There is still plenty of work to be done in Doug Marrone's second year.
The last few weeks have been spent hashing out plenty of avenues for free agency and the draft in May, but could there be any opportunities for the Buffalo Bills to pursue to improve their roster through a trade?
While in-season trades before the midseason deadline are pretty rare, the few weeks leading into the collegiate draft presents a prime chance to find a bargain from another team. A majority of the players available at this time of year are ones their respective teams have soured on due to attitude or disappointing production in respect to their draft position.
The Bills took advantage of such an opportunity last offseason during draft week, when they did a one-for-one swap with the Indianapolis Colts. Former first-round selection Jerry Hughes had worn out his welcome after a disappointing three seasons in the Midwest and came over to the Bills in return for inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
Buffalo won the first year of the deal as Hughes became the pass-rush specialist he was expected to be coming out of TCU. Hughes broke out with 10 sacks because he was allowed to "pin back his ears," while the coaches limited his other responsibilities.
That type of luck might be hard to come by two years in a row, but there is little doubt the Bills will look to be active in any way they can to improve the team by addition or subtraction. Let's take a look at a few possible trade scenarios which would be beneficial for the Bills to think about during the offseason.
Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph was given a seven-year deal after the 2010 season, one he has struggled to live up to as the Buccaneers have struggled. Despite the big money involved in the contract, Joseph has already received a majority of the $19 million guaranteed in the deal, which could make him a cap casualty in the coming weeks.
The former first-round pick missed the entire 2012 season due to injury, but he has been a mostly healthy player since being drafted in 2006. He quickly ascended to the level as one of the best guards in the NFL, but the Bucs ineffectiveness on offense in recent years has marred his value.
Buffalo is in the market for a guard, and although the veteran route did not work for the team in 2013, Joseph would be a clear upgrade over either of the guys who started on the left side. A highly drafted rookie is still preferable at guard, but if Joseph can be had for cheap and reconfigures his contract, his addition would be a beneficial one.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl in his third season as a pro.
Now before you get all hot and bothered about even suggesting such a travesty, let's take a look at Marcell Dareus' final month of the 2013 regular season.
In a Week 16 win at home against Miami, Dareus was suspended for the first quarter due to a team-rules violation. The third-year player did the song and dance following the game, apologizing to fans and teammates for the discretions.
However, only a week later, Dareus was suspended for the entire first half in a lopsided loss to the New England Patriots. The Bills badly missed his size in the middle of the line as the Patriots gashed them in the run game.
Chronic lateness—Dareus' issue with the team—may seem like a silly trait to get in a tizzy over, but the missteps could be the sign of a greater character flaw.
From a football standpoint, Dareus is still far from heading into his prime, and his Pro Bowl nod will earn him a little more patience with fans, but the former Alabama player needs to make amends with Doug Marrone moving forward.
A fantasy return for Dareus wouldn't be as high as his draft status as the third overall pick, but a first-round offer could give the Bills pause if they are unsure of his off-the-field characteristics.
The Bills slid down out of the top 10 last year and picked up Kiko Alonso with an extra second.
A year ago the Bills felt they could still get their guy if they slid down seven spots in order to pick up an extra second-round selection. Buffalo still picked up EJ Manuel—who was the team's favorite quarterback in the draft—but the biggest chip of the deal may end up being linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Alonso was the player picked with St. Louis' second-round pick, and he turned into a legend in Orchard Park seemingly overnight.
Teams like Chicago or Baltimore could be interested in ponying up for a shot at players like Khalil Mack or Greg Robinson, but many of the teams drafting directly after Buffalo have many of the same needs. The Bills would have to be in a similar situation as last year to even consider such a proposition, but a fairly deep first round might open avenues for sliding or rising on Day 1.
The guys over at Team Stream Now talked with Buffalo News columnist Tim Graham last week about the rumblings of Stevie Johnson finally wearing out his welcome with the Bills. There have been plenty of issues with Johnson both on and off the field since he became one of the only reliable receiving options for the team four yeas ago.
The question is, do his antics outweigh his production at this point in his career? Johnson is far from an old guy at 27, and he's coming into the third year of a five-year extension he signed during the 2012 offseason. Fans were split about the re-signing at the time because of his up-and-down personality on the field, but consecutive 1,000-yard seasons was hard to scoff at for a struggling franchise.
Johnson had his worst season as a starter in 2013 while struggling with a nagging groin injury and the unsuspected death of his mother in December. The inconsistencies at quarterback didn't help either, as he fell short of 1,000 yards for the first time since 2010.
The Bills upgraded their depth at receiver and tight end in 2013 and could look to do so again in the coming draft.
So where does that leave Stevie?
Johnson presents a solid value for a player of his production, but the general feeling given off by Tim Graham in the interview is that the ball is in Johnson's court. Entering his sixth season, Johnson is a young guy who is being asked to lead on an even younger team, which might not be his strong suit.
If the coaches feel they are losing Johnson in the locker room as Graham discusses, then it might be time to move on from the roller-coaster relationship with their top receiver.