Yesterday, we profiled one of the top linebackers on the market in Dannell Ellerbe. Today, we'll take a look at a different position that could warrant the highest price tag rung up by the Bills -- cornerback.
One of the top players available at that position is a prototype, and very much in the mold of the way the new NFL is trending.
That man? Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith. Let's take a look at both the case for, and against, the Bills adding Smith.
The Case For Sean Smith
If we know one thing about Bills GM Buddy Nix, it's that he loves big cornerbacks that can run to try and keep up with the ever-increasing size and speed of wide receivers around the NFL.
Two years ago the Bills drafted Aaron Williams (6-foot-0, 204 pounds, 4.56 speed) in the second round, and just last year they made Stephon Gilmore (6-foot-0, 190-pounds, 4.40 speed) their first round pick. Williams hasn't really worked out, and the Bills are left with just Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks as the other cornerbacks that started the season with the team.
That's where Sean Smith could come in to play for the Bills. At 6-foot-3 and 214-pounds, Smith can still run like a gazelle, clocking in with a 4.5 40-yard dash. Despite being the latter of two early cornerback picks by the Dolphins in 2009, through four seasons the Utah product outplayed and outworked Vontae Davis enough to where the latter was made expendable.
In four years, Smith has appeared in 63 of 64 total games, starting 56 of those along the way. By far his most productive year in terms of becoming a playmaker -- which was one of his knocks coming in to 2012 -- he picked off two passes and forced three fumbles as the team's top cornerback.
If history teaches us anything about Mike Pettine's defense, it's that he trusts his cornerbacks an awful lot. It happened over the past four years in New York with the Jets, but quite frankly the Bills just don't have the personnel to play that way just yet. If Pettine gets his way, a bigger cornerback could be in the works.
Add in Smith's age to the decision (turns 26 in July), and a cornerback craved team like the Bills might mike him a priority in free agency.
The Case Against Sean Smith
The single biggest factor on whether or not the Bills will take a long, hard look at Sean Smith will be completely tied to how much the open market is pricing him for.
In recent years, the cornerback position has garnered some pretty jaw-dropping numbers in terms of years and guaranteed money. If it's any indication, the cornerback franchise tag price for 2013 was set at $10.854 million. Now while Smith won't garner quite that much, his skill-set could warrant somewhere in the range of $7-$9 million annually.
Would that price the Bills out? Some might say yes.
Looking at their spending at the position historically the Bills have not been ones to overspend on cornerback, opting instead to replenish the group through the draft. The only exception to that rule has been Terrence McGee.
Other than that, Buffalo has continued to look for cornerbacks with a much cheaper annual salary through the league's annual selection meeting.
When looking at Smith's career at Miami, some might wonder 'What took him so long?'
After starting all 16 games as a rookie, Smith was benched for the first seven weeks for violating team rules. Once he got back in to the team's good graces, he started eight of the final nine games. Even still, Smith had only one career interception through two NFL seasons. He tripled that career total by collecting two more in 2011, his third season. Keeping his up-swing going, Smith had the aforementioned two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2012.
For all that money, though, perhaps the money is better spent on a player that has more than just five interceptions and three forced fumbles in four years of starting.
Will They or Won't They?
The Bills are in desperate need for a cornerback, and while they should do their due diligence on Smith, his price tag could ultimately drive them away. It could be the dawn of a new day in Buffalo, however, with Russ Brandon as the Team President and a defense that covets strong cornerback play. They did something last off-season that we've never seen before with the signing of Mario Williams. Perhaps they'll open the pocket books for a cornerback in free agency. I'm skeptical, but wouldn't be surprised in the slightest.