INDIANAPOLIS – The Buffalo Bills are still interested in re-signing cornerback E.J. Gaines – provided the price is right.
General Manager Brandon Beane said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine that the addition of veteran cornerback Vontae Davis earlier this week does not close the door on Gaines coming back.
"We're still open to bringing E.J. back, for sure," Beane said. "E.J. did a lot of good things for us. Signing Vontae does not mean it's the end of the road for E.J. here in Buffalo. But it takes two, like with any of these guys. We've got a lot of free agents and what the value is, what somebody else is willing to pay and what we can pay will all come into that decision."
Gaines started 11 games for the Bills in his first season in Buffalo, finishing No. 23 on Pro Football Focus' list of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He finished with 59 tackles, nine passes defensed and one interception, although durability was a concern. Gaines missed five games because of a combination of knee, hamstring and groin injuries.
Despite that, he's expected to receive a substantial contract offer when free agency opens in two weeks.
"E.J.'s flexible, too," Beane said. "He can play inside at nickel. ... Vontae's not really an inside guy. E.J. will see his value here, and we'll talk, but it definitely does not close the door either way in my mind. I can't speak for E.J."
Buffalo's primary nickel cornerback in 2017, Leonard Johnson, is also scheduled to be a free agent, but it would qualify as a major surprise if the Bills paid Gaines what his expected market value will be to play there.
"I'm always looking to build depth everywhere," Beane said." It would be the money for him for us. Again, when you go into free agency, you set your value. When you do your best job, is when you can pinpoint what the value is and you make it work. You have to be careful not to chase."
Davis, 29, received a one-year contract with a $5 million base salary ($3.5 million of which is guaranteed) that can be worth up to $8 million with incentives.
"He's obviously been a No. 1 corner most of his career," Beane said. "Last year I know he had the injury. We vetted him out, did a lot of research. We had some people who had been with him in Miami. We did our recon on him in Indy and what happened last year. We brought him in and had a good visit. I think he had some teams he thought he'd be a good fit at. He and his agent circled back, and we thought it'd be a good fit. He brings size, speed, experience."
An added bonus of signing Davis when the Bills did is that he won't count against the league's compensatory draft pick formula. If Gaines leaves for a big-money contract somewhere else, the Bills could potentially get a draft pick in 2019, depending on what else they do in free agency.
"Let's start off first by giving Brandon and his staff credit for being able to land a free agent like Vontae at this time of year," coach Sean McDermott said. "He has a lot of benefits, a lot of which have been talked about already. A veteran player that fits into our system. He has a number of starts obviously and ball production. So that said, every spot on our roster has to be earned and he'll embrace that mindset."