It started with Josh Norman and then continued with A.J Klein, Mario Addison, and Vernon Butler. As the signings were being leaked, I didn’t even have to go on social media to know they were there. What was there? The tweets. A segment of Bills fans was undoubtedly angrily tweeting “Oh here we go again” or “I wonder if they are going to try to talk Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams out of retirement.” Is this frustration warranted? Let’s examine the players and find out.
At his peak, Norman was one of if not the best Corner in the league. He made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in 2015, the year the Panthers played in the Super Bowl. He’s 32 now and 5 seasons removed from that performance. Doubters like me will say that he’s too old and was never really that fast. While his style of play may have worked in 2015, the NFL, in general, has gotten faster. The counter-argument to that is he’s a Zone corner and the Redskins decided to have him play man coverage in their defense.
So, obviously, it would look like he has regressed. The happy medium here is that IF he isn’t washed up the Bills will have great value across the field from Tre White, and if he doesn’t play well, the team has decided that they can live with a Norman/Wallace platoon at Cornerback for one year. One thing is for sure: Norman certainly has the competitive fire that Bills fans gravitate towards.
Klein played in Carolina from 2013-2016. During his time in Carolina, he played about 28% of the defensive snaps and 60% of the special team’s snaps. He sounds like the perfect replacement for Lorenzo Alexander. Klein not only fills Alexander’s role on Special Teams and Linebacker but also provides the “vet in every room” component Coach McDermott really values. It’s hard for me to see any downside to this signing.
Addison, in my mind, is the premier signing of this class. I know it’s weird to say that about a guy who’s 32 years old and who will turn 33 in the middle of the season, but this is a guy who has 55 career sacks with 39 of them coming in the last 4 years while playing 66% of the defensive snaps during this time, and he’s a better run defender than Murphy. In my mind, he’s an instant upgrade over Trent Murphy and will be a nice mentor for the pass rusher the Bills select at pick 54 in this year’s draft. The obvious downside to this signing is his age. Most players start to decline in their mid-30’s. Even though Addison signed a 3-year contract, Brandon Beane constructed it in a way that would allow the Bills to get out of it after one year if they wanted to.
Butler’s signing is the most interesting to me. He was drafted in the 1st round (30th Overall) and certainly hasn’t lived up to what most people expect from taken in the 1st round. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good. Most teams only have 20 players who get 1st round grades in every draft. So, in theory, by the time you hit pick number 30 you’re drafting guys who are graded as 2nd round prospects. We have no way of knowing how Carolina valued or graded him, but they liked him enough to draft him in the first round.
The good news is that McDermott, Beane and new Defensive Line coach Eric Washington are very familiar with Butler, so they know exactly what they are getting. People who want players to improve every year will not like this signing or at least have reservations about adding Butler to the team.
Is this a case of McDermott and Beane relying on something familiar that’s past it’s prime? I don’t think so. These players are an upgrade or quality replacement for the players that left. Coach McDermott talks about “Love” and “Trust” all the time. I think these signings reflect that. He’s bringing in players he loves and that he trusts to do their job. I know the constant Carolina to Buffalo connection can get tiresome for some fans, but in this writer’s opinion, the roster is stronger at this moment in time than it was last year, and these additions from Carolina are a big reason why.