ESPN’s NFL Nation identified each team’s biggest decision in free agency and Field Yates of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) took a crack at determining what each team should do with their decision. Of note, Yates believes the Bills should pay what it takes to retain free-agent cornerback E.J. Gaines. The Bills acquired the 25-year-old defensive back from the Rams prior to last season as part of a package for wide receiver Sammy Watkins and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the league’s 13th-best cornerback last season. Gaines was one of several pieces the Bills added last year to improve their secondary, including first-round selection TreDavious White and signing Micah Hyde.
Here’s more from around the league:
- With a need for help in the secondary, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer identifies Eric Reid and Lamarcus Joyner as potential upgrades for the Panthers through free agency. Reid, 26, would provide an immediate impact and some youth to Carolina’s safety corps which includes Kurt Coleman, 29, and Mike Adams, 36. Reid, a former first-round pick, had 16 tackles in 13 games with the 49ers last season. Joyner presents a veteran presence to work alongside cornerbacks Daryl Worley and James Bradberry, whom both will be entering their third year in the league, while also being able to contribute at safety where he spent nearly all of last season with the Rams.
- Tight end Vance McDonald was a late bloomer for the Steelers last season and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler speculates the 27-year-old may be worth retaining despite the $4.3MM cap hit it’ll take to keep him in 2018. McDonald had a career-high 10 catches and 112 yards receiving in the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Jaguars. He was acquired from the 49ers 12 days prior to the Steelers’ regular-season opener and appeared in 10 games, catching 14 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh also has Jesse James at tight end, who started 14 games last season and tallied three touchdown catches.
- The 49ers will look to re-sign linebacker Brock Coyle in the wake of Reuben Foster‘s arrest on suspicion of domestic abuse, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Coyle started 10 games last season alongside Foster, who the 49ers traded up to select with the No. 31 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Maiocco also opines the Niners general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan should explore middle linebacker options through free agency and the draft with Foster’s status uncertain heading into next season. Linebacker Malcolm Smith is also slated to return after missing last season with a torn pectoral. San Francisco will have either the ninth or 10th overall pick of the upcoming draft, pending a coin flip with the Raiders.