Over the past few days there’s amplified optimism a NFL labor deal could be reached sometime within the next month, which if consummated would restore free agency and still allow for team training camps to start on time. How a new CBA would affect terms and restrictions for free agency is a long way from being revealed, the Buffalo Bills have a clear-cut preference when it eventually is.
A source I spoke to made a pair of items abundantly clear; re-signing Paul Posluszny is “far and away” the team’s highest priority, and free agency as a whole is not something the Bills will be actively involved in.
Currently, Posluszny is a only a restricted free agent due to being a four-year veteran and the Bills tendering him before the lockout began. However, if a new labor deal moves up qualifying free agents to just four years, the tender would be lifted and Posluszny would become unrestricted. In the last CBA, unrestricted occurred after six years but few expect the same length this time around.
Regardless of the outcome in terms of years, the Bills want Posluszny back for the long haul and will negotiate a deal as such when the rules allow for it. From what I hear, the organization views him as a franchise-caliber linebacker who still has plenty of room for growth playing behind an improving defensive line.
Expect his contract offer to easily surpass the four-year, $24 million extension Chris Kelsay received last year.
There’s a pair of other potential Bills free agents anxiously awaiting their fate. Donte Whitner is a five-year veteran tendered before the deadline, but would be unlikely to return if a new deal allows him to sign elsewhere. Though general manager Buddy Nix doesn’t seem interested in paying him the kind of money Whitner thinks he deserves, there’s likely to be significant interest around the league for his services should he become unrestricted.
Drayton Florence will become an unrestricted free agent regardless of the terms when a labor deal is reached. The sixth-year pro thought his time with the organization was over after Buffalo drafted a pair of cornerbacks last April, including second rounder Aaron Williams. However, Nix said following the draft he’s definitely interested in bringing Florence back.
As for the rest of free agency, the Bills will add at least one and maybe a pair of veteran quarterbacks behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Just don’t anticipate much else in the way of veteran shopping beyond that. Nix unmistakably remains committed to building through the draft and young guys like Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Da’Norris Searcy and Chris Hairston will be developed into roles before the Bills drop big bucks on perceived needs in the free agent market.
Instead, Nix will go the route of spending money to extend his own players. The Bills have a number of prominent players entering the final year of their deals; a list that includes Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, Demetrius Bell, Roscoe Parrish and Rian Lindell.