Eyes on the Competition : Buffalo Bills

The hopes and dreams of the Bills rest on their new 40 million dollar man.

The hopes and dreams of the Bills rest on their new 40 million dollar man.

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?

Could a quarterback such as Brett Hundley be in play for the Bills?

Could a quarterback such as Brett Hundley be in play for the Bills?

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.

The Skinny

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.


Previously: Colts

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50 Responses to “Eyes on the Competition : Buffalo Bills”

  1. Russell says:

    Look for the Patriots to get a 3 round, and 6th round draft picks in the Compensatory draft. As well as the Jets 5th for tampering, from the Meetings today.

  2. Ken says:

    Found a few interesting players that compare to players NE has picked recently. Combine results:
    (CB) Tenn. (RB) Tex.
    Justin Malcolm
    Coleman Logan Ryan Brown Stevan Ridley
    40: 4.53 4.56 4.62 4.66
    Bench: 20 14 19 18
    Vert: 37.5 32.5 34.5 36
    Broad: 124 116 117 118
    3 Cone: 6.61 6.69 6.86 6.78
    20 yd shuttle: 3.98 4.06 4.15 4.21
    Height: 5’11” 5’11” 5’11” 5’11”
    Weight: 185 191 224 225
    Arm Length: 31 1/4″ 31 3/8″ 32 3/4″ 31 7/8″
    Hands: 9 3/8″ 9 5/8″ 10 1/4″ 9 1/4″

    Coleman’s 3 cone time was the best at this years combine and we know how much the Pats like a good 3 cone time. If Ridley isn’t resigned I think Brown would be a great replacement and he does not fumble which was Ridleys one problem that held him back.

    Fumble Rates for NFL RB Prospects 2015: touches per fumble
    (top 5 and bottom 5)

    35.4 — Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
    52.2 — Kenny Hilliard, LSU
    54.4 — Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
    62.2 — T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
    62.6 — Jay Ajayi, Boise State
    134.4 — Zach Zenner, South Dakota State
    136.0 — Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
    156.3 — Dominique Brown, Louisville
    191.7 — Todd Gurley, Georgia
    619.0 — Malcolm Brown, Texas

    • Ken says:

      Kind of messed up the numbers when I entered it. I had it in rows all nice and neat but oh well.
      First Numbers Justin Coleman
      Second Numbers Logan Ryan
      Third Numbers Malcolm Brown
      Fourth Numbers Stevan Ridley

    • Russell says:

      Justin Coleman also had the best time at the combine in the 10 yd split,…1.42 !!

    • jim r says:

      Malcom Brown could be a steal for somebody. gets his pads low on contact.

    • Stephen J says:

      From Dane Brugler

      RB Terrell Watson (6-1, 242) showed well at Azusa Pacific’s pro day: 4.49-4.51 40-yd, 35″ vert, 10-3 broad, 23 reps. 15 teams in attendance

    • J H TARBORO says:

      Stephen J. If you watched the NFLPA Bowl, he was the MVP of that game! Go to 2015 draft contacts, he’s mentioned. He’s 6’2 240lbs. from Azusa Pacifc and one of his coaches is HOF Jackie Slater, father of Patriots Matthew Slater.

      • Stephen J says:

        Just came across the MVP of NFLPA Bowl but didn’t realize Jackie Slater aspect thanks.

    • Stephen J says:

      A good backround piece

      Did you know Terrell Watson broke Christian Okoye records take a look

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    If you can remeber back about 2 years ago in preseason we had a dynamic, young RB that everyone liked and wanted to keep, his name is RB Quinten Hines-Akron is one the RBs at Veterans Combine, and if he test well, i hope they bring him to camp, ran in the 4.3s 2 years ago.

  4. Stephen J says:

    This from nfldraftdiamonds.com

    Rashard Cliett – LB – University of South Florida – Has a private workout scheduled with the New England Patriots on the 30th of March.

    This write up on profootballspot.com

    RESHARD CLIETT (SOUTH FLORIDA) 6-2, 235 40: 4.61

    -Has the distinction of being “a really good player on some really bad teams” at USF, Cliett could be the sleeper pick in this year’s draft among linebackers
    -The lack of his team’s success has not allowed him to stand out like other prospects
    -Experts believe his stock could soar between now and the draft; tremendous worker, huge upside
    SWR: 4

    Lofton and David Hawthorne both saw time at the MLB spot this season (Lofton would battle an injury all season long, yet he stayed on the field. This wouldn’t be a bad place to spend a draft pick, but ONLY if you can get the right player.

