Just when you thought the Bills were through with free agency, they pull you back in.
DE Mark Anderson flew into Buffalo Tuesday night, meeting defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt and going out for a little dinner (they were spotted walking into Tempo downtown), then staying the night to do further interviews Wednesday. While most thought the Bills had begun and ended their free agent signings with Mario Williams' big payday, and were now looking to the upcoming Draft, Buddy Nix and the front office boys decided they weren't quite done shopping the market yet.
The Bills beat out five teams vying for Anderson's services just now, including New England, who had him for 2011 and saw him put up the highest sack total he's had (10) since his 2006 rookie season with Chicago (12). A seven-year veteran of the NFL (he came out in the same draft as Kyle Williams and Super Mario), Anderson has also spent time playing alongside Mario in Houston (2010) and may have been influenced (maybe contacted?) by his former teammate to come play for the newer, scarier Bills' defense. Regardless, he was definitely on the Bills' radar before the Williams signing and they were able to reel him in with a deal today.
For his career, Anderson has 163 tackles and 35.5 sacks, has played on two Super Bowl teams (the Bears in 2007 and last year for Patriots), and, though he was sidelined to injury in 2010 (played only 4 games), he has been largely healthy the rest of his career. Last year in New England, Anderson was playing backup until Andre Carter went down, but came on in replacement for huge success, especially against Tebow and the Broncos in their regular season match-up, where he had 2 sacks and recovered a fumble he himself forced. Coach Bill and the Patriots have said they'd wanted to re-sign Anderson (at the right price, of course), but though Mark has also voiced his love of New England, they already signed another defensive end this week (Trevor Scott from Oakland) and may no longer have been seeking his services.
Pairing Anderson with Mario in Houston created a solid line in 2010 (though Mark only played 11 games) and should yield solid results now that he has been added to the Bills' front four along with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Anderson was long thought by fans to be the piece Buffalo would bring in to improve their pass rush this offseason, as the thought of the Bills pursuing Super Mario like they did was honestly viewed as a longshot, but we know how that turned out. Maybe Buffalo is now that type of young team that many players find so attractive in the NFL, a bunch of hungry talents (getting paid) in a small market city that is looking to truly compete again and could take the league by storm in 2012. With the way the defense is shaping up already, the addition of Anderson now adds a depth Bills fans haven't seen on their team since the Bryce Paup/Chris Spielman days of yester-year. The Bills could now essentially relieve themselves of Shawne Merriman, focus on other needs in the Draft, and have multiple talents on the front line (Chris Kelsay would become one of the best back ups in the NFL and it isn't a bad move for a guy entering his tenth season).
As a possible deal-closer, Anderson was likely impressed with the way Mario Williams described the city and why he chose to play there. Again, there were other teams interested (Miami, Tennessee, Jacksonville), but how can you not be impressed with the potential (and passion to win) Buffalo's showing this year. After seeing what they can get with nine Draft picks, many might be picking the Bills to do more than just compete in the AFC East in 2012, especially with Anderson on the end opposite Williams, book-ending K.Williams and Dareus in the middle (again, three of those players came out of the 2006 Draft, Kyle in the same round).