhaps even after training camps open and preseason games are played, with the distinct possibility that a club is going to need a tight end because of injury or the conclusion that what it has at the spot simply isn't good enough.

That team could very well be the Bills.

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