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Offseason Forecast: Buffalo Bills

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With the offseason officially underway, Around The NFL will examine what's next for all 32 teams. Next up: Buffalo Bills.

What's changing?


With the offseason underway, Around The NFL explores what's next for all 32 teams.

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Former Jets coach Rex Ryan has replaced Doug Marrone, who settled for the offensive line coaching job in Jacksonville after opting out of his contract. Former 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, hailed as one of the NFL's best minds two years ago, should be an upgrade on the offensive bosses Ryan had in New Jersey.

Although Ryan is excited to work with 2013 first-round draft pick EJ Manuel, he has also vowed to explore all avenues to add competition at quarterback. Ryan lacks a first-round pick this year as a result of last offseason's Sammy Watkins trade with the Browns.

The Bills have already forayed into free agency, signing veteran guard Richie Incognito for Roman's power-running scheme.

Biggest free agents


» DE Jerry Hughes: One of the most productive pass rushers on the market, Hughes has generated 120 combined sacks, hits and hurries over the past two seasons, per Pro Football Focus -- just shy of All-Pro Mario Williams' total of 129. It's a good sign that he was just as productive in Jim Scwhartz's system as he was in Mike Pettine's the year before. Hughes has expressed interest in re-signing, but will not give Buffalo a hometown discount.

» RB C.J. Spiller: Spiller is enthusiastic about the Ryan era, but has also talked up a reunion with Chan Gailey, who is now running the Jets offense. One of the NFL's most explosive playmakers when healthy and used correctly, Spiller is a better fit for Gailey's offense than Roman's.

» LB Brandon Spikes: Purely a run-stuffer, Spikes played roughly half of the defensive snaps last season. With Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham emerging as quality starters and Kiko Alonso returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Spikes is likely viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Other key free agents: Erik Pears, Da'Norris Searcy, Marcus Easley, Jarius Wynn

On the way out?


» OG Chris Williams and Kraig Urbik: Urbik is the better fit for Greg Roman's power-blocking scheme, but neither of these interior linemen is an asset with a salary over $2 million. Cyril Richardson, a 2014 fifth-round draft pick, should be ready to move into the starting lineup opposite Incognito.

» LB Manny Lawson: Lawson was relegated to a rotational role under Jim Schwartz, switching from linebacker to defensive end. The Bills released LB Keith Rivers on Feb. 17. Releasing both part-time players can save the team over $3 million.

» TE Scott Chandler The Bills have been in need of a tight-end upgrade for over a decade now. Chandler carries a cap number near $3 million. It's a considerable sum for a player whose production declined in 2014.

What they need

Nothing we have seen in Manuel's 14 starts suggests he possesses the accuracy or the field vision to succeed as an NFL starter. In other words, the top need is a quarterback solution. Unless the new coaching staff is higher on Bryce Brown than the former one, running back is also on the radar if Spiller departs. Roman will also be eyeing a pass-catching tight end after working with Pro Bowl player Vernon Davis in San Francisco.

Offseason crystal ball

Of the key free agents, Hughes seems the most likely to return. Ryan's comments suggest the Bills will import a veteran place-holder at quarterback, such as Mark Sanchez or Michael Vick, while also pulling the trigger on a second- or third-round signal-caller if a draft prospect catches their fancy.

The defense is already championship caliber. After failing to develop a quarterback in six years with the Jets, Ryan must prove for the first time that he can coach more than one side of the ball.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the top 25 free agents and reacts to the latest news. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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