Crowell won’t be back to Bills—for sure

By Anthony Bialy  |   Friday, March 20, 2009  |  Comments( 70 )

Buffalo Bills
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Strongside linebacker Angelo Crowell is gone from the Buffalo Bills after having been gone all of last season. It’s unsurprising he decided to skip town and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even after reports that he and his first team were considering reconciling. Instead, they’ve chosen to mutually end their partnership, meaning the defense must now rebound by connecting with an appropriate new defender. The trouble is that the new mystery starter probably isn’t a Bill yet.

Crowell did offer thrilling, if sometimes blemished, performances as a talented linebacker who incorrectly thought he doubled as a superhero. The Virginia product was often able to pair his uncommon strength with vicious explosiveness; as evidence, he totaled more than 100 tackles in two of his three seasons as a starter while racking up seven sacks.

At the same time, Crowell had the unfortunate tendency to operate like he didn’t need 10 teammates to end plays. Specifically, he often darted out of his assigned gap while attempting to make devastating stops. That maverick strategy rarely works for extraordinary players, much less for those who are merely above average. In that light, Crowell was more Aquaman than Superman.

On top of that, his oddly timed knee surgery moments before the 2008 season effectively ended his stint in Buffalo just like many theorized it would. Still, he was more talented than flawed in Buffalo, and the Bills must now determine who will permanently replace someone they provisionally replaced last year.

That man might be on the roster if the team gets desperate. John DiGiorgio and Keith Ellison are players who could start, with the important qualifying phrase “if necessary.” DiGiorgio can cover the field in large scope, while Ellison brings energetic fervor. Still, each is better at offering depth. While starting either man alongside Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell wouldn’t incite panic among fans, it would fall short of provoking excitement, too.

They need to look elsewhere to find a thoroughly worthwhile option, and quickly. There may be a lengthy offseason ahead, but time’s expiring before the Bills have to decide whether to spend a high pick on a linebacker. If they’re planning on signing a free agent who can top the chart, they better do it on April 24 at the latest. Waiting until breakfast time the next day, when drafting happens to begin, is cutting it a bit too close.

Despite a new addition, they shouldn’t be done signing linebackers. The just-added Pat Thomas, who started nine games at middle linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, is a strongside candidate. But the first impression is that he fits the DiGiorgio/Ellison mold of a player capable of starting who shouldn’t automatically be appointed a starter. Buffalo should continue to search for a first-stringer’s name it can write in pen.

With that in mind, the Bills should cordon off a section at the Buffalo Chophouse for Cato June and his agent. The classic small/quick player, who has already visited team headquarters once, conforms suitably to Buffalo’s model. Adding June remains the wisest course, and not just because it means the Bucs and Bills would have effectively, tidily swapped differing linebackers.

At 227 pounds, former Buccaneer June is almost 20 pounds lighter than Crowell. It would help both teams reach respective goals: Buffalo would get accordingly speedier, while Tampa Bay gets bigger. The players would mutually profit, too. June would flourish in a suitable environment, and Crowell can move on and forward. As for the latter, it’s the best outcome for a player who was pretty good as a Bill for a mortal.
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About Anthony Bialy

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