Buffalo Bills: A Complete Offseason Analysis and Strategy
After an impressive and exciting 5-1 start, the Buffalo Bills looked to end their nine year playoff drought. Many believed they would win a suddenly weak division without Tom Brady, and an excelling Trent Edwards.
Unfortunately like so many other Bills fans' dreams, reality came crashing down. The Bills finished the season a pathetic 7-9 for a third straight year.
The season ended with fans and media asking questions like “Will Dick Jauron come back?”, when it was announced that Jauron would indeed return as head coach, fans then began to ask “…why?”
Although many argued continuity, that seems to be more of an excuse to make ourselves feel better then a legitimate reason to keep a coach who has proven with the Bills and the Bears, he has no business being a head coach in the NFL.
Now is not the time to quibble about the coaching situation however, the decision has been made and there’s nothing we can do about it. So what’s next?
Well my friends it’s time for the most exciting part of football, the offseason. True it may not get the hype the playoffs, or the Super Bowl receives.
There are no clever commercials about a baby playing golf while trading on etrade, or one-second Miller High Life commercials, so why is it the most exciting time of the year?
Simple, the offseason is the one time of the year that the Oakland Raiders are just as good as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Kansas City Chiefs as good as Arizona Cardinals, and the Detroit Lions…well...let’s not go crazy.
Every team has the opportunity to be the big winner, and every fan hopes and prays that their team will land that big free agent to push their team over the top.
So what do the Buffalo Bills need to do to push their team over the hump and break the now-longest playoff drought in the NFL?
Well, here’s a look at the team by a position by position analysis and what the best move would be for the organization, not just from a player perspective but also from a business perspective.
First, the position was evaluated based on the players already on the Bills roster. Then the options, then if the position needs attention there is a “Final Answer” this is the best move for the Bills this offseason and would fill the hole on the team.
I also put a mini-mock draft at the end and where we got what picks from if they were not our own. Also, in the mini-mock draft I included notes about any players I didn’t have in the write up.
These players were left off the write-up because they are simply depth players and aren’t expected to make a huge impact, although as we’ve seen in the past, you never know what will come out of the draft.
So here we go...
Trent Edwards' play fluctuated greatly throughout the season, but one thing was clear; the Bills only real shot at winning were the games in which he was behind center.
Losman has proven time and again that he cannot be trusted as a starter or even backup. His release should be unquestioned.
Without much chance to see Hamden play, it is unclear as to whether or not he could lead our team, though his solid character has shown with his limited dealings with the media and has become somewhat of a fan favorite.
Many people believe the Bills will go after a veteran backup for Trent Edwards, however considering the free agency crop; this doesn’t appear to be a wise move.
Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia lead the class, and both will demand more money than would be reasonable for a backup.
If Jon Kitna is released from Detroit, he could be a good fit, although he started with both Cincinnati and Detroit he spent the season on IR last year which will bring his price down.
Despite some off-the-field issues he had, he seems like a good leader, and Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson seemed to respect him a great deal.
Other free agents include Rex Grossman and Kyle Boller; both, like JP, have proven they can’t win in the NFL. Although Grossman did lead the Bears to the Super Bowl, he committed 25 turnovers that season and the team was propelled mainly by the Defense.
Charlie Batch is another possible backup who, while playing in Pittsburgh proved he could step in and lead a team but isn’t a full-time starter.
He was moved to No. 3 on the depth chart after Byron Leftwhich was signed, but that shouldn’t be held against him. Leftwich is an underrated quarterback and played superbly in relief of Ben Roethlisberger.
The draft is an unattractive place to look at quarterbacks because if Edwards gets hurt, then the Bills are left with only Hamden or a Rookie. However a late-round pick, maybe a seventh, wouldn’t be wasted on UB’s Drew Willy.
He showed flashes of excellence at UB and although he would be a project player, it would give fans another reason to purchase Bills tickets.
Even if Willy never plays a snap, the public relations of the Bills drafting a Buffalo guy would improve their standing in the community and help sell tickets for fans to cheer on a hometown hero.
Final answer: Draft Drew Willey in the sixth or seventh round and sign a veteran QB like Kitna or Batch. Someone who won’t demand a ton of money but we’ll be able to step in and not single-handedly lose the game for the Bills, like Losman did…a lot.
