Laying the foundation: Bills franchise cornerstones


Do you consider Edwards a franchise cornerstone? (buffalobills.com)

I tried, folks. I tried to write an article this morning that dealt with the Buffalo Bills' upcoming game in Denver against the Broncos. I tried, and I failed. As ecstatic as I am that Trent Edwards is (likely) returning to the lineup, the only thing the Bills will be playing for in this game is pride. I hate watching games where pride and paychecks are the sole motivators. So we'll let Kurupt handle the pre-game stuff with his weekly post tomorrow morning.

Instead, I'll use this morning to continue to pick your brains. What I'm looking for this morning is this: which current Bills players do you consider to be "franchise cornerstones" ? That is, which players - if any - do you view as building blocks to a promising future for this team? Your list may be dozens of players long or just a few; that's completely up to what's in your noodle. My list is a short one, and I present it to you now:

QB Trent Edwards: Yes, I still view Trent as the future of the quarterback position for this franchise. I view him as the present as well, even if the Bills end up looking for a new coach. I like his poise and his leadership; I also really like the fact that, despite his still being green at the position, the Bills are above .500 (10-9) in games he's finished through his first two seasons. (By contrast, Peyton Manning was 5-14 in his first 19 games; he's 110-46 since.) Injury and inconsistency concerns aside - but obviously not forgotten - this kid has a bright future. He'll turn 26 about half-way through the 2009 season.

LT Jason Peters: Forget public opinion. Forget his holdout (I know, it's pretty easy to hate the guy when he screwed his team for two months). Peters may be one of the most hated men on this Bills team, but that doesn't cover up the fact that he's just really flipping good. He's been the driving force behind Buffalo's re-discovered dominance (yes, dominance) on the ground over the past month-plus, and he's outstanding and consistent in pass protection. Pay the man - he's going to be great for a long time, and he'll only be 27 in a little over a month.

RB Marshawn Lynch: You don't have to consider him an "elite" back - whatever that means - for Lynch to make this type of a list. He's the embodiment of what this Bills team should be in all phases - do whatever it takes. Earn as much as possible. Never quit. Never complain. Be the best. Have fun. Players like Lynch are rare, and they're catalysts for whatever team employs their type. He's rare, and he's also really good. Kid's a keeper. Give him the ball! Oh, and he's young - he'll turn 23 just a few days before the 2009 NFL Draft.

CB Leodis McKelvin: He may be just a rookie - and it may have taken him a while to get going this year - but this kid has the goods to be outstanding for a long time. Whether he's playing cornerback or returning kicks, McKelvin is something that the Bills severely lack across the board - a playmaker. He's still green; he struggles taking angles in run support, and he's still a bit unorthodox (Dick Jauron's word) in coverage, routinely finding himself out of position and giving up big plays. Experience and technique work can fix that. McKelvin, who will turn 24 just prior to the start of the 2009 regular season, has a golden opportunity to make a big leap from talented rookie to star corner this off-season.

SS Donte Whitner: Just a few months older than McKelvin, Donte's been a disappointment in terms of statistical production and injury, but I remain convinced - though less so than a few months ago - that with a better defensive line, Whitner could be a stellar player in this league. He's also irrevocably the leader of this team's defense; he and Edwards share the role of "team leader". I'm a sucker for leaders as long as they improve on the field, and if the Bills can improve their front seven defensively, there's no reason to believe Whitner won't do just that. He remains on this list until further notice.

***

There are other names I considered. Ultimately, there just aren't many sure-fire building blocks on this team, and I left a lot of the veterans off of the list because, well, they're veterans. These five guys that I've listed are guys that I believe have an opportunity to re-shape the face of this organization. Every one of them has a lot to prove, but they've got the goods to deliver on their promise. (You may, of course, feel free to disagree with those sentiments.)

I'm sure there are names you'd like to submit to or subtract from this list. Have at it, folks. Let's talk about the future of the Buffalo Bills - without the redundant (yet not unfounded) coaching and front office dialogue, if you please.

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