How might they go about addressing all those needs? Here's a position-by-position look at how they might be approaching the start of the new league year.
What they need: It's quite simple in words, but a difficult task to pull off. The Bills need a franchise quarterback in the worst way.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Draft, maybe even twice. If they cut Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills might look to use two of their six picks in 2013 on a quarterback, depending on how many of their needs they fill through free agency.
What they need: Youth, depth and a playmaker. With only three receivers on the roster that started the season on the 2012 active roster (Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith), the Bills need to add bodies to the position.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Both. I would expect a second-tier free agent wide receiver. It looks like the interest on a player like Brandon Gibson is fairly high, so maybe someone like Mohamed Massaquoi, Kevin Ogletree, Austin Collie or Ramses Barden might make more sense financially. If that's the caliber of player they add in free agency, I'd expect one of the Bills' top three picks to be spent on a wide receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft.
What they need: A three-down linebacker with the versatility to fit both the 3-4 and 4-3.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency, preferably. Finding a player that knows the system is of utmost importance. If the Bills could get in on the race for Baltimore's Dannell Ellerbe, he could certainly lead the defense with the pedigree to play in Pettine's defense. If they can't land him or another highly thought of linebacker, the draft could be the avenue they travel down. The cost of that, however, would be subtracting the flexibility to perhaps take a second quarterback in the latter portions of the draft.
What they need: A nickel corner and someone to compete with Leodis McKelvin for the starting job.
Free Agency, Draft or both: It's a toss-up, but I'd probably look to the draft to add the nickel corner at least. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, however, if the Bills take a big, athletic cornerback in the first round of the draft. If they hold off on that notion, adding a player that can compete at nickel in the middle rounds would be a welcomed addition.
What they need: A more consistent starting right tackle. Erik Pears struggled mightily and Chris Hairston was average when he stepped in. Hairston could take a step forward if given the chance outright in his third season. He has certainly shown flashes.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Draft, if anything. If one of the top two tackles (Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher) fall to the eighth overall pick, the Bills might be tempted. Maybe even Lane Johnson interests them. But if the first scenario doesn't happen, I think the Bills would feel comfortable enough with their tackles to head in to 2013 with Cordy Glenn and either Pears or Hairston. Don't forget about Zebrie Sanders, either.
What they need: A starting left guard if Andy Levitre doesn't re-sign.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency. Losing Levitre would be a blow for the overall camaraderie the current offensive line has. However, if he costs too much, the Bills can find other options that can help their team. While some are mocking Chance Warmack to the Bills, I just don't see how they can justify picking a guard in the first round when they have so many needs, and have found success finding free agents at the position in the past (Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart).
What they need: A veteran strong safety and a backup free safety.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency. I would expect a safety to be one of the signings of this Bills team in the free agent period. Da'Norris Searcy is a question mark in the new defense, and the Bills may feel more comfortable giving the job to someone with more experience and that may know Mike Pettine's defense. I could see the Bills staying in house for a free safety, either by keeping Mana Silva on the roster or by changing Aaron Williams to safety after one final crack at cornerback.
What they need: A third pass rusher for rotational purposes.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Draft, most likely. Spending a lot of money on the position in 2012, the Bills may look to the middle rounds to try and find a situational pass rusher to help their team in 2013. There is still the possibility of re-signing Kyle Moore, but they could probably find someone at his caliber for a lower price through the draft.
What they need: A young, pass-catching tight end, who might be a little green in the blocking department, to groom for the future.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Draft. Buddy Nix made a few comments at the NFL Combine that stuck with me. First was the concern over Scott Chandler's knee, wondering if he'd be ready for the start of the season. Second, Buddy Nix pointed out that this is a good year for tight ends, saying that there are more draftable players at the position than in past years. Thirdly, when asked about the quality of blockers this year's group brings along, Nix said with a grin on his face, "We've got one that can block." I'd expect the Bills might be targeting a few receiving options at tight end in the middle rounds of the draft.
What they need: A third-string running back.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency, either the unrestricted or undrafted type. They won't spend too much on a third-string running back, so they may look to a veteran a couple of weeks after things have cooled off in March, or they may bring in a player that intrigues them that goes undrafted in late April. Either way, don't expect much.
What they need: A starting fullback.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency. It's either re-sign Corey McIntyre, or find an undrafted player that fits the scheme best. Fullbacks aren't normally drafted in April.
What they need: A depth player, maybe.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Free Agency, probably of the undrafted variety. With Kyle Wililams, Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Torell Troup and Jarron Gilbert still on the roster, I'd expect the Bills probably feel good about this group. They have bigger fish to fry.
What they need: Eric Wood to stay healthy for a full season, and to re-sign him beyond 2013.
Free Agency, Draft or both: None. They re-signed Colin Brown to be Wood's backup. A natural leader on the team, Wood just has to prove he can stay healthy in 2013.
What they need: Someone to compete with Rian Lindell, like most years.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Undrafted Free Agency. If the kicker is good enough, Lindell makes a lot of money. That incoming rookie has to be really good, though.
What they need: A competitor for an open competition with Shawn Powell.
Free Agency, Draft or both: Undrafted Free Agency. With Bruce DeHaven now gone from Buffalo, Powell needs to prove himself to new special teams coach Danny Crossman. I'd expect a competition at punter to be a storyline at St. John Fisher College for training camp.