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Bills go shopping with long list of needs

The Buffalo Bills entered free agency today with a fistful of dollars to spend and a desire to be more active in the free-agent market than in the past two offseasons.

The Bills on Friday extended the contract of linebacker Josh Stamer, learned of a bump in pay for cornerback Nate Clements and prepared for some free-agent visitors.

Meanwhile, receiver Eric Moulds remained in limbo, as his representatives had no word on whether he was in or out of the Bills' plans. There's still a good chance he will be released, since the Bills did not want to pay him the $7.1 million he is due and he is unwilling to take a pay cut. But there is no urgency by the Bills to release him for cap reasons.

The Bills had about $15 million in space under the NFL's salary cap of $102 million for each team, according to News estimates.

Defensive tackle, offensive line and safety figure to be the big-need positions for the Bills, and they also could look for help at receiver, tight end and quarterback.

Among the capable defensive tackles available are St. Louis' Ryan Pickett, Seattle's Rocky Bernard, Baltimore's Maake Kemeeatu, Green Bay's Grady Jackson and Indianapolis' Larry Triplett.

There are very few players available at left tackle, a priority position for the Bills.

Last year the Bills used up only about $3.5 million in cap space on free-agent signings in acquiring Kelly Holcomb, Bennie Anderson, Mike Gandy and ReShard Lee. In 2004, the Bills used up about $5 million in cap space in signing Troy Vincent, Chris Villarrial and Oliver Gibson.

The Bills kept their top special teams coverage man in the fold Friday by signing Stamer. The three-year veteran linebacker was a restricted free agent but the Bills had retained his rights two weeks ago by giving him a contract offer.

Clements, the Bills' 26-year-old star cornerback, is expected to get a raise of about $1.3 million thanks to the extension of the labor deal between owners and players. The rules for calculating the franchise and transition tags have been tweaked, resulting in a higher tag for cornerbacks.

The franchise tag represents the average of the top five salary cap figures at each position from the previous season. However, in determining the tag in past years, the NFL has not counted players who play under the terms of the tag the previous season. The new deal eliminated this quirk in the franchise accounting, a league official said.

Cornerback Charles Woodson played for Oakland last year under the terms of the franchise tag, which paid him $10.5 million. It's believed that adding him to the top-five list will raise the tag for cornerbacks this year from $5.89 million to $7.22 million.

Meanwhile, the agent for former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae confirmed the Bills have had contact with him. However, no visit is scheduled yet. Mawae is in Hawaii this week for a meeting of union player representatives. Mawae, 35, had triceps surgery last season after an injury that occurred against the Bills. He's a six-time Pro Bowler. The Bills are likely to look for depth at tight end after releasing Mark Campbell. One reserve prospect they may consider is Chicago's John Gilmore.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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