Over the course of the past few weeks, several franchises have started the process of trimming players from their roster and clearing cap space in preparation for the beginning of the NFL free agency period on March 9.
That cutting process has heated up over the last week or so, with several big-name and not-so-big-name players getting the axe from their respective teams.
While still currently in a tight spot with their cap situation, there’s little doubt that the Buffalo Bills have been keeping a close eye on the names that have become available in recent weeks.
Players who previously weren’t thought to be an option may now be on the open market, and that can change a team’s plans in an instant.
Whaley and head coach Rex Ryan have already stated that the team won’t be huge bidders when free agency begins in just over a week.
Instead, they’ll focus on re-signing their own unrestricted free agents in left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Richie Incognito and possibly linebacker Nigel Bradham.
However, the fact that the Bills’ main focus is their own free agents doesn’t mean the team will be dormant when March 9 rolls around.
In his interview at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Rex Ryan said the team would be interested in signing the “right player at the right price” when it comes to other free agents around the league.
So, who might that be?
Of the players released over the past two weeks, here’s a few that might fit the “right player, right price” label that Ryan was referring to:
1. Jonathan Newsome, outside linebacker, Age: 25- A fifth-round pick by the Colts out of Ball State in 2014, Newsome was released by Indianapolis on Monday after the 25-year-old pass rusher was arrested for marijuana possession following an incident at his home on Feb. 17. Newsome was coming off a down year in 2015 where he posted a measly 19 tackles, two forced fumbles and just one sack in 14 games. Despite what last season’s stats might show, Newsome came into 2015 off a solid rookie campaign in which he posted 28 tackles, three forced fumbles and 6.5 sacks in 16 games for the Colts. The 6-foot-3-inch, 247-pound Newsome showed flashes of the type of edge player he can become during his rookie campaign, and the former Ball State Cardinal must get back to that type of production if he wants to continue his NFL career, especially considering his recent issues off the field. Pass rushers are always a hot commodity in the league, and some team will give Newsome a second chance. Most likely that second chance will come with a low price tag, which is why it might be worth it for Buffalo to at least toss around the idea of bringing in the former Colt. Who knows, Newsome could resurrect his career in Buffalo similar to the way Jerry Hughes did when Indianapolis traded Hughes to the Bills in 2013.
2. Antonio Cromartie, cornerback, Age: 31- A flashy 10-year veteran, Cromartie is on the wrong end of 30 and coming off his worst season statistically since his rookie year in 2006. A former first-rounder out of Florida State, the 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound cornerback has spent time with the Chargers, Jets (twice) and the Cardinals during his career. Coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2014 with Arizona, Cromartie returned to the Jets this past season after spending four years in New York under Rex Ryan from 2010-2013. He rejoined the Jets last offseason, signing a 4-year, $32 million contract. However, things didn’t turn out how either side had hoped as the four-time Pro-Bowler tallied just 29 tackles and zero interceptions in 15 games last season. It showed on the field that Cromartie has lost a step, but he improved as the year wore on. He was released Monday and the cornerback has stated that he would return to the Jets for less money. But, if that’s unable to happen then the former Seminole will be looking for a new home. One destination that might make sense is Buffalo. Rex Ryan and Cromartie built a strong relationship during their time together in New York, and a reunion with the Bills could be a real possibility if it’s at the right price. Reserve cornerback Ron Brooks has stated he won’t be back with the Bills next season, so there’s reason to believe that Whaley and Ryan might want to add another defensive back to the depth chart. If Cromartie is willing to sign a similar deal to the one he did with Arizona in 2014 (1-year, $3.5 million), then the lanky cornerback could be a solid addition to Ryan’s defense as a rotational player who can fill in for Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby when needed.
3. James Laurinaitis, middle linebacker, Age: 29- A second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2009, Laurinaitis has spent his entire seven-year career with the Rams and has racked up over 100 tackles in each season. However, Laurinaitis, the son of retired WWE wrestler Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurinaitis), has seen his production dip over the years. He posted a career-low 109 tackles for a second straight year in 2015 and was released on Feb. 19
along with defensive end Chris Long and tight end Jared Cook in a slew of moves that saved the Rams around $23 million in cap space. While his production may have dropped in the past two seasons, the middle linebacker has never missed a game in his seven years in the league and has manned the middle linebacker position on some very solid defenses during his time in St. Louis. Rex Ryan recently stated that current Bills middle linebacker Preston Brown must be more vocal if he wants to run the defense next season, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the third-year linebacker out of Louisville. If Laurinaitis could be had at the right price, he would be a welcomed addition to the Bills’ linebacker unit from a leadership and experience standpoint.