The Buffalo Bills, who kicked off the unrestricted free agency signing period leaguewide with a minimum salary deal for a veteran guard early Friday morning, struck at the same position but in a much higher tax bracket later in the day in addressing their offensive line.
Buffalo on Friday night reached an agreement with four-year veteran Derrick Dockery, who had played his entire career with the Washington Redskins, on a seven-year, $49 million contract, ESPN.com learned.
The total contract equals the deal that "transition" free agent Steve Hutchinson signed with the Minnesota Vikings last year, a league record for a guard. The contract includes $18.5 million in guarantees and will pay Dockery $23 million in the first three seasons.
The Bills spent much of the day rebuilding their offensive line, starting off with the early morning signing of journeyman guard Jason Whittle to a one-year contract. Whittle, who played for the Vikings last season, became the first unrestricted player to switch teams this year.
He signed a contract worth $760,000.
Buffalo then added former Oakland Raiders offensive right tackle Langston Walker, a five-year veteran. Walker, 27, has started 33 games and the former University of California star, while an underachiever at times during his years in Oakland, should add a physical presence.
Walker received a five-year, $25 million deal to go to the Bills.
But it was the addition of Dockery, arguably one of the top 15 players in the entire unrestricted pool, that should really solidify the Buffalo blocking unit. Dockery, 26, is a powerful in-line blocker with a nasty streak, a lineman capable of knocking defenders off the ball and creating big holes in the running game.
The former University of Texas standout, a third-round choice in 2003, never missed a game in his four seasons in Washington, and started in all but three of the 64 contests in which he appeared. As one of the most coveted players in the free agent market, Dockery had several suitors, but the Bills moved quickly to close the deal with him.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.