Ten Bills play for futures as season hits home stretch


Simpson, others playing for 2009 jobs? (buffalobills.com)

One may read the headline of this piece and think "Oh boy, Galliford's the latest to give up on the Buffalo Bills this season".  Though I might argue that - along with everyone else that's hopped off the bandwagon - we have good reason to doubt it, rest assured that's not the case.  So when (if?) you read this piece, read it with the knowledge that I am not denying that the Bills still have a shot at the playoffs.

Instead, I'll speak briefly about how I'm a guy that's constantly looking forward - just as many of you are.  I love watching football, but I also love the idea of building a roster; finding those ever-elusive pieces of a contending puzzle and fitting them together.  Whether the Bills make the playoffs this year or not, the 2008 season can now officially be considered in the home stretch with just six weeks to go.  Even if the Bills end their post-season drought, there are guys on this roster who should recognize the fact that they're playing for their jobs beyond this season.  Lighting a fire under these players could, in fact, give the team a spark heading into these ultra-important six games.

Those ten players, in no specific order...

QB Trent Edwards.  To answer your question, yes, I do hate putting Trent on this list.  In reality, I don't believe that Edwards is on the proverbial "hot seat" in any sense of the term when it comes to his status with this coaching staff.  But it's not hard to imagine a scenario where if Buffalo's quarterback continues to struggle as the season closes out, Bills fans will be calling for the team to begin a new quarterback search.  A nice, strong, confidence-boosting finish by Edwards would erase a lot of that potential.

WR Steve Johnson.  Stevie isn't going anywhere; it should be noted, then, that Johnson makes this list because he's playing for a much bigger role in 2009.  Johnson has seen his role increase of late, and while he hasn't been perfect, he's shown a pretty good rapport with Edwards.  He knows how to find a hole in a zone, and he's looked pretty good both as a run blocker and after the catch.  This kid has a future.  He and Josh Reed could wreak a lot of havoc underneath in 2009.

TE Robert Royal.  There are games where Royal looks like a highly competent tight end; those games, however, are few and far between.  Clearly, the Bills need an upgrade at tight end.  Royal is entering the final year of his deal next season.  He's one of a few Bills veterans that fall under the category of "most likely to get cut"; he is, quite literally, playing for a job in 2009.

OT Jason Peters.  I'm not one of the bandwagon fans who like to boo Peters every time he makes one little mistake.  Peters may not be as dominant as he was in 2007, when he was voted to his first Pro Bowl, but he's playing at a very high level.  He'll need to return to dominant form as the season closes if he expects to receive that fat contract extension he so desperately desires.

C Duke Preston.  Melvin Fowler, benched since early in the season, is a goner, as he's an unrestricted free agent after the season.  Problem is, so is Preston.  The Bills are expected to upgrade the center position from outside the organization, but Preston has a legitimate chance to be re-signed as the new guy's understudy.  He'll have to play better than he has in recent weeks, however.

DE Chris Kelsay.  Kelsay's contract runs out in 2010.  He hasn't been productive from an on-field standpoint.  There will come a time when Dick Jauron has to upgrade players he likes with players he likes and can win with.  Kelsay's contract, as most of you know, is gigantic (for a player his caliber).  I still have my doubts that Kelsay is a goner after the season, but his time as this team's starting left end is likely growing short.

DE Ryan Denney.  If Kelsay's not a goner, Denney is.  He's 31 years old and is scheduled to earn $2.4 million in base salaries alone next season - the final year of his deal.  That's too much money for a guy who, if the Bills upgrade the position, would be fourth or fifth in the rotation.

DT John McCargo.  He's been a healthy scratch, he's been traded, and he's been a healthy scratch again.  Motivation is McCargo's problem, and although he's under contract through the close of the 2010 season, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which McCargo returns to the Bills in 2009 after what he's gone through the past 8 months.  If McCargo sees the field again this season, he'll be playing for his next job in another NFL city.

CB Terrence McGee.  Hear me out on this one.  McGee is under contract through the end of next season.  He'll be 29 if he hits unrestricted free agency as scheduled.  Rookie corner Leodis McKelvin has come on strong, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Bills let Jabari Greer walk, as he's been the team's best defensive back this season (Greer is a UFA after this season).  Don't forget about Ashton Youboty and Reggie Corner, either.  Buffalo's cornerback spot is still crowded despite the injuries, and McGee is the toughest guy to figure into the team's future plans.  He'll need to perform to keep his status as this team's top cover man (and, for the record, he was excellent against Cleveland).

FS Ko Simpson.  Simpson has been juggled around a lot.  He missed the entire 2007 season with an ankle injury.  He's been semi-benched this season in order to move Donte Whitner to his free safety spot, sliding Bryan Scott into the starting lineup at strong safety (though he still plays more at free than any other safety on the team).  The Bills are deep at this position, but they lack playmakers.  If the Bills feel the need to add a play-making safety in the off-season to team with Whitner, it's clearly Simpson who'll be riding the pine or looking for employment elsewhere.

***

Feel free to add names to the list.  And on a side note, let's keep coaches out of this.  We've heard enough about everyone's opinions on Dick Jauron, and there are a million FanPosts in which you can vent about Buffalo's head coach if you feel inclined to do so.  This is about the roster.  Have at it, folks.

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