|Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been the answer as a long-term replacement for Jim Kelly. (US Presswire)|
It's not difficult to figure out why the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999 -- they're still waiting on a long-term successor to Jim Kelly at QB. Finding a potential franchise quarterback will once again be the team's top priority this offseason as it looks to finally get over the hump and into the postseason. But there's more work to be done. Once the Bills get their coaching situation figured out, there are free agents to re-sign and a defense that desperately needs some new bodies. Here's a look at who the Bills need to keep and where they need to get better for 2013:
Free agents who must be signed:
- FS Jairus Byrd -- Byrd is Buffalo's best playmaker on the back end and is going to get a lucrative deal somewhere. Buffalo's secondary has issues as it is, so the Bills should try hard to keep Byrd. The franchise tag would appear to be a possibility if the two sides are unable to get a deal done before Byrd hits the open market.
- LG Andy Levitre -- Levitre is the rock along Buffalo's offensive line. He's started every game for the Bills since joining the team as a second-round pick in 2009 and is one of Buffalo's most dependable performers. The Bills finally appear to have a solid combination along the offensive line, so losing Levitre would be a significant blow to that progress.
Positions needing improvement:
- Quarterback -- This one's obvious. Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his way out after three inconsistent seasons as a starter and the Bills are set to add two new faces through free agency and the draft. If the Bills can hit on a quarterback, a lot of their other problems will go away -- but that's a big if.
- Linebacker -- Next to quarterback, this is Buffalo's next priority. Nick Barnett appeared to hit the wall in his 10th NFL season and Kelvin Sheppard struggled mightily in the middle. Rookie Nigel Bradham showed some promise, but the Bills could use two new starters -- read: playmakers -- at linebacker.
- Cornerback -- First-round pick Stephon Gilmore flashed his potential, but behind him the Bills are incredibly thin at cornerback. Former second-round pick Aaron Williams looks like a bust and injury-prone veteran Terrence McGee may be calling it a day. Gilmore needs some help at CB.
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