By John Tuvey, Executive Editor Bills Offseason Needs We continue our team-by-team look at offseason needs with the Bills, who at least have the benefit of front-office stability in their favor this offseason. They also saw some of their young talent start to blossom last season, giving them hope as they search for ways to compete in the AFC East.
Areas of Need: Despite focusing on their defensive needs in last year's draftâ€”they didn't pick an offensive player until the fifth round and completely ignored the "skill" positions on draft dayâ€”that's where the bulk of Buffalo's energies will be expended this offseason as well. But for fantasy purposes, let's first look at what they hope to do offensively. . With JP Losman coming on at the end of last season, it appears quarterback is no longer a question mark for the Bills. His top receiver, Lee Evans, also made significant strides, and while the remainder of the Buffalo receiving corps doesn't strike fear into the heart of opposing defenses, in Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, and even Peerless Price and Andre' Davis at least they have some warm bodies. The ground game, however, could have some major question marks. A midseason reshuffling of the offensive line seemed to work, and the team believes left tackle Jason Peters is an emerging star. Mike Gandy, who opened the season at left tackle but struggled mightily before sliding inside to guard, could exit via free agency but the club likes him at guard and will likely pay to keep him around. That said, there are still needs along the line that could be addressed via either the draft or free agency.
And then there's Willis McGahee, who hasn't exactly endeared himself to the front office with either his third paternity suit or his comment in a Penthouse interview that he'd like to see the team moved to Toronto in order to improve his social life. Oh, and with a year left on his contract he's seeking an extension that would pay him like a top-five back. And Drew Rosenhaus is his agent, so a holdout is always a possibility. Unless this situation is resolvedâ€”and right now it doesn't look as if that's the most promising optionâ€”the Bills will probably try to bring back free agent-to-be Anthony Thomas, who was solid in relief of the injured McGahee during the 2006 season, and possibly add a third-down back via the draft.
As for those defensive needs, the biggest will be replacing cornerback Nate Clements, who is expected to depart via free agency. The club agreed not to franchise him, and he'll likely command a bonus that's at least in the same zip code as the $18 million Champ Bailey got a few years back. Linebacker London Fletcher-Baker is also not expected to return, again because he'll command a larger offer elsewhere. In addition to replacing those two key components, Buffalo needs to add help at defensive tackle. They drafted John McCargo last season, but a broken foot wiped out his rookie season and even with his return they're still thin along the defensive line. So, line help, a replacement linebacker, and a cornerback to fill the void left by the departure of one of the top cover corners in the game; other than that, the Bills are set defensively.
Help is on the Way? Drafting 12th, the Bills should have their pick of cornerbacks if they're intent on replacing Clement. Michigan's Leon Hall is widely considered the best of the bunch, but even he isn't expected to go off the board until roughly the time the Bills go on the clock. Buffalo could also be in line for one of the top defensive tackles, with Amobi Okoye possibly falling to them, and last season they proved they weren't shy about reaching so if they have a hankering for DeMarcus Tyler they may just jump on him.
If the Bills decide to go on the offensive on draft day, Levi Jones could solidify their offensive line or they could pursue with one of several bigger receivers that would offer a nice complement to the speedy, smallish Evans; USC's Dwayne Jarrett fits that bill, or there's a possibility LSU's Dwayne Bowe or Tennessee's Robert Meachem slips to them in round twoâ€”though that's probably wishful thinking.
Should McGahee depart, Buffalo could address their backfield needs with an early pick on the likes of Louisville's Michael Bushâ€”since drafting an injured college back worked out for them beforeâ€”or stick with Thomas and augment him with a smaller pass-catching back like Florida State's Lorenzo Booker. Any trade of McGahee would likely net additional first-day picks that would have to be directed at a back of some sort to either challenge or complement Thomas.
Though the Bills appear unwilling to pay Fletcher-Baker, they could pursue his replacement via free agency as the Buffalo News projects them to be $39 under the salary cap. That could put them in play for one of the marquee names at linebacker, someone like Chicago's Lance Briggs, Baltimore's Adalius Thomas, or Indy's Cato June. And unless the Bengals' Tory James or the Patriots' Asante Samuel come at a discount, it doesn't make sense for them to let Clements walk only to throw similar money at a lesser replacement.
At this time last season, the Bills were scrambling to fill administrative vacancies from the top down; this year, at least they'll be heading into free agency and the draft with some front-office continuity and presumably a plan in place. They've got plenty of money to spend, but also plenty of holes that need patching, and by letting Clements and Fletcher-Baker walk it appears they'll be spreading that money around in hopes of addressing all their needs.
Wants and Needs: There's still time before the draft for the Bills to acquire a running back via trade or free agency, but unless Buffalo goes big and lands Chargers RFA Michael Turner, they'll need to address the position with one of their first two picks. The Bills could also use a bigger receiver to complement Lee Evans and some depth along their offensive line; however, barring something way too good to be true falling into their laps, it's far more likely Dick Jauron will focus on the defensive side of the ball during the early portion of the draft. The team will need to draft at least one linebacker who can contribute immediately, and their secondary could use some depth as well. Buffalo would also love to add a defensive tackle to their front line, but at present the other needs—specifically at running back and linebacker—remain atop the team's draft-day queue.
Potential Selections: At present, the Bills seem to be first in line for a shot at Cal running back Marshawn Lynch. If his character concerns scare them away, expect Buffalo to either redouble its efforts to land Turner or look to a second-round back like Ohio State's Antonio Pittman or Florida State's Lorenzo Booker to share the workload with veteran Anthony Thomas. Buffalo would love to use that 12th overall pick on Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, but the 49ers may beat them to the punch. The Bills have demonstrated they're not afraid of reaching down the board for a player they like, so if they have their heart set on a linebacker they could go aggressive and select Penn State's Paul Posluszny here as well. And with Alan Branch's stock sliding down the board, Buffalo may opt to take a chance on the Michigan defensive tackle in this range as well. Later picks could land linebacker help like Florida's Earl Everett, Florida State's Buster Davis, or Wake Forest's Jon Abbate or interior defensive line help such as Tennessee's Turk McBride or Notre Dame's Derek Landri. A mid-round pick could be ticketed for a receiver with some size, and the pool of candidates could include LSU's Craig Davis, Auburn's Courtney Taylor, and South Carolina's Syvelle Newton.
MentalPowerHouse wrote:Seemed to have filled 2 needs through draft, landing seemingly starters at RB and MLB.
Have not addressed CB or any DT help.
DT help? Darwin Walker... acquired in Spikes trade. As for CB, 3 of our first 4 picks last year were secondary help: Donte Whitner, Ashton Youboty, & Ko Simpson. Throw in Terrance McGee and that a very young secondary that at least deserves an opportunity to succeed. Kiawaukee Thomas will be servicable in nickel coverage.