The Bills may have found their temporary replacement for Jon Feliciano and the help came courtesy a division rival.
Ian Rapoport from NFL.com tweeted Monday afternoon that the Bills have signed free agent guard Brian Winters. He was released by the Jets on Sunday.
Winters has made 79 starts in his six seasons and has started every game he’s played the last four years. Injuries have forced him to miss 13 games during those four seasons, including seven games out last year.
When he’s played, Winters has been a solid, dependable starter for the Jets. His release saved the Jets seven million dollars in cap room. He was not expected to beat out free agent signee Greg Van Roten for the right guard job, so the Jets let him go.
Thad’s Three Things
The Best Option
Winters isn’t great. He won’t get any Quenton Nelson comparisons, but he is probably better than what the Bills had at guard without him.
Spencer Long is a solid backup, but not a player the Bills want as a regular starter. Daryl Williams is talented, but probably better at tackle than guard. Evan Boehm has only been a part-time starter in four seasons and had an ugly Pro Football Focus grade last year. There’s one other guy we’ll get to in a second.
Winters is a plus in the athleticism department, which makes him a good fit for Brian Daboll’s scheme that asks guards to constantly be on the move. The money is not likely to be gigundous. The Bills get to retain the plethora of veteran OL depth that might be key in a minimal prep Covid season. This works on a variety of levels.
Cody Can’t Move
This move has to likely cement Cody Ford’s future at right tackle, for better or worse.
The Bills had a chance to let Quinton Spain walk and move Ford to left guard, but instead decided to keep Spain (to be fair, Spain signed a pretty team friendly deal, so that was also a factor). They had a chance to let Ford compete for right guard after Feliciano tore his pectoral muscle and instead added Winters.
Actions always speak louder than words in the NFL. At this point, the Bills are screaming that they think Ford should play tackle. They probably won’t ever get an offseason with a better opportunity to move Ford inside than they did this year.
Winters is unlikely to permanently unseat Feliciano as the starting right guard, though it’s not totally out of the question. The Bills value their competition and Winters has tons of experience. Remember, Feliciano was not a full time NFL starter until last season.
However, what the Winters move may very well indicate is that Feliciano may be out a significant amount of time. Feliciano posted on Instagram that he was hoping to be back for the Raiders game week four. Winters likely had a decent number of suitors and would have gone elsewhere if the probability was only playing three games in Buffalo.
The Raiders game is probably a veeerrrry optimistic goal for Feliciano to return. The arrival of Winters now gives Feliciano a chance to rehab without trying to rush back. That’s a good thing for both the Bills and Feliciano, who needs a new contract after 2020.