It’s speculation galore this time of the NFL offseason, with fans, draftniks and analysts pondering every angle for every team.
The Buffalo Bills have had themselves a pretty busy offseason thus far. Their efforts to improve the pass rush have been successful, and now they can turn their attention to the NFL draft to bolster next year’s roster.
Even though the Bills have shored up one of their biggest holes by bringing in two quality free-agent pass-rushers, the team still has needs to fill. Among them are finding Steve Johnson a solid complementary wideout, establishing depth at linebacker and bringing in a left tackle to compete with Chris Hairston (since Demetrius Bell is still unsigned).
Another need, though, is continuing to strengthen the secondary.
Buffalo boasts a pretty decent batch of defensive backs, including career-Bill Terrence McGee, last year’s second-rounder Aaron Williams, veteran Drayton Florence, last year’s seventh-rounder Justin Rogers and former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin.
But if cornerback is a need, then why would the Bills trade one of their younger corners in McKelvin?
Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com recently discussed that McKelvin could be on the trade block, suggesting that the former Troy standout could be shipped to the Cleveland Browns for a sixth-round draft choice.
McKelvin has had a waterslide of a young career thus far—turns, splashes and occasional dark moments through the water tube that is NFL game day.
He’s only 26 years old and is a former first-round pick (11th overall). Coming from Troy, he wasn’t quite as polished as other players from top colleges, but he showed enough raw talent that the Bills felt he could be an asset under then head coach Dick Jauron.
Though he possesses the intangibles coaches look for in defensive backs—speed, strength and physicality—he’s had some trouble with his ball skills in the NFL, always seeming to turn his head a second too late or failing to get his hands up.
Sure, Buffalo may not see McKelvin in their long-term plans right now, but what if that all changes with a successful 2012 campaign?
At the start of the combine in February, head coach Chan Gailey spoke with WGR 550’s Joe Buscaglia about McKelvin’s struggles. Gailey conceded that while McKelvin has “‘a great deal of talent […] he just hasn’t made the plays when he’s had the opportunity.’”
However, Gailey also said that “‘Leodis has got one more year, and he has to come have a good year.’” The implication here is that Gailey and GM Buddy Nix don’t currently plan to retain McKelvin down the road, but they’re willing to give him one more chance to change their minds.
The Bills would be wise not to trade McKelvin.
I understand that if they choose not to re-sign him next year they’ll essentially lose him for nothing. But I think that his contributions this year will be more valuable than an additional sixth-round choice.
For the first time in his career, McKelvin will be playing behind a legitimate defensive line. Pro Bowler Kyle Williams and last year’s third overall draft pick Marcell Dareus will push the pocket inside, while newly signed Mario Williams and Mark Anderson figure to be the starters off the edge. With an improved pass rush, maybe McKelvin will be able to react to the ball a little bit better.
And let’s not forget that McKelvin is one of the top return specialists in the NFL.
The Bills have 10 picks in the draft. I don’t think they need an 11th just to ship away a guy who they potentially might not re-sign after a pivotal year, a year in which Gailey will be under the microscope. An extra pick is always nice, but if McKelvin can turn a corner in 2012, he could prove to be an important piece to Buffalo’s success next season.
By the way, the young corner only had one interception last year. But that interception came off of Tom Brady in a Week 3 victory.