The Buffalo Bills have their work cut out for them in the 2017 offseason. With only 45 players signed as of February 17, 2016, that means the team will need to replenish half of the roster they take to training camp in late July.
Adding to that overhaul, the Bills have a total of 33 free agents to have to make a decision on in the offseason. There are 22 unrestricted free agents, 8 restricted free agents, and 3 exclusive rights free agents.
Leading up to the start of free agency, 7ABC will take a look at each of the major unrestricted and restricted free agents that the Bills will be forced to make a decision on.
After a rejuvenated performance in 2016, might the Bills make room for a throwback type of fullback?
FB Jerome Felton
Age: 30 (turns 31 in July)
2016: 15 games, 13 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 57 receiving yards
Career: 122 games, 178 rushing yards, 50 receptions, 421 receiving yards
The case for Jerome Felton
- Following a disappointing initial season with the Bills in 2015, the team released Felton shortly before the start of the 2016 season and brought him back in the second week of the season. Felton then re-established his positive play at the fullback position and was consistently opening up holes for the running game when he was on the field. Although his rushing and receiving stats aren't great, he made a definitive impact on the field. There is also much to be said for the relationship he has with star running back LeSean McCoy. The two are consistently hanging around each other in the locker room, and their children even play together. McCoy is a magnetic, and influential person in the locker room, which could lend itself to Felton's return in 2017.
The case against Jerome Felton
- It appears the commitment to 'ground-and-pound' is a thing of the past with the new head coach and offensive coordinator. While the running game will play a big role in the offense, it's not an offense built with an old school flair to it. Felton, as previously stated, is a throwback type, considering his position. He isn't out there posing a threat as a runner or a receiver, which could put the Bills at a disadvantage with becoming predictable on offense. Also, as hybrid fullbacks like Kyle Juszczyk of Baltimore are showing how valuable to an offense they can be (37 receptions for 266 yards in 2016), the desire for less offensive players that can do more has to be an idea that the Bills front office is thinking about.
What should the Bills do?
- It's an interesting situation because, on top of being a solid blocking fullback, Felton's great relationship with McCoy must be considered. Soon to turn 31, the Bills likely wouldn't need to break the bank to bring back Felton and help out the running game. They should look to bring him back for 2017, all the while searching for the later part of the draft and in undrafted free agency for a more athletic type to battle Felton in the summer, and eventually take over as the lead at the position.