If the Buffalo Bills want to find a replacement for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds this offseason, they may need to wait until the NFL Draft to do it.
The Bills were rumored to be in the market for free-agent linebacker Bobby Wagner, but he ultimately decided to return to the Seattle Seahawks after spending one season with the Los Angeles Rams. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on March 25 that Wagner landed a one-year, $7 million contract.
The signing leaves little left in the linebacker market, leading insiders to believe the Bills will prioritize the position in the draft.
Seahawks Bring Back Bobby Wagner
The Seahawks had been publicly pushing for Wagner to return, with general manager John Schneider saying in a March 23 appearance on Seattle Sports 710-AM that they were working on a homecoming.
“We’ve been talking to Bobby, and what I can tell you is we’ll see what shakes out, see how this goes,” Schneider said, via ESPN. “Everybody knows how much respect we have for Bobby … He had a great season this last year. We’ll continue to speak with him and stay in touch and see how this goes.”
The signing could be a blow to the Bills, who have a hole in their linebacking corps after Edmunds left in free agency to sign with the Chicago Bears. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell had pegged the Bills as the “best fit” for Wagner in free agency, noting that he would be a natural fit in head coach Sean McDermott’s scheme.
“Sean McDermott’s defenses have been built around a pair of effective linebackers going back to his days in Carolina; Wagner would be a stable presence for a team with Super Bowl aspirations,” Barnwell wrote.
The Bills had already lost out on another potential linebacker target when Lavonte David decided to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. David confirmed that the Bills had reached out to start discussions, but he was already deep in talks to return to the Buccaneers by that point.
Insiders Believe Bills Could Find Next Linebacker in NFL Draft
With both David and Wagner signing, there are few accomplished linebackers left on the free-agent market. Justin DiLoro of USA Today’s BillsWire wrote that if the Bills didn’t land a linebacker through free agency, they could consider using their No. 27 overall draft pick on one.
“Iowa’s Jack Campbell is a name that keeps popping up among draft pundits as a middle linebacker to watch,” DiLoro wrote. “He registered 128 tackles en route to being named the top linebacker in the country. Campbell isn’t as dynamic athletically as Edmunds, but he has earned a reputation as a physical, workmanlike defender.”
The Bills could also consider a promotion for one of their reserve linebackers, including 2022 draft pick Terrel Bernard and the recently resigned Tyrel Dodson. DiLoro noted that Bills general manager Brandon Beane has already hinted that this could be the team’s strategy.
“I mean sometimes your answer is on your roster and so we think you know Tyrell, getting Dodson back on a one-year you know him,” Beane said. “Obviously we had the two draft picks last year in [Terrel] Bernard and [Baylon] Spector there and they’ve been in our program for a year.”