Bills general manager Doug Whaley offered his perspective on the team's linebacker corps this morning in an interview on WGR.
Whaley said he sees newly acquired free agent Keith Rivers as a starter on the outside, along with incumbent Kiko Alonso. A move by Alonso from the middle to the weak side has been widely anticipated and acknowledged by the Bills since the scouting combine last month.
"That right now is the plan," Whaley said of Alonso. "We're going to move him outside, have Rivers on the other outside. And then we’re going to have to field an inside backer. We've got some guys on campus now that we’re excited about, and we’re going to keep our eyes open for anybody else that’s out there."
Rivers started at strong-side linebacker for the New York Giants, but the Giants viewed him as only a two-down linebacker, replacing him in passing situations. He played 37 percent of the snaps for New York. Whaley said Rivers is capable of joining the nickel defense.
"He's a four-down linebacker," Whaley said. "He can play first and second downs. He can stay in on third down and cover because he's got athletic ability, and then he can contribute on teams. So this goes back to our mantra of getting value guys, and that’s an incredible value pick for our team."
Lawson has played both the 3-4 and the 4-3 in his career. The 3-4 is viewed as the best fit for him. Schwartz runs the 4-3 front. But Whaley said there's a place for Lawson, particularly as an edge rusher.
"I think he's gonna be a hybrid player," Whaley said. "He’s gonna be able to bring us something as an outside lienbacker but also come off the edge as a defensive end. So his versatility again is going to be utilized in this system, that we think is going to be very valuable for us."
Whaley said Ty Powell was the top in-house candidate at middle linebacker. The Bills have had a couple of inside linebackers visit in free agency.