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Nix takes slow road to signings
Bills GM pleased with deliberate approach

The Buffalo Bills didn't exactly race out of the starting blocks when the free agent period began at 12:01 a.m. March 5. They didn't feel the need since they weren't going to pursue any of the big-name players, who tend to get snapped up early.

So instead of burning the midnight oil, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix found something better to do.

"Sleep," he joked Monday at the NFL spring meeting. "They asked me if I was going to be there and I said, 'Hell no, I ain't going to be there. I'm going to bed.' "

Nix's slumber didn't mean the Bills were asleep at the wheel. They already knew how they would approach free agency.

Their plan was to be deliberate and find players who were right for them.

"We don't get excited about the first week or being up there at midnight, 12:01, signing somebody," Nix said. "We let it play itself out and try to make sure that the guys we get fit what we need and fill a need. To me, that's what it's basically all about."

Nix believes the Bills' plan has worked well. By signing right tackle Cornell Green, inside linebacker Andra Davis and defensive lineman Dwan Edwards, they got players who bring a load of experience at positions where it's needed.

"I think what we've done is we've added solid players with some veteran leadership ability," he said. "That's something we needed, especially going to a new defense. We've got guys who have played in that [3-4] scheme and will be able to help some of our younger guys."

Nix added the Bills are still evaluating the free agent market, but will only sign a player if it's a good fit.

"We're not ruling out anything," he said. "We're always going to be looking, and if something comes available and we think we can improve our team, we're not done. But we're not going to try and make something happen."

Nix touched on other subjects during a 15-minute interview at the Ritz-Carlton:

*The quarterback situation: Nix said he has "no idea" who the Bills' starting quarterback will be this season. He hinted the team could look outside the organization, either via the draft or free agency. But for now, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm are the only players under consideration for the job.

"Chan [Gailey, the Bills' head coach] has made that clear that we're going to see who comes out," Nix said. "The fact is those are the three guys we've got. We like all three of them. All of them have got redeeming qualities. But if something else comes available we might add a fourth to the mix. You never know."

*Offensive tackle remains a high priority, even with the addition of Green. Tackle is still a thin position for the Bills because of Brad Butler's retirement and Demetrius Bell coming off season-ending knee surgery.

Fortunately for the Bills, offensive tackle is one of the deepest positions in the upcoming draft. They are expected to take one with the ninth overall pick and perhaps add another in the later rounds.

"We needed to add Cornell because we thought he gave us a guy at right tackle that could step in there and play for us early," Nix said. "That certainly doesn't mean we wouldn't take another one, maybe two."

The Bills don't have any interior offensive line depth, either. The Bills didn't try to re-sign free agent Richie Incognito, who joined the Miami Dolphins. Nix also said there are no plans to bring back veterans Seth McKinney and Kendall Simmons.

They're hopeful guard Eric Wood returns from a broken leg. Nix said Wood's recovery is ahead of schedule, but added the team needs to have a plan in case he's not ready for the season opener.

*James Hardy and Steve Johnson are both going to get a chance to prove they can be an NFL-caliber starter this year.

With the free agency departures of Terrell Owens and Josh Reed, the Bills need a receiver to step up and be an effective complement to Lee Evans. Nix said the team will take a long look at Hardy and Johnson to see if either is the answer.

"We want these guys to step up," Nix said. "You need to find out what you've got. They all have got good potential, so we're going to give them an opportunity."

Even if Hardy and Johnson blossomed, Nix said the Bills' receiver depth must still be addressed. However, any new additions might not come in free agency.

"If a veteran came available, obviously we'd look into it," Nix said. "But that's not a target."

*Nix expects running back Marshawn Lynch to return despite more off-the-field trouble. Lynch was accused of taking $20 from the wife of a Buffalo police officer late last year.

It was the latest in a string of incidents for Lynch, who was suspended the first four games last season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

"That's up to him," Nix said when asked if Lynch would return. "He's like everybody else. We expect him to be, we need two backs. We think he's a really good player and we want him to be there."

Lynch's baggage aside, everyone enters the upcoming season with a clean slate under the new GM.

"We're all starting new, starting fresh," Nix said.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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