As we sit on the precipice of the free agency signing period, the Buffalo Bills have a laundry list of needs that they must address before the 2013 season. Quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker are at the very top of the list but don’t discount the hole at tight end. Since being claimed off waivers by the Bills in December 2010, Scott Chandler has been one of the most consistent contributors on a mediocre offense. He has proven to be a solid red zone receiving threat and has more than a few big plays in his tenure in Buffalo. Chandler suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2012 season however and reports have indicated that he’s a likely candidate to start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List which would mean he wouldn’t be able to participate for the first six weeks of the 2013 season. This is speculation at this point of course but suffering such a serious knee injury so late in the season is never a good pre-curser to the following year.
Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett’s offense calls for a more athletic tight end who can line up in the slot and stretch the field vertically. While Chandler should still be seen as a solid weapon in the passing game once he returns, he doesn’t fit this criteria extremely well. Tight end should prove to be one of the strongest positions in the free agency pool this year and the Bills would be stupid not to make a move on at least one.
Dustin Keller (NY Jets): Personally I think this should be Buddy Nix’s first target in the free agent pool. Keller has an uncanny ability to stretch the field and is solid out of the slot. He’s proven to be Mark Sanchez’s favorite target since being drafted out of Purdue and is a serious threat in between the 20s and in the red zone. With the exception of an injury-riddled 2012 season, Keller has hauled in at least 45 passes and amassed at least 500 receiving yards in every season in the league. He’s also totaled 17 touchdowns in 5 seasons in the league (only 2 in 2012) and has been the quintessential Bills killer throughout his career. Not only would Keller add a vertical threat that this offense so desperately needs, adding him would also make a divisional rival weaker.
Brandon Myers (Oakland): I’d put names like Martellus Bennett or Jared Cook on this list but they both have likely priced their way out of Buffalo. Myers is a much more likely fit for Buffalo. Although he’s essentially been a ghost for the majority of four year career, he broke out in a big way last season. You can attribute some of his delayed growth on an unstable quarterback situation for the majority of his career but you can’t look past his impressive 2012 season (79 catches, 806 yards and 4 touchdowns). You always have to be a weary of a player only performing in a contract year but Myers proved that he could be a solid vertical threat with sure hands last season. Depending on his price tag he would be worth taking a look at if the Bills can’t land Keller.
Delanie Walker (San Francisco): The 9ers acquisition of Anquan Boldin all but assures Walker hitting the free agent market at 4:00 pm today. His numbers are anything but earth-shattering and affirm his status as a number two blocking tight end. Walker has lived in the shadow of Vernon Davis throughout his career and has had to deal with a bit of an inconsistent quarterback presence until the past two seasons. While Walker has never been a number one tight end, he has the physical attributes that the Bills should look for in a tight end. He’s big, strong, fast, a mauling blocker and has sure hands. He wouldn’t have the type of impact that a Keller or Myers might but he would be a great fill in while Chandler recovers and a solid compliment when he returns. Some reports have Walker asking for starter money which a team like Cleveland or Tampa Bay may be willing to pay him. If the Bills lose out on the aforementioned options he would be a solid addition at the right price.
James Casey (Houston): Casey is an intriguing option. He has solid hands, he’s great in the red zone and he’s a plus athlete. He’s a man without a position however. After drafting Casey as a tight end the Texans used him in a multitude of ways during his tenure with the team. He played some tight end but spent the majority of his time at the fullback and H-back position. The Bills already have an H-Back on the roster in the form of Dorin Dickerson but make no mistake, Casey would be an enormous upgrade. Like Walker his numbers are indicative of a backup player but his 34 catches for 330 yards and 3 TDs last season are nothing to snub your nose at. Casey is big enough (6’3″, 240 lbs) and athletic enough to make the transition to tight end full time but he should be seen as a consolation prize if the Bills can’t land a bigger name.
Anthony Fasano (Miami): Like Keller, Fasano has been an absolute Bills killer in his five seasons with the Dolphins. Again, an unstable quarterback situation has adversely affected his career numbers but Fasano is no slouch. He’s been one of the few consistent vertical threats for the Dolphins over the past five years and he’s a serious threat in the red zone. Fasano could likely be had at a much lower cost than guys like Keller, Bennett or Cook and if the Bills decide to focus on other positions before addressing tight end, he might be the best option to improve their current roster.