All Bills fans want is for the tight end spot to be adequate.
Mediocrity would be an upgrade compared to the virtually insignificant advances they've generally gotten from the location over the past few seasons.
The loss of Steve Fairchild may be the best development, as hopefully new offensive coordinator Turk Schonert will, unlike his predecessor, remember that the position exists.
Even better, the Bills could re-sign an actual player who performed respectably after he was brought to the team—namely decent depth addition Michael Gaines.
Gaines did OK, especially by recent Buffalo standards for his title. He had 25 receptions in his 15 games as a Bill for 215 yards. That's 8.6 yards per catch, which means he didn't precisely stretch the field; still, he did manage to make himself a mildly prolific target.
Signed Sept. 10 after he reached an injury settlement with Carolina, the team that drafted him, Gaines got into the end zone twice last year, most memorably for what were ultimately the winning points against the Jets in Week Four.
That total for a season doesn't sound like much, but the fact is that he was a member of a criminally anemic offense: A pair of touchdowns was actually only one fewer than listed starter Robert Royal obtained, not to mention a mere three behind Lee Evans and of course two ahead of Josh Reed.
Getting six points twice, pathetically, qualified as a relatively satisfactory output for any receiver on the 2007 Bills.
It's not saying much, but Gaines brings at least some pass-catching ability to the platoon. Specifically, he tied with Royal for the most grabs by a Bills tight end in 2007. Plus, he's well-suited for the position's other responsibility: Listed as 277 pounds, Gaines is 6-foot-3 in height and almost in sport coat size. He's a formidable physical presence as a blocker, and accordingly may help his young quarterback both in pass protection and as an outlet.
Gaines is not exactly about to be mentioned next to Gonzalez and Gates in the elite G-named tight end discussion. He did have some notably agonizing drops after he came to the Bills; most painfully, his fourth-quarter flub against the Browns for what could have been his third touchdown of the year caused a million Bills supporters to pull out two million clumps of hair. Plays like that can't be excused, but Buffalo just needs him to be a steady, fairly regularly used backup, not a Honolulu perennial.
A seventh-round pick in 2004, Gaines has the potential to become valuable as a reserve player for the Bills, mostly by bringing indispensable versatility to the playbook. He already showed promise under trying external circumstances: Gaines stepped into a remarkably difficult situation, taking Kevin Everett's roster spot the day after the horrible incident, and acquitted himself about as best as could be expected for someone joining a team enduring severe off-the-field adversity.
Bringing back Gaines, who's soon to be a free agent, and giving him an entire offseason to prepare as a member of the team might lead to improvements for both the player and the offense in terms of protection and production. The next step can be, oh, plays actually called for the tight end, but progress will come in increments, one of which would be keeping Gaines around to compete for a spot.