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CAPACCIO: Bills UFAs - Defensive Backs

By Sal Capaccio

Twitter: @SalSports


The Bills have 22 unrestricted free agents set to hit the open market next month. This week, I’ll be summarizing and stating what I think the team’s approach should be with each one.  

Today, a look at the defensive backs:

CB Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore has been the fans’ most polarizing Bills pending UFA going back to the beginning of last season when it was clear he and the team were not going to work out a long-term deal.  And he still is.  The Bills have a decision to make: place the franchise tag on Gilmore and guarantee him roughly $15 million (there is no firm amount from the league yet) for one season or let him become an unrestricted free agent and, most likely, sign elsewhere.  (It’s worth noting the Bills could very well get a compensatory selection in the 2018 draft if Gilmore leaves).  Through his five seasons in Buffalo Gilmore has been, mostly, a very good player, not great.  But he’s also had plenty of games where he was average at best.  The first half of this year was one of those stretches.  But, the second half of the year he played as well as any cornerback in the league, which earned him a spot as an alternate in the Pro Bowl.  Then he wound up playing in the game and collecting an interception.  He has consistently said, in different ways, he’s one of the best players at his position and wants to be paid as such.  Sources have told me Gilmore is looking for top-5 CB money on a long-term deal.  While that figure also represents basically the same amount as the franchise tag will be, it would only be for one season.  The team would prefer something longer to spread the money out for a lesser cap hit, and he'd prefer more security and not be tagged. I was also told that if the Bills do not tag Gilmore, they are very likely to give him another offer before free agency begins, but make it clear they can’t keep it on the table once players start moving around and they have to make decisions elsewhere that impact their roster and salary cap.  Gilmore collected a career-high five interceptions this past season and added 48 tackles - the second most of his career.  But it’s also his tackling the team has concerns about.  He’s not one to play aggressively against the run and appears to shy away from taking on hits or tackles.  

Verdict: I agree with the approach of making Gilmore an offer of the value the team believes he’s worth and leaving it at that.  If he finds more elsewhere, so be it.  If he doesn’t and agrees to come back on that deal, then it works for both sides.  I would not franchise tag him unless the team is confident they can get a long-term deal done at a lower salary cap price before next season begins (as they did with Cordy Glenn).  That would give both sides time to work out the details without exposing him to the open market.  But how much should the Bills be willing to pay overall?  I don’t think Stephon belongs in the top-5 CB discussion, and that kind of money can really eat up a lot of cap space.  Eleven CBs currently make $10 million or more per year.  Gilmore made $11.082 million last season playing on his fifth-year option.  That was good for ninth-highest annually in the NFL.  I’d add to it slightly given the rising cap and ability to spread it out through bonus money, with a final offer for three years, averaging between $11.5 - $12 million.  No tag.  Don’t budge.

CB Corey White

I really liked the way White played in both training camp and early in the season when he got his limited opportunities.  But because of injuries at safety, Rex Ryan and his staff moved him there later in the year and he then struggled as both positions, most likely because he was switching back and forth, sometimes during games when he hadn’t even practiced at the spot all week.  He’s also not a safety and was playing out of position when called upon there.  White was a regular special teams contributor all year, but over the last six games, he played some of the most snaps on defense for any defensive back.  Because of his willingness to play different positions and special teams, and given how solid he looked early on, I believe he’s worth trying to keep as a depth CB, especially if Gilmore walks.  

Verdict: White played for the veteran minimum last year, which allowed the Bills to use the salary cap vet minimum benefit (paid $760K, cost $680K on cap).  He’s absolutely worth doing that again, and I’d even be willing to forego the benefit if it takes adding another $100K to his salary to keep him given how tough it can be to find good secondary depth. 

S Robert Blanton

Just like White, Blanton played for the vet minimum last year and was signed to be a depth safety and regular special teams contributor.  He was forced into action on defense a lot more and earlier than expected due to injuries at the spot, especially to Aaron Williams.  He then got hurt himself and missed the final six games.  When he played, he was inconsistent at best.

