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Catching up with … the Bills

06.19.12 at 2:17 pm ET
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As long as he sticks to catching touchdowns and not designing t-shirts, Stevie Johnson should be OK. (AP)

Part of a continuing series that takes a look at what some of the Patriots’ biggest competition in the AFC is doing this offseason. We’ve already looked at the JetsRavens, Steelers, Broncos, Texans and Bengals. Now, we’ll turn our focus to the rest of the division, with a breakdown of the Bills.

When we last saw the Bills — after a 5-2 start that included a lot of good things on both sides of the ball — they were suffering through one of the worst injury-related stretches in recent history. Reeling, they lost eight of their last nine on the way to a 6-10 finish that pretty much erased all of the good feeling that was built up at the start of the season. Buffalo split with the Patriots in 2011, winning at Ralph Wilson Stadium against New England for the first time since 2003 (34-31) but losing the regular-season finale in Foxboro, 49-21.

Who they added: You could make an argument that no team had a more impactful free agent period than the Bills. They landed the top available free agent in defensive end Mario Williams, giving him a six-year, $100 million contract that included $50 million in guaranteed money. They also swiped free agent defensive end Mark Anderson from the Patriots, creating a formidable defensive front, while adding cornerback Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina) in the first round and offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (Georgia) in the second round of the draft. And while they didn’t necessarily add them, the re-signing of wide receiver Stevie Johnson, middle linebacker Kirk Morrison and tight end Scott Chandler before the start of free agency allowed the Bills to lock up some of their most important assets.

Who’s gone: The only major departure came when left tackle Demetress Bell signed with Philadelphia. Wide receiver Roscoe Parrish also left for San Diego.

What they think of the Patriots: “It was confidence. Bill (Belichick) and that whole organization had confidence in me to come in and do what I do which is to rush the passer and be a playmaker for the team. I worked real hard with everything I had to do. Everything just gelled at the right time. Like I said, I thank God for everything. I’m in a blessed situation right now. I’m going to try and help the Bills and the Bills nation right now and try and take it to a whole other level.” –Anderson on what went right for him in New England in 2011

Analysis: There is a lot to like about what the Bills did over the offseason, particularly the defensive upgrades they made. While there are some familiar questions (particularly as to whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick is a franchise quarterback, as well as receiver depth after Johnson), there appears to be a solid nucleus in place for the foreseeable future. If the ownership stays the course, they could enjoy some success sooner rather than later. However, with the Patriots and Jets considered the leaders of the pack in the AFC East, Buffalo will have to show that they can consistently compete with both New England and New York before they can be considered a long-term playoff possibility.

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