    This isn’t the greatest year for inside linebackers in the draft. In all honesty, with maybe the exception of Perryman, I just don’t see any of the prototypical franchise linebackers that you’d build a defense around. But as far as adding depth behind your starters, there were a few that stood out to me. Stephone Anthony (Clemson) could be a very good fit for the Saints. I also really liked Amarlo Herrera (UGA), and Rashard Cliett is going to play and pay big dividends for whoever has the courage to pick him

  5. Roxy Bob says:

    Mock Draft #3 Rd 1. Marcus Peters CB or Kevin Johnson CB Rd 2. Arie Kouandjo G Rd 3a. Nate Orchard DE/LB Rd 3b. Marcus Hardison DT Rd 4a. Justin Hardy WR Rd 4b. Eric Rowe DB Rd 6a. David Cobb RB Rd 6b.Mark Glowinski T/G Rd 7. Nick Marshall Athl.

  6. Stephen J says:

    This from Walterfootball.com

    The New England Patriots were the only team on hand for Maine’s pro day. Cornerback Axel Ofori measured 5-10 1/8 and 195 pounds, timed 4.56 and 4.58 seconds in the 40, and touched 40-inches in the vertical jump.

  7. Stephen J says:

    This from Rand Getlin yesterday
    Patriots working out an intriguing small-school prospect: WOU WR Tyrell Williams. Went 10’7 broad, 39.5 vert and 4.38 40 at his pro day.
    At 6’4″ 210 intriguing indeed

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    If you’re interested, the NFL Veterans Combine will be televised on Sunday March 22 at 8pm ET on the NFL Network. Go to their website for the list of entrants.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Veterans Combine possible players for Patriots to sign.

      1 Da’Rel Scott RB Maryland
      2 Larry Black DT Indiana
      3 Thomas Keiser LB Stanford
      4 Jerron Mcmillian S Maine
      5 Michael Huey G Texas
      6 Keon Lyn CB Syracuse

  9. Dan Sullivan says:

    Free Agents for Patriots.
    Justin Blalock G
    Nate Washington WR
    Phillip Wheeler OLB

    1 Jake Fisher OT
    2 Tre’ Jackson G
    3 Ifo Ekpre -Olomu CB
    3 Gabe Wright DT
    4 Max Valles ILB
    4 Ellis McCarthy DT
    6 Tony Washington OLB
    7 Nick Marshall S-CB

  10. Russell says:

    One rule change I would like to see, is when an Offence has the ball inside the 10 yd line, the Back judge (behind the LB’s) should line up on the end zone back line. The field is so condenced, their are to many bodies , in the area.

  11. qwerty says:

    Dolphins and Jets are building to beat the Patriots but they must figure out a way to beat the Bills. Bills seem like the strongest team but will they be able to withstand injuries and beat other contenders outside the division. Bills will be interesting to watch. Patriots already won the super bowl so there is no pressure to win another. Patriots need to strengthen their secondary to truly be competitive. i think that will take another year or so. My expectations are low for the Patriots this year but i’m fine with that. I keep saying the past 3 years that bills finally have enough talent and the last 3 years they disappointed. The bills have brought a lot of talent to the team at a reasonable price so 2015 season should be their shot at going into the playoffs and win. If they can’t with this team then i don’t know what they could do. Bills don’t need a great QB to win but a QB that minimizes turn overs. Seattle has proved that you don’t need an elite QB to win super bowl but you do need at least great defense.

    • DMC413 says:

      I agree with the fins and Jets(crop dusters) have built there teams to beat NE…. But see that’s where they are going wrong.

      Todays NFL requires you to be good at every level. You can’t get caught building for one team and then what happens when you meat up against the polar opposite in the playoffs, your done!!

      Everyone thought we were building for Denver last yr but in actuality we were building the complete team to accommodate all teams. Why you think we kept Vince last yr, it was so when needed we could employ a 3 dl-man (Vince, Branch, Siliga) of 325 plus up front to defend the best of the best run teams with Revis/Browner handling the WR’s.

      All im saying when you build with one team in mind you Lose because you set the bar at that level and that is the wrong way of thinking if you want to hold the Lombardi Trophy in Feb!!

    • DMC413 says:

      There’s one question that remains with the Bills and that’s who is there QB? Judging by what we say last year I will take my boy TB any day. Even if all a sudden Manuel figures it out next yr, down the stretch when it counts im rolling with the Brady Bunch!

  12. Dan Sullivan says:

    I very much like what Patriots have done recently with Travaris Cadet, Bradley Fletcher
    and Robert McClain they will excel in Patriots system.