Although mostly unaccredited the Bills have one of the best running combinations in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in the league. They don’t garner the attention of the media like the Giants or Panthers backfield, but they’re just as good, if not better.
With Xavier Omen as the third string RB; the position is one of strength for the team and does not need to be addressed via free agency or the draft.
However it would be a good idea to lock up Fred Jackson to a long-term contract to ensure the continued development and success of the Bills' running game.
A Glaring hole on the Bills offense. Not the biggest worry on the offense but a position that needs to be addressed. Darian Barnes, who was released early in the season, was decent and contributed to the offense, but wasn’t a great lead blocker.
Corey McIntyre, his replacement, clearly isn’t a viable candidate for the starting fullback job, and Jason Whittle, who saw time at fullback, simply isn’t fast enough.
The only fullback that stands out in free agency is Heath Evans, but his age and durability are a concern.
Looking at RB’s that could play FB in free agency the only one that seemingly could have any success would be Lamont Jordan, but whether or not he would be willing to sign with a team that want to use him as a fullback is questionable.
He’s a hard runner and decent in run blocking, if nothing else, he would be a plug until a true fullback could be found.
Another interesting fullback idea could be Jim Kleinsasser, the tight end from Minnesota. He’s got good footwork and is an above average run blocker.
He also has the speed to get into the secondary and he’s a big body so our small running backs could follow him through the hole easily.
The draft has a few fullbacks who could be taken in the fifth or sixth round. The best is Brannan Southerland from Georgia, who is projected to a 4.6 40 and has great blocking skills.
The other Fullback that would fit the Bills could be Jorvorskie Lane from Texas A&M. At 6 foot and 285 pounds, he’s a monster fullback who specializes in short-yardage situations, but has the speed to get to the second level and blocking skills to stand up to a blitz.
Final Answer: Draft Javorski in the sixth or seventh round. Decide on which round by gauging the teams that could be looking at QB’s or FB’s and how many are left on the board.
Lee Evans is a great No. 2 receiver, but unfortunately that’s where it ends. He doesn’t have the size to be a true No. 1 receiver and lacks the talent to make up for that size, like Steve Smith from Carolina does.
Evans' best years were when he played opposite Eric Moulds, a tall receiver who was the epitome of a possession receiver.
Josh Reed is one of, if not the best downfield blocking receiver in the league, but he doesn’t have the ability to take over as the No. 1 receiver. If a No. 1 receiver was found, however, he could be an elite slot receiver like Brandon Stokely, and Evans could develop into an elite No. 2 receiver.
Steve Johnson showed great potential in limited play last season and is worth a spot as a fourth or fifth receiver, until he can move up the depth chart. Parrish is a phenomenal kick/punt returner but has struggled to develop as a receiver.
Certainly with the emergence of Leodis McKelvin in the return game and Terrance McGee, a known threat in the return game; Parrish has become expendable, although as a fan, I would love to see him stay.
Hardy had a couple nice catches and a couple costly drops. Unfortunately, due to his injury and lack of experience, it’s impossible to tell whether he can develop into the player the Bills were hoping for when they drafted him in the second round.
This is possibly the hardest position to come up for a plan for this year, because the unknown is too great to sign a big name free agent, and drafting another receiver earlier gives Hardy the automatic label of “bust” whether he deserves it or not.
Certainly TJ Houshmanzadeh would be an immediate improvement and could take this receiving corps to the next level immediately; however he will carry a big price tag, and would most likely require the releasing of Parrish, Johnson, Reed, or Hardy.
That option isn’t truly viable, and the Bills have bigger needs to spend draft picks on, than receiver. This position should be left alone at least until next season.
Possibly the biggest hole on the Bills roster. Fine showed some talents, as did Schouman, but the Bills are in desperate need of a true H-back tight end.
The Bills need a receiving tight end that can stretch the field and act as a big body across the middle for Trent Edwards.
This would also improve our receivers, as it would take coverage away from them. Robert Royal was the best blocking tight end in the league when the Bills signed him, unfortunately the Bills seemed to ignore that fact and try and force him into a receiving tight end role.
Now you hear consistently through the media that Royal should be released; however, this would only hinder our offense rather than help it. Without Royal a receiving tight end will not be as effective.
