As we march into the third week of the player carousel that is NFL free agency, our lowly, unattractive, and weary Buffalo Bills organization has made a mere ripple in the whirlpool of the offseason signing period.
Though the splashes haven't been as widespread along the NFL landscape as they've been in years past, moves have been made, many involving the Bills' AFC East rivals.
The Dolphins signed LB Karlos Dansby away from the Arizona Cardinals, and made him one of the league's three highest paid linebackers. Is Dansby worth the more than eight million a year that Miami will pay him? His five sacks in the last two seasons combined answer that question for me.
Still, the Fish didn't shy away from opening their checkbooks to add another piece to their unheralded defense.
The New York Jets, in somewhat of a funky transaction, let reliant runner Thomas Jones free, and signed LaDainian Tomlinson, a player who's once incredible numbers have decreased in all of the last three seasons (with last year being the first time he failed to reach 1,000 yards rushing).
The New England Patriots, well, they've been relatively quiet, but can't you almost feel Bill Belichick and the New England front office plotting some cunning moves in a dark corner somewhere? I can. Sometime during the spring and summer months the Patriots will sign a free agent, steal a draft pick, or trade for a player that'll leave the other 31 teams inundated with jealousy.
Why is all this the case? It's a basic concept. The Bills just can't sell themselves the way their AFC East foes can.
The Dolphins play in tropical Miami, a place that hosts Super Bowl parties which rival the popularity of the actual game. They've got a compact offensive line, an innovative running attack, and brilliant Bill Parcells overseeing it all. Big market franchise.
The Jets have the "New Meadowlands" that give JerryLand a run for it's "money", a place that may host the first cold weather Super Bowl in 2014, and fans from the world's most famous city. They've got an offensive line that's laden with first-round picks. They're home to Revis Island, all out blitzes, and Mark Sanchise. Huge market franchise.
The Patriots are run by the evil-genius master Bill Belichick. They've got three championships in the 2000s. All-American wonder boy Tom Brady is under center. Randy Moss is going deep. Vince Wilfork is devouring running backs. Big market franchise.
The Bills....They have...a rowdy fanbase? Four consecutive trips to the big game, almost 20 years ago. No playoff appearances this millennium. An entirely new coaching staff. A bare quarterback situation. Lake effect snow. Freezing temperatures. Small market franchise.
Now, I myself can deal with the Buffalo winters. Love the buffalo wings. Take trips to Toronto. Enjoy the intimacy of the small city.
But for your big time, and as we've seen this offseason, the not-so-big-time NFL players, Buffalo is, and it hurts to say this, the last place anyone wants to call their football home.
Ralph Wilson's unwillingness to spend some cash at age 91 baffles me and certainly doesn't help either. There's a financial correlation between Wilson's objection to unload money on the top-flight free agents and the Bills minute market. Buffalo is rarely considered when discussing possible landing spots for the guys who'll garner monster pay days.
Ralph is no Dan Snyder, and actually, I'm glad he's not.
Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, a career backup behind the colossal couplet of Pat and Kevin Williams, a player pleading for a chance to start, said no to the Bills, even after coaches penciled him in as the first string nose tackle in the 3-4 next year.
Reserve guard Wade Smith, and I'll be honest, I'd never of him before, passed on the Queen City.
Only Cornell Green, who may have wanted out of Oakland's loony bin, also a career second stringer, would sign with Buffalo.
Denver Broncos free agent linebacker Andra Davis is visiting with the Bills now, and he'd be an upgrade to the middle of the defense if he inks a deal. Regardless of what happens with Davis, no player that'll change the face of the franchise will become a Bill during free agency, or via a trade.
I've already outlined why.
It seems that only through the NFL Draft can the Bills begin the return to relevance.
What's scary is the draft is precisely what has delayed the Bills departure from the rebuilding stage they've been in since the Music City Miracle. When the calendars flip to April, and the draft is finally upon us, Bills fan cringe whenever Buffalo's on the clock.
Scouts have been replaced, and there's a new General Manager in town. We once again bestow our faith to the Bills draft braintrust.
With the draft, players don't have a choice where they go. You know that. Assembling a team through the draft wasn't invented yesterday, and is a fundamental step in constructing a playoff caliber team, but for the Bills, it's the only way out of this air tight trap of mediocrity.
Remember how they did it in the '80s? Drafted Jim Kelly ('83), Daryl Talley ('83), Bruce Smith ('85), Andre Reed ('85), Thurman Thomas ('88), all franchise cornerstones. Then role players and elite free agents accumulated like snow in the Southern Tier.
Sure, the Bills struck gold on many of their selections during those years, a failing trend ever since, but it's really the only method to revitalize this team. It sounds too simple to be true, but critics frustrated with the Bills timid approach to the 2010 offseason aren't glaring at the big picture, and are losing touch with the current day Bills reality.
Because of the impact this draft will have on the Bills not only becoming a winning club again but also its viability to stay in the city of Buffalo, management is intelligently focusing attention on April 22-24.
When you think, and think hard about it, everything has been tried in the past 10 years in Buffalo.
They tried a coaching youth movement after Wade Phillips was shown the door in 2000. They tried trading for a veteran quarterback who was on the last legs of his career. They gambled on an arrogant gun-slinger from Tulane, and an injured back from Miami. They gave the big bucks to reserve offensive lineman. They hired a coach they thought mirrored Marv Levy. They sold tickets by signing the league's most infamous, talented, yet aging receiver.
Nothing's worked. Time for the Bills to forget free agency, and get to the reconstruction drawing board.
With that being said, they need franchise guys, players that will entice other players to venture on up to Buffalo when the squad gets some steam moving forward.
Leaders, guys who don't mind seeing their breath in the cold winter months and are willing to use handwarmers between plays. Lineman who's bones don't snap like toothpicks. Cagey linebackers starving for quarterbacks.
Guys like Rolando McClain, Brian Price, Terrance Cody, Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, and Tim Tebow...to name a few.
Yea, Tebow. He's exactly the type of player the Bills need.
Hopefully after that statement, you've continued to read on.
I wasn't even nearing Tebow initially. Seemed too risky. But after a thorough examination of what the Bills organization has been missing for ten years—toughness, heart, and perseverance—he just may be the guy.
Unconventional, yes, a winner...definitely. Not a major lobby for Tebow to Buffalo, but his intangibles deserve a little plug.
Whoever the Bills select late April in primetime, let's hope they were chosen with more extreme strategy and precision than ever before.
Remember, if you build it, they will come...wins that is.