Rounding Up the Latest Buffalo Bills Offseason Buzz
It has already been an eventful offseason for the Bills. General manager Doug Whaley was active in free agency, bringing in potential starters in Chris Williams, Brandon Spikes and Corey Graham. Whaley also made a splash during the draft, moving up to grab Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall.
With the summer and Bills practices heating up, let's round up all of the latest storylines surrounding the Bills. Who is stepping up in OTAs? Who is injured? And who is going to buy the team? We'll look at all of that and more in the coming slides.
Marcell Dareus Living in Hot Water
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus continues to find trouble.
It started at the end of 2013, when head coach Doug Marrone sat Dareus for portions of the last two games for violations of team rules. Then Dareus was arrested in Alabama for possession of synthetic marijuana.
After his latest arrest, Marrone and Dareus reached a mutual agreement that Dareus would sit out the rest of OTAs. Also, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reported that Dareus applied for a pre-trial intervention program regarding his drug arrest in Alabama.
It's no secret Dareus is in the Bills' plans for the future. He went to his first Pro Bowl after the 2013 season, and the Bills picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. However, if Dareus continues to make poor decisions, he may become too much of a distraction. And he has yet to be disciplined by the NFL for his actions, so there's still the possibility he misses time in 2014.
Dareus' situation is definitely something to monitor going forward. Not only will fans be waiting to hear about his punishment by the law and/or NFL, but they will still want to see if the Bills will keep Dareus in the fold.
Several Key Players Rehabbing Offseason Surgery
At the start of OTAs, a slew of big-time Bills players were reported to have had offseason surgeries.
Tim Graham of the Buffalo News pointed out that players such as linebacker Kiko Alonso, defensive end Mario Williams, wide receiver Robert Woods, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Aaron Williams all had procedures in the offseason, with a lot of hip surgeries in the bunch.
Coach Marrone didn't seem too concerned about any of said players missing any time, telling Graham "all of those players are participating to some extent. We're just being very careful about how much we let them go."
I don't need to tell you how important Alonso and the others are to the success of the Bills. The players have had the whole offseason to rehab, and some have even returned to the practice field since originally sitting out.
Nevertheless, injuries are always something to keep an eye on. With mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday and training camp about a month away, let's wait and see how much time these players see before we start wringing our hands over their injuries.
Another Strong Rookie Class Taking Shape
In his first year as general manager, Whaley started to take the Bills in the right direction with his 2013 draft.
The jury is still out on first-round pick EJ Manuel, but second-rounders Alonso and Woods are looking to improve on strong, sometimes legendary rookie seasons. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin also figures to be a major player in 2014, and Duke Williams could start at safety this year.
It appears, so far anyway, that Whaley is continuing that momentum in 2014. The most noteworthy player of the 2014 draft class is undoubtedly Sammy Watkins, and we know he will be a featured part of the Bills offense. But other first-year players have been turning heads as well.
The most notable newcomer has to be Preston Brown, who has been all over the field during OTAs. Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com featured Preston as one of the three unheralded playmakers in OTAs, saying he "showed a nose for the ball and also had a couple interceptions over the last few weeks."
Other rooks such as Cyrus Kouandjio also have been impressive early in the offseason. Kouandjio could end up starting at right tackle, and he and Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson could help beef up the Bills offensive line going forward.
Whaley did well to bring in talented players in 2013. If the early returns are any indication, the 2014 class will be no different, and it should help deepen the Bills roster heading into the 2014 season.
Potential New Owners Preparing Bids
Besides what is happening on the field, Bills fans have at least one eye on the ownership situation in Western New York.
After longtime owner and stadium namesake Ralph Wilson passed away in March, the process of finding a new owner for the team began. There are a wide variety of suitors, ranging all the way from Donald Trump to a group headed by Jon Bon Jovi.
But besides the names everyone immediately recognizes, there is one potential buyer that should not be overlooked. That is Terry Pegula, who also owns the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. Tim Graham of the Buffalo News cited a source saying "the interest is real" concerning Pegula's potential to try to corner the sports market in Buffalo.
If his interest is indeed legit, Pegula has the financial clout to land the Bills. Not only does he already own the Sabres, but Pegula recently "sold 75,000 acres of Utica and Marcellus Shale leases in West Virginia and Ohio," also per Graham.
That resulted in a $1.75 billion windfall for Pegula, giving him plenty of financial clout to make a run at the Bills. And should Pegula land the Bills, he has plenty of other wealthy backers to see that the team remains in New York. The Jacobs family, owners of the Boston Bruins and Western New York-based Delaware North, runs the concessions at the First Niagra Center, where the Sabres play.
Robert J. McCarthy and Tom Precious of the Buffalo News reported that the Jacobs family is looking into building and owning a new stadium in or around Buffalo, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said is a necessity.
C. Dean Metropoulos, who owns Pabst Blue Ribbon and resurrected the Twinkie, has also been reported as a potential Bills buyer, per Graham. But if Pegula and the Jacobs family are as serious as reported, there may be no competing with them.
Players Standing out at OTAs
Besides the rookies, some veteran players have been turning heads during OTAs as well.
We will start with Chris Hogan, who was one of the last receivers on the depth chart in 2013. Brown said Hogan "caught everything thrown his way," and he has "seemingly mastered the offense." With roster spots out wide hard to come by after the top four, Hogan is well on his way to making the final 53 again.
Then we get to Jerry Hughes, whom the Bills will rely on to pressure opposing quarterbacks opposite Mario Williams. Brown said Hughes "flat out dominated" during portions of practices and even posted three sacks in five plays at one point, without Williams on the field.
Finally, we have Brandon Spikes, the newly acquired middle linebacker. Spikes is known for his run-stuffing ability, but Brown made note of Spikes' football IQ as well. Brown said Spikes "was not fooled on a single play during OTAs," and he showed up with batted balls and interceptions.
If these players, along with the Bills' top performers, continue to make strides, the Bills could surprise some people in 2014.