(WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills have made their first strike of free agency, albeit a month ahead of the actual start of the new league year.
The Bills announced on Tuesday afternoon that they've signed interior offensive lineman Spencer Long to a three-year contract. Long, 28, had just been released by the New York Jets after starting 13 games for the team in the 2018 season.
Long was only one year into a four-year, $27.5 million contract with the Jets before becoming a free agent earlier this month. He started games at both center and left guard this past season.
The Bills also announced the re-signing of depth cornerback Lafayette Pitts. A soon-to-be restricted free agent, Pitts inked a one-year deal with the team.
Joe B's Take
- Although this move doesn't move the needle much for fans hoping for big splashes this offseason, the Bills were in desperate need to overhaul the entire offensive line operation in the offseason. That includes new coaches, new players, and for what they hope to be newer and better results.
It started in January with the removal of Juan Castillo as the team's offensive line coach, the naming of Bobby Johnson as the new man for the job, and with numerous 2018 contributors due to hit free agency in March. That includes Ryan Groy, John Miller, and Jordan Mills -- all of whom started multiple games for the Bills last season.
With Long, they get a player that has quite a bit of starting experience -- but not one that is necessarily a shoo-in to start for the Bills. The initial press release from the team indicated that Long was viewed organizationally as both a center and guard, which while great for versatility, doesn't lock him into any starting job.
Above all else, the Bills are desperate for quality players on the roster. Ahead of the offseason, the only two entities from 2018 that are likely safely on the team in 2019 are starters Dion Dawkins and Wyatt Teller, which means both new starters and depth are needed.
Considering Long's experience as both a center and guard, it gives them a safety net for the way the offseason plays out. Teams will try as hard as they can to control the offseason, but letdowns of missing out on targets to help the roster are inevitable.
If the Bills can't find a starting center or right guard during free agency and the draft, or Teller regresses in his second season, Long provides them with an experienced depth that they hope will outperform what they got last season out of Ryan Groy and Vladimir Ducasse in the starting lineup. Though, the preference is likely that Long becomes the core interior reserve swingman along the offensive line.
According to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, Long's new contract with the Bills is for $13 million over three years that with play-time incentives that could bring it up to $15 million. We'll learn more about the contract, whether it's front-loaded or back-loaded and how the $13 million figures in once the structure of the deal is revealed in the coming days -- so while it's tough not to jump to conclusions, patience is the best practice until the actual details of the deal come out.