<
>

Bills offseason preview: Linebackers

Continuing a position-by-position look at the Buffalo Bills' roster with an eye toward free agency and the draft:

Position: Linebackers

2014 snaps:

Stat of note: Brown played the second-most snaps of any defensive rookie last season, behind only Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Pending free agents: Spikes (unrestricted), Dean (unrestricted), Stevenson Sylvester (unrestricted)

2015 cap hits (position rank):

  • Rivers: $2.2 million (66th in NFL)

  • Kiko Alonso: $1.17 million (86th in NFL)

  • Bradham: $776,065

  • Brown: $702,000

  • Powell: $585,000

  • Jimmy Gaines: $435,000

Money line: The Bills can save $1.7 million against their cap by releasing Rivers, who was barely used last season under Jim Schwartz and enters this offseason buried on the depth chart. Overall, the Bills' youth here keeps their spending low. Bradham, who emerged as one of the better players on the defense last season, might have been in line for an extension had Schwartz remained. The Bills would be wise to hold off on giving Bradham a new deal until they see what how he settles into Ryan's defense, as Bradham wasn't a great fit in Mike Pettine's Ryan-based scheme in 2013.

Market watch: Pending free agents include Sean Weatherspoon, David Harris, Rey Maualuga, Mason Foster, Nate Irving, Jacquian Williams, Josh Mauga, Geno Hayes, Bruce Carter, Jasper Brinkley, D.J. Williams, Spikes, Rolando McClain, Parys Haralson, Lance Briggs, Dane Fletcher, Casey Matthews, Justin Durant, Jason Trusnik, Arthur Moats, Jonathan Casillas, and Akeem Dent.

Draft need: Low -- This is already one of the youngest positions on the roster, so there's really no pressing need to add any more youth through the draft. Drafting Alonso and Brown have been two of the best roster moves in the past several years for the Bills.

Scout's take: "It seems like they have too many [linebackers] all of the sudden, which is a nice problem to have. What's weird is they have a lot of depth among second-level [defensive] guys but none of them resemble Spikes. None of them is a true thumper, and Ryan always likes a heavier, between the tackles-type linebacker. I would think he would be really fond of Spikes. I wouldn't think Spikes would cost that much to bring back: Don't play him on third downs, have a bit of a revolving door to keep a lot of guys fresh, move Alonso to the outside. ... I don't know if [Rivers] is worth cutting or not, but I wouldn't put any faith in him. I think those other guys more than adequate: Bradham and Brown, I think he's a keeper. [They should] bring Spikes back because he's so unique and such a thumper, or live with what they got." -- ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson

Quote of note: "When you look at the Jerry Hughes trade, [signing] Ty Powell off Seattle’s practice squad, [signing defensive tackle] Stefan Charles off Tennessee’s practice squad and some of the other moves [general manager Doug Whaley] has made, he’s put us in a very good position moving forward." -- Bills president Russ Brandon to the Buffalo News' Tim Graham, during last season.