The best example of this is Robert Royal when he played for Washington. When he played there Chris Cooley was in the top 5 of receiving tight ends in the league, after he left Cooley’s production dropped dramatically.
When you look at the great receiving tight ends in the league they all have a great blocking tight end with them. Tony Gonzales has Jason Dunn, Antonio Gates has Brandon Manumaleuna.
Although often ignored, this detail is extremely important. If the Bills had a great receiving tight end, Royal would only help his production.
Vernon Davis is a perfect example of a player who could be a great receiving tight end, but has no blocking tight end to help him out. Therefore Davis tends to get lost in the offense and hasn’t produced the numbers he was expected to when drafted.
Free agency leaves much to be desired, Bo Scaife has shown some promise but will probably be resigned by Tennessee, and L.J. Smith is past his prime.
Owen Daniels is an attractive offer; He had some success in Houston and could team up nicely with Royal, if Houston doesn’t resign him.
There are some stand out tight ends in college like Brandon Pettigrew from OSU and Chase Coffman from Missouri, however the best idea may not be to risk an early draft pick, but instead go for a tight end with success that can come in, team up with Royal and dominate from day one.
Consider a trade; the best scenario in my mind would be a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Kellen Winslow Jr. is an outstanding Tight end who I’m sure would love the chance to leave Cleveland, after the staph infection incident.
Some people see him talking about it with the media as a negative thing; I however saw it as a positive. He wasn’t criticizing his teammates, or anything about the game plan, he was critizing the loyalty to the players of the Cleveland Browns.
Phil Savage not calling him when he was in the hospital hurt Winslow emotionally, and I’m sure he’d like to cut ties and move on. Also, he’s from a small market city so he wouldn’t be opposed to going to another small market, and the Bills could probably get him for maybe a (2nd and 5th) or (2nd and 4th) package deal. In my plan, we will get them back down the line.
This would increase our offensive production immensely and from a business perspective would create a lot of revenue from both increase ticket sales, (people want to see stars) and jersey sales.
Final Answer: Trade for Kellen Winslow Jr. A second and fourth round pick should get the deal done, due to his lack of consistency and the new Browns regime may want to clean house and start over.
The Bills are Stacked at tackle with Jason Peters, Kirk Chambers, and Langston Walker.
Peters wants a new contract and it will be extremely expensive. If not given to him, another long holdout can be expected and poor play when returning is a definite threat.
This is where the Bills can get an early draft pick back that was given up to get Kellen Winslow Jr.
Trading Peters now is a great idea, he was just nominated to his second pro-bowl which will increases his draft stock and Kirk Chambers proved he can come in and play just as well as Peters, and seemingly with fewer penalties.
The Bills could shoot for a first round draft pick for Peters, but be willing to settle on a second. This will get back the early draft pick, and with left tackles being so rare in the NFL, it would be hard to imagine a team not willing to trade for a Pro Bowler who is still very young.
Another tackle could be taken in the fourth or fifth round for insurance in case of injury and our Tackle position could maintain its integrity.
Final Answer: Trade Jason Peters to the Lions for their 22nd pick. A Pro Bowl left tackle increases his trade value, and his new contract demands and the distractions he causes on the team make it a good move to send him packing.
The Lions would likely jump at this deal because the debate for their pick seems to be between QB and LT. A young pro bowl LT would fill a hole immediately and make the decision for the first overall pick much easier.
The 22nd overall pick should then be traded down to perhaps Pittsburgh to get the last 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick.
The Steelers would probably accept this because it would give them a chance to move up big and get two offensive linemen in the first round and solidify a position that is could have some holes once free agency is over.
Dockery is a superb guard who is very underrated. Butler, however, is a hole on our offensive line and Jason Whittle, while a decent backup, simply isn’t good enough to be a starter on a line that’s stacked with talent at both tackles and left guard.
The best way of fixing this need would be through free agency. Signing a veteran guard in his prime would give us four veteran quality offensive linemen and will surely give Edwards more time and help in defending the 3-4 defenses, while opening holes for the running game.
The best free agent fit would be Jason Brown of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s 6-3 and 320 pounds which is perfect considering the size of the rest of our offensive line and has shown consistency and explosiveness off the line during his career.
