NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Few teams have reshaped their roster this off-season more than the Buffalo Bills. It all starts at the top, as a new hard-nosed thorn in the Patriots side mentality will be in full swing as Rex Ryan is the new sheriff in Buffalo.
It now seems like forever ago, but Buffalo made one of the earliest moves of the off-season by signing the highly publicized Richie Incognito. Incognito’s morals can be questioned, but he should help sure up an offensive line that struggled last season. It seems even more evident today, as the Bills made the first big blockbuster trade of the off-season. You may have heard about it.
This off-season is an anomaly. Big time, big name players simply don’t get swapped for one another. As far as straight up, player for player moves, I think back to the Clinton Portis – Champ Bailey swap in 2004 (feel old yet?) as the last time any such trade happened. Major headlines were made when the Bills shipped arguably the best young linebacker in the game (yes I know he was hurt last year) Kiko Alonso for the ever talented LeSean Shady McCoy.
The argument can be made here that Buffalo was outstanding on defense without Alonso last year, so his services were not as much of a necessity. McCoy, who will be 27 when the season starts, is still “in his prime” and could carry the offense if healthy. Well for the money he’s getting paid – he better.
According to spotrac, McCoy got a cool 5 year $40 million dollar deal, $26.5 million in guaranteed money. His dead cap hit over the next two years $18.25 million and $13 million, respectively. Expect Shady to get all the touches he can handle over the coming years.
It won’t just be the Shady & Sammy show in Buffalo however, as the Bills made yet another big splash recently signing the 26 year old Percy Harvin. What are realistic expectations here? Who knows. Since being the focal point on a championship caliber roster in Minnesota, he has been rather silent in Seattle and most recently New York due to injuries and “personality issues”.
Here’s what I do know though : If the Patriots signed Percy Harvin his expectations would be sky high. I still believe in the 26 year old, and combined with Shady and Sammy Watkins the Bills have one of the most electric trio of skill players in the league, if not one of the very best teams to play with in EA Sports’ Madden.
And not to be overlooked, Buffalo also snagged former Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay. I personally believe this will be one of the best signings of the off-season, and should help whoever is playing quarterback as a solid up the seam presence with Sammy and Percy causing havoc elsewhere. Enough of the headlines…let’s dive into the meat and potatoes.
Addition by Subtraction
Not talked about above, but equally as important as any move that the Bills have made this season, was resigning defensive end Jerry Hughes. He will make a big impact in the short term, but even more so down the road. It’s only a matter of time before Buffalo decides to shred Mario Williams’ mammoth contract – especially if a quarterback worth his salt ever finds his way to Orchard Park.
An under the radar move that isn’t garnering much attention is the signing of fullback Jerome Felton. His best days are probably behind him, but he is still one of the better fullbacks in the league. It has been well publicized that he was Adrian Peterson’s favorite full back to run behind in his entire career. With the new power run game, Felton will play a key role in Shady’s success.
The team also has brought in Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to compete at quarterback…more on that later.
As far as losses go, the Bills won’t be weeping the way some Patriots fans are over Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork right now. The Bills lost some big names, but none that will hurt all that much.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy inked a sizable contract in Tennessee.
Former Patriot killer Scott Chandler decided it was so fun playing in Gillette Stadium once a year, why not make it eight. I don’t expect that move to hurt them too much as Charles Clay is an upgrade in my opinion.
Former first round pick C.J. Spiller will be in N.O.L.A. next year – and I have yet to hear a a single Bills fan complain about it. What a waste of a top pick.
Keith Rivers could come back to hurt, signing with Dallas, and the ever so interesting Brandon Spikes remains a free agent. It’s tough for Spikes. He wants to get paid like a 3 down linebacker when he’s just a phenomenal run stop, tone setting -2 down linebacker. I expect him to play on a similar 1 year deal next season for a new team as he doesn’t really fit what Rex Ryan is trying to do.
As you can see, Buffalo brought in some big names and didn’t seem to lose all that much. But how can they attack the draft?
Draft Needs – QB, OL, S, CB
Obviously, quarterback is the biggest need on the team. They have drastically improved jersey sales up in Orchard Park, but have they really became any better in the win column? I have my doubts. Matt Cassel is in line to start at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel look to be next in line. Yikes.
