The Buffalo Bills are ushering in a new era in 2017, bringing over Sean McDermott from Carolina to be their next head coach. Rex and Rob Ryan are out, and McDermott is set to install his own regime in a city that hasn’t been to the playoffs this century.
Tyrod Taylor isn’t certain to be back as the Bills may choose to decline his option and free up cap space for an outside quarterback, considering they only have an estimated $26 million in cap room for 2017. That will be enough to bring in a handful of free agents, and possibly a big name to help a defense that has struggled in recent years.
When free agency begins on March 9, these five players should be targets for the Bills.
DE Charles Johnson (Panthers)
Sean McDermott is coming over as the new head coach. And as the former defensive coordinator of the Panthers, he spent the past six seasons coaching Johnson, so he knows what the big defensive end brings to the table. And with the Bills likely transitioning to a 4-3 defense, he’d be a perfect fit. Because he’s had a couple of bad years the past two seasons, Johnson can be had for less than the top free-agent pass rushers. Perhaps he’d even take a discount to follow his DC to Buffalo. He’d be a good piece to add with Shaq Lawson figuring to take a big step in Year 2.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
WR Pierre Garcon (Redskins)
Free agent Robert Woods could easily return to Buffalo, but if the Bills let him walk, Garcon would be a good replacement. He’s a precise route runner with enough speed to make slower defenders pay. He’d also be a nice complement to Sammy Watkins, who’s more of a boundary, go-route receiver. And if they bring back Marquise Goodwin as a cheap one-trick pony, they’ll have a good mix of receivers for Tyrod Taylor … or whoever plays quarterback for them next season.
Jerome MironJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
S Tony Jefferson (Cardinals)
Aaron Williams’ future is in doubt after suffering multiple neck injuries and having played just 10 games the past two years. They could use an upgrade at both safety spots, which is where Jefferson steps in. He’s a versatile safety who loves wreaking havoc around the line of scrimmage. An outstanding blitzer, Jefferson can do it all at safety, which is why he’s the second-best one available.
CB Trumaine Johnson (Rams)
The Bills have their own free agent cornerback in Stephon Gilmore, but he’s going to be pricey and seemed content with moving on this past season. Instead, they should bring in Johnson, who has greater potential and a safer injury history. With seven interceptions in 2015, he showed what kind of ball hawk he can be. He fell off a bit this past season, but the traits are there for him to be a No. 1 corner – and he’ll be cheaper than Gilmore.
Joe CamporealeJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
LB Zach Brown (Bills)
The Bills were without rookie linebacker Reggie Ragland all season, but Brown’s emergence as a Pro Bowler helped ease the pain. As a result, the Bills should bring him back and reward him for his breakout campaign. He was second in the league with 149 tackles, while also adding four sacks and two forced fumbles. With Ragland returning in 2017, the Bills can give themselves a formidable duo at linebacker.