Verdict: There’s no reason to need Blanton back over any other veteran player the team can sign to fill the same role.

S Sergio Brown

Brown has been on four teams in his seven NFL seasons.  There’s a reason for that.  He’s the kind of player you sign midway through a season because of injuries to second and third string guys, just as the Bills did.  He played a total of four defensive snaps in eight games - two each in the last two games.  

Verdict: There’s no reason to re-sign Brown.

S James Ihedigbo

Like Sergio Brown, Ihedigbo was signed late last season strictly due to so many injuries at the safety spot.  But unlike Brown, he actually contributed on defense in his short time on the team.  In only four games played, Brown got the majority of snaps in three of them, averaging close to 43 per game in those contests.  The ten year veteran’s best asset is his football IQ.  He has played in multiple systems and has no issues understanding them quickly.  He also had his best season playing in a similar scheme Sean McDermott will use while with the Lions in 2004, collecting 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and four interceptions.  The Bills don’t need him back, but they should at least keep his number handy as the offseason goes on.

Verdict: Ihedigbo is a “break glass in case of emergency” player at this point.  The Bills don’t need to re-sign him unless they’ feel they need another veteran body in the secondary when training camp rolls around.  They can wait until then to evaluate it.

S Jonathan Meeks

After Colt Anderson went down for the season, Meeks replaced him as a core special teamer and one of the leaders of the unit, finishing the year with the second most snaps on special teams, behind only Ramon Humber.  Defensively, he’s more of a liability than an asset when asked to play.  But with Danny Crossman returning as special teams coordinator, Meeks will know and have plenty of experience in his systems.

Verdict: Now that he has four years accrued, Meeks qualifies for the veteran minimum salary cap benefit.  Given his familiarity and experience with Danny Crossman’s special teams, the Bills should want to bring him back for that vet minimum, but strictly for special teams purposes.  

See more UFA reports and verdicts:

