By Tim Graham
If the Buffalo Bills are unwilling or unable to re-sign left guard Andy Levitre, then there's little reason to get critical of his departure until we know on whom the club will choose to spend its money.
Buffalo News senior columnist Jerry Sullivan examined Levitre's situation for this morning's paper. The Bills don't have to re-sign Levitre.
From a practical standpoint, however, the Bills would have one more hole to fill without him. They would need to replace a quality guard who hasn't missed a start since he turned pro in 2009.
NFL.com editor Gregg Rosenthal ranked Levitre the best guard and ninth-best player at any position in this year's free-agency class.
Levite won't be easy to replace, and the Bills don't have a sterling track record when it comes to finding reliable offensive linemen over the past decade or so. Part of the problem is they've shown an aversion to drafting them early.
Since the Bills drafted tackle Mike Williams fourth overall in 2002, they've selected only four offensive linemen earlier than the fifth round. Two of them were in 2009, when the Bills took center Eric Wood 28th overall and Levitre 51st.
They also drafted tackle Chris Hairston 122nd two years ago and tackle Cordy Glenn 41st last year.
Over the past five years, the Bills have resorted to spackling their wall with waiver-wire acquisitions (Kraig Urbik, Sam Young), street free agents (Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto) and late-round projects (Demetress Bell).
Offseason free agents they've tried (Geoff Hangartner, Cornell Green) haven't worked out. That's without going back to the Langston Walker/Derrick Dockery era.
Given their approach to building an O-line, the Bills have been very fortunate to find as many keepers as they have.
Can they afford to let a reliable player like Levitre go?
Let's take a look at how the Bills have evaluated and drafted O-linemen with Russ Brandon or Buddy Nix as general manager.
Offensive linemen drafted with Brandon as GM
- • 7th round: Demetress Bell, tackle (two-year starter, departed via free agency)
- • 1st round: Eric Wood, center (four-year starter)
- • 2nd round: Andy Levitre, guard (four-year starter)
Offensive linemen drafted with Nix as GM
- • 5th round: Ed Wang, tackle (six games as a rookie, cut before 2011 season)
- • 7th round: Kyle Calloway, tackle (cut before 2010 season)
- • 4th round: Chris Hairston, tackle (15 starts as a backup in two seasons)
- • 2nd round: Cordy Glenn, tackle (starting left tackle as a rookie)
- • 5th round: Zebrie Sanders, tackle (placed on injured reserve before season)
- • 6th round: Mark Asper, guard (cut before season)
tagged2013 free agency | Andy Levitre | Buddy Nix | Chris Hairston | Cordy Glenn | Demetress Bell | Dwayne Bowe | Ed Wang | Eric Wood | Erik Pears | Kraig Urbik | Russ Brandon | Sam Young | Zebrie Sanders