He would take our right side of the line to the next level. Although he played a lot at Center for Baltimore, he is a true Guard and that is where he will be most productive.
Baltimore will focus on trying to keep as many of its playmakers on defense under contract this offseason which should make Brown the odd man out. He is a must-sign for the Bills.
Final Answer: Sign Jason Brown. Enough said.
Center: The Bills biggest weakness is at center. Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston both showed they can’t hold up against a 3-4 nose tackle. Considering the other three teams in the AFC East all run 3-4 defenses, this is a must fix immediately.
Free agency is basically void of centers so there’s no reason to look there.
The Draft is heavy with immensely talented centers and leading the pack is Alex Mac from Cal. The problem with Mac is that he tends to struggle against 3-4 nose tackles, and on top of that, the 11th pick is too early to take him, or any center, and he probably won’t be around when pick 42 rolls around.
I think the best fit center for our offensive line and our team in general would be Jonathon Luigs from Arkansas. He will be there in the second round when our pick comes up and has proven that he is the top of his class on 1 on 1 battle, 3-4 nose tackles.
He has great leadership qualities and should be able to step in and dominate from day one. With Luigs in between Brown and Dockery, no defensive player will be able to break through the center of our offensive line.
Final answer: Luigs is the man for the Bills. What’s even more tempting is that he’ll probably be there in the third round. The only real danger is Kansas City in the third round, but with so many holes, center seems an unlikely pick.
Our defense got a bad reputation last season because of our nine losses. However they held most teams to less than 20 points per game.
The only times teams scored a lot of points was when the Bills put up big points too. Our defense is almost there, but needs a few additions to really take it to the next level.
Aaron Schobel is a stalwart on the defensive line, and his true value was shown after he was hurt and the Bills could mount no pass rush what so ever.
Kelsay proved what I had thought for a long time, that he was a good rotational defensive end, but not a starter.
Ellis rarely got onto the field, and Denney showed why he’s nothing more than a backup defensive end.
Assuming the Bills don’t want to break the bank to get Peppers, the draft is the place to look for a Defensive end, and with the No. 11 pick, there’s a great chance they could grab the top end entering the draft.
Brian Orakpo from Texas is the best defensive end in the draft. He is explosive off the line and can dominate most tackles getting into the backfield every play. He’s a home run prospect and is a no-brainer pick for the Bills with the 11th pick overall.
The only negative with Orakpo is that he could be drafted by the Packers with the ninth pick, which is a very real possibility.
Everette Brown from Florida State could be the next defensive end after Orakpo goes, which would be no surprise.
Brown is a monster defensive end with a never-ending motor. The downside of Brown is that he’s a 3-4 Defensive end, and not a 4-3, but could probably both play and excel for the Bills.
Tyson Jackson from LSU is the other option the Bills have. A superb pass rusher with a great motor, but doesn’t have the pure talent as an Orakpo or Brown. He will probably have a great NFL career and would be a great pick at No. 11.
Aaron Maybin from Penn State – An unpolished Defensive end, will probably be great after a few years but not a starter right away. Could be the best defensive end in the draft in five years, but not ready to step in and start right away.
Final Answer: the Bills take either Orakpo or Brown, whoever is left. If neither are there they reach for Tyson Jackson. Aaron Maybin is too unpolished and it could be a few years before he comes into his own. Jackson, Orakpo or Brown could step in and dominate from Day 1.
Marcus Stroud is not only the anchor of our line but our entire defense. He has great run stuffing ability and is fast enough to get into the backfield to wreak havoc on the quarterback.
He immediately improved our defensive line and defense as a whole. Kyle Williams is a decent starter on our defensive line but will be needed to replace, just not necessarily right away.
Pending on the salary cap, it would be at least worth it to take a look and see what Albert Haynesworth wants from free agency, but chances are it would be way too much for a position that doesn’t need an immediate upgrade.
Aside from Haynesworth, the rest of the Defensive Tackle free agents are past their prime or don’t have the talent level to replace Kyle Williams.
Ron Brace from Boston College could be a nice third round draft pick for the Bills if he’s still available. Although a 3-4 nose tackle at BC, his big body (6-3, 329 pounds) next to Marcus Stroud could make a wall of man-flesh the Bills haven’t seen since Pat Williams was next to Ted Washington or Sam Adams.
