It’s safe to say that the Buffalo Bills are heading into 2015 with one thing on their minds, an AFC East title. With the hiring of Rex Ryan and Greg Roman, the recent trades for all-pro running back LeSean McCoy and veteran quarterback Matt Cassel, Bills fans have reason to truly BILLieve.
McCoy is certainly a major upgrade at running back while Cassel adds leadership and dependability that remains to be seen in EJ Manuel. The Bills now have through Tuesday to negotiate with free agents, which, if successful in signing a marquee player can really improve their chances of overtaking the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
First, they need to identify needs, where can they improve and how will they fit into Ryan and Roman’s scheme?
That’s never easy no matter how glaring the needs seem to be. The Bills haven’t made the post-season in 15 seasons and they brought in a new owner this past season. GM Doug Whaley has to oversell his club to available free agents and most likely pay out the rear to bring in quality players. Much like Terry Pegula did with the Buffalo Sabres when he first took control of the NHL club. He overpaid for such players as Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and then Ville Leino, all in the name of showing that he is willing to pay whatever the price to bring in talented players. Leino of course was a complete bust and isn’t even in the NHL any longer.
Jerry Hughes had an outstanding season playing alongside three All-Pro defensive lineman in Marcel Dareus, Kyle and Mario Williams. Prior to he came to Buffalo via trade with the Indianapolis Colts where he was ineffective. Now he is a free agent himself. The #billsmafia are hopeful Buffalo overpays for Hughes and I can’t understand why. He was Aaron Maybin before he came to the Bills and there are plenty of guys around the league with the speed and size to wreak havoc on opposing QB’s. Memo to Whaley, don’t break the bank for Hughes.
Unlike the majority of media outlets and some fans that are ready to close the book on Manuel, I am not one of them. The problem with Manuel is experience and lack of help. The O-line was inadequate in 2014 to say the least and aside from Sammy Watkins, there wasn’t a whole lot of weapons for Manuel. Scott Chandler is a decent tight-end but he dropped some balls early in the season that contributed to Manuel’s decline.
You want to overspend on a player, do it with free agent TE Julius Thomas. He’s versatile, able to stretch the field and although he’s battled some minor injuries over the past few seasons he is the best available player at the TE position on the open market. EJ could improve drastically with a game-changing TE like Thomas. Charles Clay of the Miami Dolphins is another option but any offer could be matched to retain him in Miami.
Could you imagine landing WR Andre Johnson? This player is class personified in addition to being one of the best in the league for the last 10 seasons. Watkins and Johnson on the outside, Thomas at TE with McCoy and Jackson running the ball could be the most dangerous offensive combination in the NFL. Any QB would flourish with that crew.
How about protecting Manuel? All signs point to offensive guard Mike Lupati from the San Francisco 49ers heading to Buffalo. Given Roman’s history with Lupati there is good reason to think Lupati will be added to the Bills O-line. Should he find greener pastures elsewhere, Clint Boling fom the Cincinatti Bengals could be the next player on the wish list.
Defensively speaking where do you upgrade? No matter how successful they were in 2014 teams in the division and the conference for that matter take notice and make improvements as well. The NY Jets added Brandon Marshall is just one example. The Bills have some good, young defensive backs but I like Tramon Williams from Green Bay. He turns 32 this year but he has great experience, has covered the best WR’s in the game and could add more leadership and stability in the secondary. Of course, with the loss of Kiko Alonso in the McCoy deal, they really should consider bringing back Brandon Spikes.
Negotiating is under way, the signing begins Tuesday at 4pm.