It wasn’t all that long ago when Buffalo reached on EJ Manuel in the first round. I’m not putting money on it, but don’t be surprised if history repeats itself here in the second round (due to giving up a first round pick for a WR in one of the greatest WR draft classes ever, Buffalo doesn’t own their first round pick).
The Bills can’t be that arrogant to think Matt Cassel will lead them past the defending champions no matter how flashy LeSean McCoy can be or how nasty that defense is. Let’s look at some other dynamics while we’re at it.
The Bills have dished out a bunch of money in recent years in long term deals. Should a free agent quarterback hit the market A) would he even want to go to chilly, windy, cold Buffalo? And B) Will the Bills have the funds to secure that quarterback with all of these large contracts? My guess is No and you guessed it… no again!
So you must look to the draft. Can you wait a year? Maybe. But with the roster the Bills have, can you expect a top 10-12 pick next year? Probably not.
Is your math adding up with mine right now?
Nobody is talking about it, but I think Buffalo reaches for a quarterback in the first two or three rounds here. Maybe a trade of some sort. It just makes sense. Brett Hundley, Come on Down!
The second big need I see is offensive line depth. Cyrus Kouandjio in particular didn’t make the impact that was expected. Erik Pears and Chris Hairston are still free agents, and could potentially be re-signed here, but I expect depth to be added.
Based on draft position, I’m looking to the Rob Havenstein, Daryl Williams, and even Ty Sambrailo’s of the world to fit for Buffalo for some tackle depth. On the interior, I think small school guy Rob Myers from Tennessee State could be a solid plug.
Lastly, the big hole here is overall secondary depth. Da’Norris Searcy played well for Buffalo last year and needs to be replaced. I personally think TCU’s Chris Hackett at safety is a good versatile player that could fit here. Detrick Bonner from Virginia Tech and Tevin McDonald are also nice mid round picks here as well as far as guys who can do a variety of things to help replace Searcy.
I think Ifo Ekpre-Olomu would be an outstanding fit. Buffalo could use some nickel help, but I also think Ekpre-Olomu may turn out to be a better NFL safety anyway, so the versatility again would be ideal here.
We all know how much Rex Ryan loves his corners, so let’s keep talking about them. USC’s Josh Shaw is one of the most interesting story-lines of the draft. He’s a bigger cornerback who has good speed and fluid hips. His off the field issues can be worrisome, but could be a nice mid-round get for Rex.
Ohio State’s Doran Grant could be a nice depth player as well for the Bills. A feisty player who can help in the run game, Grant has improved immensely but still has some tight hips, which will help him fall into an area where Buffalo could feel comfortable.
Utah’s Eric Rowe really jumps off the page as a ‘Rex Ryan Guy’, if there is such a thing. Good frame, great disruptive off the line ability, can move around, and just harass’ wide receivers 24/7. He may end up being a safety and will contribute on specials. I personally am keeping an eye on him as I think he would be the ideal get for Rex.
Buffalo has been active this off-season, but I’m not exactly penciling them in as a playoff team just yet. I know we all saw Matt Cassel in 2008 in a Patriots uniform lead a really solid team to a 11-5 record. I’m sure we have all seen the Matt Cassel since then, however.
Not to sound cynical, but it’s true: it is simply a quarterback league.
Buffalo will be great on defense this year. Offensively I expect LeSean, LeSean, LeSean, LeSean, and when they try and get crazy use Percy Harvin much like Rex used him last year in New York while hoping Sammy Watkins can run free every now and then. I like the run, run, punt and play great defense philosophy, but to a point.
One thing I have asked Bills fans recently. How much better right now is Buffalo compared to the Dolphins or the Jets, let alone the Patriots? Jersey sales will be up, and there may not be more anticipation for a season in Orchard Park since Jim Kelly left. But will that equate to that elusive playoff spot that has evaded the Bills since 1999. 1999!
One thing is for sure : Rex Ryan is must see TV, and this team will be fun to keep an eye on.
Next time on ‘Eyes on the Competition’, we will bounce out west to see what the San Diego Chargers are up too.