Scouts Inc.: Offseason AFC needs

Breaking down the three most critical areas of need for each team in the AFC

Updated: February 21, 2012, 4:07 PM ET
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.
Steve JohnsonAndrew Weber/US PresswireStevie Johnson's future directly affects one of the Bills' biggest needs.

With free agency just around the corner, and the 2012 NFL draft to follow, we again asked the Scouts Inc. crew to break down the tape, consider the market and point out the biggest needs for each team as we head into a solid stretch of player movement.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Top needs:
1. Defensive end/outside linebacker: The Bills need an edge pass-rusher, and, with them switching to a 4-3 defense, a defensive end is a bigger priority. They got very little production off the edge a year ago, and veteran Shawne Merriman was a bust in the 3-4. Buffalo must find an impact guy such as hybrid Courtney Upshaw of Alabama, or it could go with an unrestricted free agent such as Erin Henderson of Minnesota at linebacker.

2. Wide receiver: The Bills want to re-sign Steve Johnson, but his theatrics can get old at times and it appears right now as though a deal isn't close. There are some developmental guys on the roster, but none is an impact player. If Johnson stays, they need a complementary guy with size. If he leaves, they need a dominating No. 1 playmaker and must get into a market where some big names exist.

3. Offensive tackle: Erik Pears was solid as the right tackle and could have been considered the anchor of this improving unit, but Demetrius Bell split time at left tackle and is a free agent. He has fought a lot of injuries and does not dominate even when he is healthy. The Bills can go after the best tackle available, and they have the option of moving Pears to left tackle, but they do like young Chris Hairston.

Other needs: ILB, DB, QB

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.