- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The AFC East blog continues its series this week on ranking team needs.
On Thursday we take a peek at the new-look Buffalo Bills, who finished 6-10 last season.
No. 1 need: Quarterback
Analysis: The Bills are never going to catch the New England Patriots at the top of the division unless they find a consistent quarterback. Buffalo tried to go with the inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick and signed him to a $59 million contract. That obviously didn't work. The Bills are expected to cut "Fitz" to prevent paying his $3 million roster bonus and $4.45 million salary. Buffalo has some flexibility. The Bills have enough cap space to chase a veteran free agent or take a top draft pick. The key will be finding the right quarterback to run new head coach Doug Marrone's offense. But Fitzpatrick is not the answer.
No. 2 need: Linebacker
Analysis: You can't run a 3-4 defense without linebackers. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will bring a hybrid 3-4 and 4-3 scheme to Buffalo. The Bills were 31st against the run and need an enforcer (or two) in the linebacking corps. The good news is the draft is filled with good linebackers. Buffalo has the No. 8 overall pick and could have access to draft top linebackers such as Alec Ogletree, Jarvis Jones and Manti Te'o. Free agency also is an option. Buffalo was pushed around way too often last year and changes need to be made.
No. 3 need: Wide receiver
Analysis: It seems every team in the AFC East needs help at wide receiver to some degree. The Bills could use another legitimate threat opposite leading receiver Steve Johnson. Buffalo's group of Donald Jones, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith never stepped forward as a dependable No. 2 option. David Nelson, who is coming back from injury, is solid but best in the slot. There are a bevy of good receivers this year in free agency. Quality receivers such as Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings will all look for paydays if the Bills are willing to spend. The draft is not deep with receivers. So the Bills would have to do their homework for a good find in April.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini