In a move that will like send shockwaves throughout western New York and perhaps even more places than that, the Bills signed Mario Williams, the top defensive free agent. When you make a 100 million dollar investment like that, one thing is clear: you have to continue moving forward to protect that investment.
Make no mistake about this, Mario Williams signing with the Bills is a big deal around the league. This move puts Buffalo on the map as far as free agents are concerned, so with whatever amount of money the Bills will have left, they have to continue to shore up their defense.
Looking at the upcoming draft, there is quite a bit of depth there on the defensive line, but I do not believe there are any "can't miss" prospects on the defensive line in the first round. Surely the Bills will be able to attract another defensive end or linebacker on the market and pitch the following dialogue to them: "Come here and play on or behind the best defensive line in the NFL."
Although the New York Giants might have something to say about that.
To the Bills' credit, they have been more than resilient this offseason after losing out on Robert Meachem, Mario's dinner partner, and also coveted defensive back Stanford Routt. When Buffalo missed on Stanford Routt, as painful as that was, they learned their lesson well. Using that insight and a Brinks truck worth of Ralph Wilson's cash, they wine and dined—and quarantined—Mario Williams and his fiancee, convincing them that Buffalo could be a winner.
Buddy Nix's honesty is something to truly appreciate in this day and age in the sports world, where you barely can believe anything that you hear until you see it. This honesty can come as a surprise to fans, especially when Nix or Gailey's words are acted upon, but for better or for worse at least you know which way the team is headed.
Hopefully the next steps in the journey include the following: getting a starter at left tackle and getting a big speedy wideout that can stretch the field and play consistently well. The left tackle is pretty cut and dry; he needs to be able to block and fit in with an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL last season.
The number two receiver who is good enough to be a number one presents the most challenging role to fill and has been an issue for the Bills for quite some time. With the exception of the Terrell Owens/Lee Evans experiment, the Bills have been unable to get another receiver that can draw coverage away from their number one receiver. If you look back on the recent history of the Bills, it has been to have a talented number one, let him struggle to get 1,000 yards, bring in a free agent that can't get the job done, and then draft a player that will be good enough to be a number one just as the former number one is declining. See Lee Evans, Eric Moulds and Andre Reed.
The next move the Bills need to make is to use the rest of free agency to shore up their defense. If they can grab a left tackle, or a guy that can swing over there, that's great. If they can't, then they have to go to the draft, and I believe they can find a guy in the second round that can be a starter for them at left tackle. I would look at guys like Ole Miss's Bobby Massie or Illinois' Jeff Allen, or even Troy University's James Brown.
To fill the wide receiver position they have to strike early due to the complexity of the player they are looking for. He has to be big and strong, in order to be effective when conditions get chippy, and also because Nix desires a wideout who is always open.
Not a bad thing; however, he also needs to have game-breaking speed to open the field up for master route-runner Steve Johnson. Additionally, he needs to be able to fight for the ball deep because his quarterback has questionable accuracy and arm strength to get him the ball out there. To find a wideout that can meet all these needs, now that Vincent Jackson has signed elsewhere, is crucial.
I think they have to be looking at a guy like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Miami's Tommy Streeter or South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey. Floyd and Jeffrey, who are perhaps the best of those, come with red flags, which the Bills might avoid. However, if the Bills do draft any wideout other than Floyd, they should trade down to do so, a move Nix would gladly oblige.
So whether the Bills go for offense or defense in the early in the draft or doing the rest of free agency, one thing is certain: They must continue to push the envelope.