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Bills set to fill big hole at center with signing of Mitch Morse

The Buffalo Bills are about to have a new leader on the offensive line.

The team will sign former Kansas City Chiefs center Mitch Morse to a four-year deal when the NFL's new league year begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Morse would address a major need along the Bills' offensive line. The combination of Russell Bodine and Ryan Groy proved incapable of adequately replacing Eric Wood in 2018, making center a top priority in free agency.

In Morse, the Bills are getting a player considered to be the top or No. 2 option at the position, along with Denver's Matt Paradis. In a ranking of the top 101 available free agents on nfl.com, Morse checked in at No. 28, two spots ahead of Paradis. ESPN's ranking of the top 100 free agents had Paradis at No. 11 and Morse at No. 58. On Pro Football Talk's top 1oo list, Paradis was No. 16, while Morse was No. 46.

As such, both players were expected to cash in on the open market, and that appears to be the case with Morse. Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported that the Bills will make Morse the highest-paid center in the NFL – possibly until Paradis signs a deal.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' made Maurkice Pouncey the NFL's highest-paid center last week, signing him to a contract extension with an average annual value of $11 million.

Morse's four-year deal is valued at a maximum of $44.5 million. He will get $19.5 million in the first year and earn $28.375 million in the first two years.

Morse, 6 feet, 6 inches and 305 pounds, turns 27 next month. He has started all 49 games he's played in the regular season since being a second-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 2015. Injuries, however, have been a concern the past two years. After starting 31 of 32 games in his first two years, Morse was limited to just seven games in 2017 because of a foot injury. He was originally hurt in Week 2, then missed five games. He returned in Week 8, but was hurt again in Week 12 and landed on injured reserve.

In 2018, he missed five games because of a concussion – which was at least the third he has suffered in four years with the Chiefs. With Morse out of the lineup last season, the Chiefs' offense continued to hum along with Austin Reiter at center, likely the reason Kansas City felt comfortable moving on.

Nevertheless, Morse is a key addition for the Bills. He's viewed as an excellent pass blocker, which is obviously important with the Bills' investment in quarterback Josh Allen. Morse ranked fifth in analytics website Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades in 2018, with a score of 81.2 (out of 100). He hasn't allowed a sack since Week 7 of the 2015 season, according to PFF, which is the second-longest active streak at 1,543 consecutive snaps. He's allowed just one quarterback hit in his last 21 games in which he has taken at least 20 snaps.

Morse's run blocking did not grade out as favorably. He finished 13th among 27 qualifying centers playing at least 644 snaps in 2018, according to PFF. Morse's overall grade of 68.3 ranked 11th. He committed a career-high four penalties in 2018, but he has only been flagged 10 times in his four seasons.

[Get the latest on other free agency moves]

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