(WKBW) — In exactly one week, the new year begins for the National Football League where expiring contracts officially comes off the books, which also allows those players to sign with whomever they please.
For the Buffalo Bills, free agency is an essential tool in how they shape their roster for the 2019 season -- considering how they sacrificed cap flexibility last year to start from a virtually blank slate. With that sacrifice, they also were unable to have the type of talent they would have liked all over the roster, which is where the over $70 million in cap space comes in handy.
Especially with how Brandon Beane denied the notion that being "judicious" is the same as being prohibitive to signing the bigger fish in free agency, all options are still firmly on the table for the Bills. All this week, 7ABC will be going through five names that make sense for the Bills in free agency.
And after discussing both a player on the defensive side in linebacker Anthony Barr, as well as a receiver that not all fans are enamored about adding in Devin Funchess, next we'll get to the unmistakable home run of free agency if the Bills can pull it off. That home run comes in the form of an extremely talented center named Matt Paradis.
Of all the names available in free agency, Paradis has been the 'it' name for many Bills fans. And while many free agency notions often wind up just being illusions of grandeur, this one has a shot and makes all to much sense for the Bills.
How Paradis would fit the Bills roster:
By adding Matt Paradis, the Bills would be giving themselves a definitive answer to what they view as their most crucial need in the offseason. The performance of the center position during the 2018 season, to put it bluntly, was horrific.
Ryan Groy struggled immensely and forced the Bills to replace him after only two starts. Russell Bodine entered the lineup, and while he was briefly better than what Groy showed to be, he also had the bottom fall out and rivaled the severe lack of production.
It made everything worse for the Bills. They couldn't run the ball, they couldn't hold a pocket consistently long enough, and the number of offensive line breakdowns due to miscommunication was shockingly high.
That's why Paradis, although his season was cut short in 2018 due to a fractured fibula, would be an instant boost to a depleted group of offensive linemen. Heck, Paradis could come in and have a completely average season in comparison to centers around the league, and it would still be a humongous upgrade to what the Bills had on their roster last season.
Even by putting the All-22 on from just a few games in 2018, you can see the incredible ability of Paradis on display. Among all the good traits he displays, it's his ability to adapt on the fly for the good of the play that is the most fascinating to watch.
Often times, you'll see offensive linemen be so rigid in their approach. They do what they are called upon to do, which is good only up to a certain point, because too strict of a strategy can create an opportunity for the defense.
It seems like Paradis has eyes in the back of his head sometimes when more than one player is rushing the gap. He's athletic and can get to the spot to put enough of a fight up in situations where you usually see a defender entering the pocket freely.
On top of that, Paradis was the man in charge of the offensive line -- which is another thing that will have Beane and the Bills salivating. That is everything they look for at that position, and especially with such a young starting quarterback in Josh Allen, having Paradis to get the offensive line on the same page is a tremendous asset to have.
In addition to the leadership, which is something they lack in the offensive line room at the moment, the physical aspects with his game all make him into a terrific player. He's a finisher in the run game, deals with hand battling well, shows excellent upper body strength, rarely surrenders ground off the snap, and shows the ability to run and block horizontally when the play calls for it.
His shorter arms get him in trouble occasionally when he's up against some long and strong interior defensive linemen, but it happens so infrequently that it's not something to be overly concerned with from a Bills perspective.
At 29 years old, Paradis is in the prime of his career. And the Bills would be ecstatic to add someone of his caliber if they can convince him to sign on the dotted line.
How Paradis would fit the salary cap structure:
It's relatively simple, with how much of a game changer the center position is to the Bills and how they want to build up the offensive line, I think all bets are off to add an established player at the position -- especially with only a second-year starter at quarterback. Paradis is likely going to cash in on the open market, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bills go all in to try and get him on the roster.
You have to consider the "judicious" line from Beane, but the same goes for the value of the position and the player himself. It's not often that a top-five player at his position becomes available, and with such a porous offensive line around him, the Bills don't have limitations here.
After all, it's a position that Beane has shown in Buffalo to value with a lucrative contract. The Bills chose to give Eric Wood a substantial deal in August of 2017, which had him on the books against the salary cap for nearly $9 million that season and again for 2018 had he been on the roster.
The intent to spend big on the position is clear, and I don't think it's outside the realm of possibilities for the Bills to give $10 million or more per season to Paradis. That would land him amongst the top five cap hits for centers in 2019, though the Bills might have to make him the highest paid center if they want his signature.
Considering that the Bills have nothing more than a low-to-middle tier Spencer Long contract, and two players on their rookie deals in Dion Dawkins and Wyatt Teller, putting all their cards on the table for Paradis isn't at all a stretch. The Bills could stand to give a significant effort to sign two starting offensive linemen in the opening days of free agency and still have plenty of space to spend elsewhere.
And if the Bills are concerned about allocating too much money to center, they still have the option to release Bodine for an additional $2.3 million of flexibility. They can also let go of guard Vladimir Ducasse to add $2 million in cap space, as well.
To add a veteran center, the Bills shouldn't leave any stone unturned -- which is why spending big on Paradis makes all the sense in the world. It's their most prominent position of need at the moment, and it's clear as day that Beane and Sean McDermott prefer a veteran presence at that spot.
Why Mitch Morse would work, too:
This writeup has been all about Paradis, and for a good reason, but Kansas City's Mitch Morse is in the equation as well. Keep in mind what Beane discussed at Indianapolis, that if the value they've placed on a potential free agent is substantially short of what other teams are offering him, they'll choose to go in a different direction.
There is significant potential for a bidding war for a player like Paradis, which means they'll need to give the same attention and treatment to Morse. Morse is an above average starter at center, he would significantly upgrade the position in Buffalo, and he'll be 27 years old for the 2019 season (as opposed to Paradis who turns 30 in October).
In Morse, the Bills would be going after a player with more prime years remaining on what is likely to be a smaller contract. The smaller deal both reduces the risk and the expectations while increasing the cap flexibility for other need areas.
With Morse, you have an incredibly athletic starting center that quickly gets out in front of screens and when he has to pull on running plays. He also shows an excellent strength in his lower body to anchor against strong opponents that give him a good initial bull rush, along with the ability and timing to successfully perform combination blocks to spring his runners forward.
If the Bills strike out with Paradis, it is essential that they also are having in-depth discussions with Morse to make sure the center position has an able and practiced hand for the 2019 season and beyond. It is, without question, their most prominent free agent need without a close rival.
Matt Paradis. Give me the absolute best interior lineman on the market. A guy who can help Allen dissect what the defense is throwing at him.— Jason Tassone (@Tass1_86) March 4, 2019
Matt Paradis. Josh Allen took some great strides last year, but defending him has to be number 1. Start in the center with a high level veteran.— Marqui44 (@marqui44) March 4, 2019
Matt Paradis... We need an experienced anchor on our offensive line and I believe he would fit best in our scheme. We need guys that can come in and protect Allen and it all starts with the Center position.— Rob- 🇨🇦Bruins,Raps,Bills and Jays (@swailes_robert) March 5, 2019