  13. Jeff says:

    Assuming a 3rd round compensatory pick, a swap of 3rd round picks with the Jets due to tampering, free agent signings of guard Mike Pollack and running back Pierre Thomas, and T. Wilson, Wendell, and Dennard all becoming cap casualties, the Pats roster would project to look something like this next year:

    OT (4): Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming
    Interior O-Line (5): Pollack (FA), Tomlinson (2nd round), Stork, Marpet (3rd round), Kline
    QB (2): Brady, Garapollo
    RB (5): Blount, Gray, Bolden, Thomas (FA), White
    TE/FB (4): Gronkowski, Chandler, Wright, Develin
    WR (6): Edelman, Lafell, Amendola, Gibson, Dobson, Slater
    DE (5): Jones, Ninkovich, Sheard, Za’Darius Smith (3rd), Moore
    DT (5): Easley, Siliga, Branch, Jones, Walton (4th)
    LB (5): Mayo, Hightower, Collins, Heeney (4th), Spaight (6th)
    CB (5): Fletcher, Johnson (1st), Arrington, Ryan, Butler
    S (4): McCourty, Chung, Harmon, Ebner

    PS (10): OL- Devey, Diffenbach (7th); QB- Gilbert; RB- Gaffney; WR-Boyce; DT-Vellano; DE-Buchanan; LB-Gordon; DB-Green, Swanson

    I think this year’s squad will have excellent depth, better than last season (although the team stayed pretty healthy and didn’t test depth too much), although it will have some question marks in terms of impact starting talent when it comes to interior O-line, defensive tackle, and cornerback. At those positions, the Pats will be hoping for contributions from draft picks or development of young players like Easley, Bulter, and Ryan. The team will be good, and with a little luck, the team could be dominant. With a little bad luck, the team will be relying on Brady and creative defensive pressure to win games.

  14. Ryan says:

    I think its fair to evaluate the Patriots’ run at free agency 7 days into the process, as there are very few impact free agents left. We could end up with another veteran corner like Charles Tillman, Rashean Mathis or Terrence Newman (who is visiting the Pats now), but I think an overall evaluation is fair at this point.

    Resigned: FS Devin McCourty, DT Alan Branch, WR Brian Tyms

    Signings: OLB Jabaal Sheard, TE Scott Chandler, WR Brandon Gibson, RB Travaris Cadet, LB Jonathan Freeny, DB Chimdi Chekwa, WR Kevin Dorsey

    Departing Patriots: CB Darrelle Revis, DT Vince Wilfork, CB Brandon Browner, RB Shane Vereen, LB Akeem Ayers

    Even if we sign a veteran cornerback, it’s pretty clear that free agency did not go well for the Patriots. The team definitely lost talent over the course of the past seven days. Sheard definitely makes up for Ayers and the combination of Chandler, Gibson, and Cadet should overshadow the loss of Vereen on offense, but the losses of Wilfork, Revis and Browner on the defensive side of the football have not been compensated for.

    There’s always the draft and we can expect to have 5 top-100 picks this year, but make no mistake: the Patriots got worse in free agency, especially on defense.

  15. Russell says:

    Patriots just signed RB Travaris Cadet former Saints runnng back.

    • acm says:

      Yet another non-tendered, restricted FA signed by the Pats this off-season (same as LB Freeney and CB Chekwa). Signing these guys does NOT count against the comp pick formula for 2016.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, the Pats were front and center at Buffalo’s pro day and i’m glad they had chance to see Kristjan Sokoli in person. Only 7 teams sent scouts, also thanks for the info! I believe this the is draft gem or UDFA must.

        • acm says:

          Cheers, JHT!
          Problem with the UB proday was that both the Ravens and the Seahawks had people there and Sokoli strikes me as the type of player these two usually go for. Point is, I doubt he lasts till the 7th also because this draft class isn’t all that deep and he’d be sticking like s ore thumb in the late rounds.
          I think If Pats want him, they’d have to take in early 6th at the latest.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      Russell, I like this FA move, this is how you build an NFL roster without killing the cap with big name player, Bill Belichick is the ultimate garbage man!

  16. J H TARBORO says:

    At Rex Ryan’s press conference when introduced as the Bills head coach, Ryan stated we are building a ” bully”. Buffalo will be a dangerous opponent and we can’t be naive in saying that they don’t have a QB, we don’t really know what step or steps EJ Manuel has taken this offseason reguardless of Matt Cassell. If Manuel has progressed, we’re going have problems. If you look at our current roster, we’re not in bad shape at all, but we must have a better draft than ’13 and ’14.

  17. steve earle says:

    Buffalo will be a dangerous team but always has been but at the critical QB position all they have done is change the names not the quality. Brady still makes the difference.

  18. Mike B says:

    * Hravin and Clay not done deals yet.
    * Foxboro colder and windier than Buffalo in Nov and Dec. Check w meterologist.
    * NE likely has the weakest defense in AFC East now.
    *NE has lost a ton of talent this year while rest of AFC East has improved.
    * Buffalo will not pass the ball 30 times like NE. Less need to depend on QB excellence.
    * Buffalo wideouts scary plus play action will open bigger windows for QB.
    * Buffalo had a top 3 defense before Ryan. Ryan will improve Bills defense.
    * NE running game depleted allowing Bills to focus on defending NE short pass game.
    * Bills beat NE at Foxboro. Jets almost beat them twice with far less talent.
    * Teams coming off superbowl typically have a down year.
    * Brady getting older and less manuverable. Bills led league in sacks last two years.
    * Bills pass defense getting better and Searcy replacement will be good (watch).

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