However, projected to go in the mid- to late-second round he could not be on the board by the time the Bills pick rolls around.
Fili Moala from USC is primarily a 3-4 end but could be moved inside to DT. The big body could help stuff the middle next to Stroud; however, some character issues can be brought up about him. Decent pick in the third round but again could be gone once the Bills' pick comes.
Dorrell Scott from Clemson could be the best fit for the Bills in the third round. At 6-4, and 313 pounds, he’s a wall and put next to Stroud and rotated with Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson they could be the best inside defensive line group in the league.
A never ending motor and solid character should place him nicely as a possible pick for the Buffalo Bills.
Final Answer: In the third round, I like either Ron Brace or Dorrell Scott. Brace will probably be off the board which leaves Scott, who could come in and rotate with Kyle Williams.
Between Kyle Williams, Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson, and Dorrell Scott, the Bills could rotate four monster defensive tackles and keep the middle clogged all day.
Currently the position is being held by Paul Posluszny who is a great linebacker. Posluszny is a great linebacker but is better fit on the outside. When the Bills played Posluszny at outside linebacker he dominated, but when he plays inside he seems to get lost.
He racks up tackles but he isn’t the same playmaker he is on the outside. Alvin Bowen could be a solid linebacker but due to his injury there isn’t much known about him.
Angelo Crowell however if re-signed could come back and be a great inside linebacker. He dominated the middle linebacker position before being placed on injured reserve last season and was a leader on the defense. If Crowell is resigned, nothing need be done at this position for next year.
Kawika Mitchell joined the team last season and immediate made an impact. Mitchell is a great playmaking outside linebacker with great character and athleticism, and was a fantastic addition to our defense.
If Crowell is resigned Posluzny could be moved back to the outside where he excels. Between Posluszny, Crowell, and Mitchell, the Bills could have the best linebacking corps in the league.
Jon Corto and Blake Costanzo are fan favorites and could be serviceable if asked to move up.
Keith Ellison also in the mix is a solid replacement as a linebacker, not a great starter but certainly worth having on the team as long as he doesn’t want a huge contract.
Terrance McGee stepped up last season and became a much better cornerback then he has been in recent years. Jabari Greer also stepped up, and pending on the contract he wants is worth resigning.
Leodis McKelvin showed flashes of brilliance after a slow start in the beginning of the season, and Ashton Youboty showed some great ability at open field tackling rarely seen in a cornerback.
Reggie Corner also showed some good play last season and has a lot of potential. The Bills cornerback corps is one of the most underrated in the NFL and probably needs no help through free agency or the draft.
Between Donte Whitner, Ko Simpson, Brian Scott, and George Wilson and our large group of talented cornerbacks, safety is one of our safest positions.
Even with injuries, safety still has to be considered one of the strengths of our defense. Nothing need be done with this position through free agency or the draft.
Every true football fan loves the offseason, whether it be because they want to see their favorite player come play for their team, they just want to see their team finally turn it around, or maintain on top.
Even if you just like to try and stay ahead by watching all the offseason moves to try and orchestrate a fantasy football championship.
People say the football season is 17 weeks plus pre-season and playoffs, but we true fans know that football season is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Go Bills!
Mini Mock Draft, Bills
Round One pick 11—DE Brian Orakpo, Texas, Everette Brown, Florida State, or Tyson Jackson, LSU, too difficult to tell who will be there.
Round One pick 22 (From Detroit for Peters)—traded to Pittsburgh for second round pick 64 and fourth round pick 128
Round Two pick 42—traded to Cleveland
Round Two pick 64 (from Steelers)—C Jonathon Luigs, Arkansas
Round Three pick 75—DT Ron Brace, Boston College, or Darnell Scott, Clemson
Round Four pick 106—traded to Cleveland
Round Four Pick 128—OLB Zac Follett, Cal, solid linebacker, if Crowell can’t come back from knee injury could become the starter
Round Five pick 139—OT Sebastian Vollmer, Houston, depth pick here, fills the backup void at tackle now that Peters is a Detroit Lion
Round Six pick 170—FB Javorski Lane, Texas A&M
Round Seven pick 203—QB Drew Willy, Buffalo
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