As the legal tampering period begins, representatives for the Bills' 18 unrestricted free agents can begin talking to other teams. No contracts can be signed with other teams until the start of the league year at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The players can re-sign with the Bills at any point.
Of the players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, I’m saying goodbye to 12 of them: WR Jordan Matthews, CB Shareece Wright, WR Brandon Tate, RB Mike Tolbert, LB Ramon Humber, S Colt Anderson, QB Joe Webb, RB Taiwan Jones, S Shamarko Thomas, WR Jeremy Butler, CB EJ Gaines and OT Seantrel Henderson.
By signing Vontae Davis before free agency started, I’ve found my replacement for Gaines, while Chris Ivory will replace Tolbert as my backup running back.
Of the remaining six, I’d be interested in keeping running back Travaris Cadet, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton as veteran depth. None of them should cost much.
That leaves me with the following three players – linebacker Preston Brown, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and cornerback Leonard Johnson. All played big roles for my defense in 2017.
Brown led the league in tackles last year, but the significance of that stat is debatable. He’s been durable, not missing a game in four years, but didn’t produce many big plays in 2017 (no sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles).
Spotrac estimates he’ll get a contract in excess of $8 million per season on the open market, and if that’s the case, I’m letting him walk. I’d be interested in re-signing Brown, but at a significantly lower price than that.
The same is true of Williams, who earned $7 million last season. Even though he’ll be 35 next season, he can still be a valuable part of a defensive line rotation – particularly because of my lack of depth there – but should no longer be paid like a Pro Bowl player. If he’s interested in another one-year deal for roughly half of what he made in 2017, I’ll bring him back.
Johnson played last season on a veteran-minimum contract, but deserves a raise after holding down the slot cornerback job all year. Doubling his salary to $2 million a year would be a nice reward.
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