Offensive Skill Position Players

Offensive and Defensive Linemen


Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

02/16/2017 11:36PM
CAPACCIO: Bills UFAs - Defensive Backs
Please enter your comments below.
02/17/2017 1:02AM
All these players can play the 4-3 for McDermott.
The problem with this group is about, on who can stay healthy through the season. They would like to say that Aaron Williams will be a lock. But they know if he goes down on game day, than they will be in trouble. so look for a rookie to be drafted or a vet to be pickup. It's the only move they got. Gilmore is gone for sure, because they will be a attacking defense this year. And if you can't hit or bring down your man at contact. Than you will be beat on one on one matchups. And we have seen he dosen't have the talent to stay up with taller wideouts. I am not saying he not excellent CB, but playing him like rex was playing him. You know play the football or zone mess. Isn't going to work for him. Now remember Gilmore was kicking A$$ in the 4-3 when his career started. And hiring Coach Byrd will make most of these players be a hell a lot better. And the bills will also draft at this position. Because they are going to need depth at the position. And they will be losing most of these players in the weeks ahead.
02/17/2017 8:16AM
Gilmore is not worth a big investment......
The man does not like physical confrontation, and takes plays off. Those are not traits that you want to see in a "shut down" corner. Just like Donte Whitner, let him walk. As for the others, maybe they should keep 1 or 2 at their price to fillout the roster, but none of them excite me.
02/17/2017 8:32AM
Gilmore to GOODWILL
He will end up in the cheap suits remnants section along with Revis, Antonio and Rex Ryan
02/17/2017 11:30AM
Simply not worth it in the system McDermot will be running. Let some other team pay him to not give 1005 effort all the time. Has to be one of the worst tacklers in the NFL
02/17/2017 2:56PM
Let's Face It ...
This entire UFA DB Section really boils down to one big fish debate: Gilmore. Much as I hate to admit it, Jerry Sullivan had a great EYE-OPENING article in the News comparing New England's player salary cap allocations to the Bills' -- and if we want to be champions (let alone win "multiple championships"), we MUST take stock of our continuous failing ways and modify our approach to mirror the pattern of proven dynastic winners. The Patriots don't overpay their players, and they don't tolerate SOFT and/or INCONSISTENT players -- precisely because they can't be RELIED upon. Belichick sets the terms, and the players fall in line -- or they're gone, no matter who/how famous they are. After successful Patriot runs, even some "name" players who do still contribute depart -- either because their salary demands (based upon team success) become too great, or because they no longer deliver the quality of play expected and demanded. No matter, the Patriots simply plug new pieces into the team and continue to win -- partly because the remainder of the AFC East keeps bumbling and stumbling (thereby essentially guaranteeing the Pats 5 or 6 wins within the division every year and the automatic playoff berth that accompanies the division crown) -- but also partly because they maintain team DISCIPLINE (whether that be in the form of salary cap expenditures, player performance, player conduct, etc.). AT TIMES, Gilmore may even play VERY well, BUT he is SOFT (too often I have seen him both on TV and in person refusing to put himself on the line when it comes to tackling), and he is NOT CONSISTENTLY RELIABLE. That's simply NOT ACCEPTABLE for building a team of would-be CHAMPIONS -- especially (yet also independent from the notion of) wanting to be considered and paid like a "Top 5 CB" in the NFL!!! To me, that's the bottom line that answers it all. I do not like the fact that he was so ineffective early in the season (was he pouting? was he demonstrating/saying in essence -- like Randy Moss years ago -- "I'll play when I feel like it?"). I do not like the fact that he failed to make a legitimate tackling effort in the Pittsburgh game in the season's final phase that resulted in a back-breaking TD and essentially sealed the Bills' playoff fate. I do not like the fact that he then magically turned up his performance at the very end of the season and at the Pro Bowl wearing those ridiculous selfish and self-serving cleats in a waning desperate attempt to land a whopping contract. If you want to win championships, it's not enough merely to have "good quality" players (and let's be honest: pretty much ALL starters in the NFL are capable of very high quality play). No, to win championships (the objective, after all), it's even more VITALLY important to have UNSELFISH and COMMITTED "good quality" players who buy into the program, give their all, and are RELIABLE/can be DEPENDED UPON at all times. Sadly, the latter characteristics do NOT describe Gilmore based upon his own actions. I would offer Gilmore a fair salary (NOT "Top 5 CB" $$$) WITH A VIEW TOWARDS giving him "one last chance" to get with new coach McDermott's program (and then be prepared to TRADE HIM IF he fails to measure up) ... and if he doesn't accept such a fair contract, let him walk and give the Bills compensatory draft pick(s). It's time to GET SERIOUS about winning a Super Bowl instead of chasing after (and overpaying) flawed players simply because they may be "better" talent than most players currently on your roster. It's also time for the Bills' "brain trust" to start placing a greater premium on targeting and drafting players who have DEMONSTRATED character for UNSELFISH COMMITMENT to a team and who can be RELIED UPON to hustle and give their best effort at all times !!!!!!!!!
02/17/2017 3:22PM
an ideyet
02/17/2017 6:50PM
GIlmore is an average CB, the "burning man" gets beat aften and tackles like a girl scout.
No offense to girl scouts, I have much more respect for you than "burning man" who has an enormous ego and isn't in the top 20 CB's. Sal, once again you show you're just a fan and not a sports writer. Yes, Gilmore is worth $12M just like the Sabres have all these prospects coming along. WRONG, neither is true, but you try to make those points all the time. Just let this mess go, move on, Gilmore will fade into the distance as he's a very poor team player and competitor.
02/18/2017 9:53AM
Sal Sal Sal
Your Billy Buffalo source is Right on. I can't wait for your Mock Drafts Geez
02/20/2017 12:05PM
The greed of these players is unbelievable. Top five in the league money for Gilmore? Hilarious! They keep going to the Pro Bowl because the good players actually play in the playoffs and all the rejects get selected as Pro Bowl replacements!
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Are you sold on Robin Lehner as the Sabres #1 goalie?
  Yes. His play the last 2 months has sold me.
  Not yet. I need to see him play well/stay healthy the rest of the season.
  No. He's not the answer. I wouldn't re-sign him.
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