Buffalo ought to pony up for underrated LB Crowell

By Connor Byrne  |   Saturday, January 28, 2006  |  Comments( 37 )

Buffalo Bills
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By this time next year, the Buffalo Bills could be poised to lose arguably their best defensive player, strongside linebacker Angelo Crowell. The five-year veteran, whom the Bills drafted in the third round in 2003, has just one season left on his deal.

Frankly, it's a must for Buffalo -- particularly its deficient defense -- to begin speaking with Crowell immediately regarding a contract extension and persuade him to sign a document that features several years and plenty of dollars.

Although underappreciated around the National Football League, anyone who's watched Crowell on a regular basis since he entered the pros knows how outstanding he usually is. This past season, playing behind an ineffective defensive line and alongside a pair of fill-in LBs fit for reserve roles, the 26-year-old amassed 126 tackles, four passes defensed (three more than much-ballyhooed yet overrated strong safety Donte Whitner), two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

During his 65-game NFL career, the 6-foot-1, 243-pounder has racked up 346 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions. Clearly, Crowell is a playmaking linebacker; that fact has manifested itself since he first had an opportunity to start (2005).

And with his contract year beginning in September, it's almost a certainty that Crowell will have a big 2008. After all, he'll surely be in line for a rather large payday. In fact, what soon-to-be free-agent linebackers Karlos Dansby, Lance Briggs and Terrell Suggs receive this offseason could very well dictate how much Crowell signs for next winter (if he's still not extended by then).

Consider this: Briggs, Chicago's much-hyped three-time Pro Bowler, has 237 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions during the past two seasons. On the other hand, Crowell, in two fewer games, has 210 tackles, four sacks and three picks in that same span. While Briggs has been more effective at garnering tackles, Crowell has demonstrated more big-play ability, which is obviously quite valuable.

Though Crowell hasn't reached the same big-name status as Briggs yet, the latter has had the benefit of playing on a 'D' surrounded by stars. When you're lining up behind an all-world tackle like Tommie Harris and adjacent to a future Hall of Fame mike linebacker in Brian Urlacher, you're bound to go from very good to great. It's a wonder how nationally recognized Briggs would be had he been in Crowell's situation the past few years. It's not every day that a linebacker thrives as part of a relatively untalented, undermanned defense that features such world-beating linemen as Kyle Williams and tremendous LBs like Keith Ellison. (Note the sarcasm.)

In any event, the Bills are in a position where they're trying to build their 2-year-old Tampa 2 defensive scheme into something special. In order to accomplish that feat, Crowell is a player who must be in Buffalo's fold for the next number of years.

And rather than wait until the early stages of next offseason, when Crowell will be tempted to test free agency, it makes sense to get a new contract signed, sealed and delivered immediately for the University of Virginia alumnus.

He's simply too valuable to lose.

*E-mail: cbyrne@realfootball365.com.

RealFootball365.com: Where the true value of Angelo Crowell is understood.
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