The Buffalo Bills have made it known that they haven't been happy with the play of their secondary in recent weeks, and the move they made on Tuesday only supports what they've seen by bringing in an established veteran starter into the fold.
The Bills have signed free agent safety James Ihedigbo, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. Ihedigbo was most recently with the Detroit Lions, and also has been a member of the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and the New York Jets.
After starting the majority of the season for the Patriots in 2011, Ihedigbo was more of a reserve with the Ravens in 2012, before starting the entire season in Baltimore in 2013. Then, after signing a free agent contract with the Lions in 2014, Ihedigbo started every game that he was active and picked off four passes.
The safety then lost his starting role in the middle of the 2015 season, and wasn't retained by the Lions and has been a free agent since March.
Over the last three seasons, Ihedigbo has started 37 games, and amassed 235 total tackles, three sacks, and eight interceptions. Ihedigbo also spent two seasons with head coach Rex Ryan as a member of the Jets in 2009 and 2010. Terms of the contract are not yet known at this time.
To make room, the Bills have parted ways with former fourth-round pick Duke Williams.
Thank you Buffalo for a great opportunity! I am really grateful to have been apart of such a historical franchise. #CircleTheWagons
— Duke Williams (@Duke27_) November 15, 2016
After a great training camp, Williams rose up the depth chart and was the the top backup safety going into the season. After a couple of poor performances, Williams was relegated to mostly special teams duties while other safeties filled his original role.
He was in the final year of his four-year contract. The Bills have yet to confirm either of the roster moves.
Joe B's Take
Seeing everything that we've seen over the past two weeks without Aaron Williams at safety, it's pretty clear that the options the Bills had in house were uninspiring at best.
Every single backup safety -- whether it was Duke Williams, Robert Blanton, or Jonathan Meeks -- has had their chance to grab on to a major role in the defense, but all three have been woeful in coverage.
Williams had a clear opportunity in the first three weeks of the season by getting 76 defensive snaps. After several busts in coverage, he only was given 15 snaps over the last six weeks, which is ultimately why he was expendable.
Meeks has had his struggles in coverage, particularly in the red zone, and it's contributed to some easy touchdowns and frustrated defenders. He's a better run defender than he is a coverage safety.
As for Blanton, a college cornerback that converted to safety, he has not taken the reigns of the starting opportunity. He was originally thought of as the third safety for the Bills coming into training camp, but lost that job to Duke Williams.
Numerous busts in coverage and overall hesitance to trust his instincts has contributed to Blanton being a weak link on the defensive side of the ball, which in turn, has cost the Bills dearly in each of the last two games.
The Bills also brought in Sergio Brown, but he has less of a starting history and has proven to be more of a special teams player throughout his career.
The addition of Ihedigbo, if they choose to work him into the rotation at safety, might require a minor shift of roles. However, at this point the Bills have to try something at safety while the playoffs are still a possibility.
To make room for Ihedigbo into a normal role, the Bills would likely have to use Corey Graham in less of a run-stuffing safety role as he has been, and give him more responsibilities in coverage and making sure there aren't any big busts. Ihedigbo is almost 20 pounds heavier than Graham, which is why he'd be a better fit as a safety that creeps into the box.
Throwing him into the fire after only three days of practice -- and considering he's basically been dormant from a football perspective since last season, we're still likely to see Robert Blanton a fair bit. I wouldn't be shocked if Ihedigbo slowly gets worked in to what Rex Ryan and company are trying to do.
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