The Buffalo Bills aren’t finished tinkering with their linebackers this offseason.
Buffalo traded Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for Jerry Hughes on Monday in a swap of linebackers two days after the NFL draft.
Sheppard, a 2011 second-round pick from LSU, has been inconsistent in two seasons in Buffalo. He had 138 tackles and two sacks in 31 games, including 24 starts.
Hughes was the Colts’ 2010 first-round draft pick from TCU. He’s had 62 tackles and five sacks in 40 games, including seven starts, but had difficulty finding his niche on the Colts’ defense.
Used initially as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, Hughes made the switch to linebacker when the Colts moved to coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense, where he appeared to be more at home. But still he was not the impact player envisioned when they expected him to eventually replace Dwight Freeney.
Freeney, Indy’s career sacks leader, was let go in free agency this winter.
”He’s a talented guy that did everything we asked of him,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement. ”At the same time, we are very pleased to be getting a young linebacker who has been a productive starter in this league.”
At 6-foot-2 and 254 pounds, Hughes’ versatility could be a better fit on a Buffalo defense that’s in transition under new coach Doug Marrone and new coordinator Mike Pettine.
”Versatility is something we’re looking for. We want our linebackers to be able to at least play both outside spots,” Bills general manager Buddy Nix said. ”We think this will give him an opportunity to do what he does best.”
The move is the latest change to Buffalo’s linebackers this offseason. Buffalo released starter Nick Barnett in February, and signed Manny Lawson in free agency last month.
The Bills also added a linebacker in the draft, selecting Oregon’s Kiko Alonso with the 46th pick. Alonso is a hard-hitting player who spent most of his three-year college career playing in the middle.
Hughes became expendable in Indianapolis after the draft, too. The Colts used their first-round pick, 24th overall, to draft defensive end/linebacker Bjoern Werner from Florida State.
Sheppard was strictly a middle linebacker, who was part of a unit that struggled against the run in each of the past two seasons.
In other moves, the Bills freed up four spots on their roster by releasing quarterback Aaron Corp, tackle Adam Grant, tight end Joe Sawyer and kicker Chris Koepplin.
Buffalo also announced it agreed to contracts with 16 undrafted rookie free agents. It’s a group that includes Tennessee Tech receiver Da’Rick Rogers and Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel. Rogers had been projected as an early- to mid-round pick, but his stock dropped because of off-the-field issues during his first two seasons at Tennessee.
In August, Rogers transferred to Tennessee Tech shortly after being suspended indefinitely by the Volunteers for violating team rules. Rogers said multiple failed drug tests prompted his move to the FCS school.
The Bills also reached deals with defensive backs Nickell Robey (Southern California), Jordan Dangerfield (Towson), Kip Edwards (Missouri), Jumal Rolle (Catawba) and Vernon Kearney (Lane); receivers Brandon Kaufman (Eastern Washington) and Kevin Norrell (Stony Brook); defensive linemen Izaan Cross (Georgia Tech) and Aaron Tipoti; offensive linemen Zack Chibane (Syracuse) and Ryan Turnley (Pittsburgh), running back Kendall Gaskins (Richmond); fullback Drew Smith (Albany) and linebacker Keith Pough (Howard).