Over the past four weeks at Buffalo Rumblings, we have accomplished our first two major goals of the off-season. When the Buffalo Bills wrapped up their 2008 regular season with a record of 7-9, Bills fans everywhere had every right to go off the deep end and lose their productive edge. Not here, however. Through four of the most negative, depressing and sometimes perplexing weeks that we've seen in Western New York, y'all here produced. Big tip of the hat to everyone who made their opinions known and took part in constructing the first part of our off-season plans.
What exactly have we accomplished? Well, we analyzed every nook and cranny of Buffalo's roster. We've had some very constructive discussions about current personnel - which led to us identifying the core of the 2009 Buffalo Bills - and now, after several votes, numerous heated discussions and more arithmetic than I'd originally planned, the community has formulated our second annual Buffalo Rumblings Community Needs List, in which every need the Bills carry into the 2009 off-season is prioritized.
All of our work over the past month is reviewable in the links above, and the ultimate product is the below list. Bookmark it, save it, do whatever you have to do, because this list will be our very own grading rubric for charting the Bills' activities from midnight on February 27 (the start of free agency) through Mister Irrelevant in April. Without further ado, here's this year's needs list:
* Pass-rushing defensive end: We've had enough of Buffalo's anemic pass rush. The days where Buffalo's leading "sack artists" register between 4 and 6 sacks need to be ancient history 12 months from now. A pass rush does so much for NFL defenses these days; it's about bloody time that the Bills started putting one together.
* Receiving tight end: When Jay Riemersma is remembered way too fondly in a fan base, you know that the team hasn't had a good tight end in quite some time. Considering Trent Edwards' propensities as a quarterback, it's about time the Bills found a receiver/blocker that can take advantage of the middle of the field.
* Starting center: Few players drew as much ire from the Bills' fan base over the past two seasons as the team's two starting centers, Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston. Both are free agents, and if a quality pivot is brought in, the Bills might actually find some consistency up front in 2009.
* Starting strong-side linebacker: There has been a lot of support for Angelo Crowell here, but the facts are that he's coming off of Injured Reserve and he's an unrestricted free agent. Until something happens with him, and until Keith Ellison can channel his inner Zach Thomas, this remains a priority for the Bills.
* Massive rotational defensive tackle: Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams are peachy amongst the fan base, but Bills fans live and bleed for a tough, physical, bruising brand of football that embodies the city's blue-collar attitude. Fat run-stuffers are appreciated in Buffalo almost as much as the rare golden-armed quarterback.
* Veteran backup quarterback: "Backup" because Trent Edwards is still the team's starter, and "veteran" because Trent Edwards is not. Here's the good news: J.P. Losman is now a distant memory in Buffalo.
* Veteran wide receiver: We don't need a world-beater here. We just need a viable threat that can make up for the inconsistencies of guys named Evans, Parrish, Hardy and Johnson. Even a tight end wouldn't eradicate this need.
* Blocking fullback: Remember what I said about Bills fans living and bleeding for a tough, physical, bruising brand of football? A power running offense would achieve that brand. In order to pull it off, they need a fullback that specializes in treating linebackers like doorways.
* Young defensive end depth: Even after filling the need at the top of this list, and even with Chris Ellis on the roster, the Bills currently have three defensive ends that will be 30 at the start of the 2009 season. Depth and talent are needed, and you can never have enough good pass rushers.
* Reserve guard/center: Reserve linemen need to be able to play more than one position. The Bills have swing tackles, but with Preston and Jason Whittle free agents on the interior, new blood inside could be enormously beneficial.
* Reserve swing linebacker: Let's face it - we're not exactly sure where we want Paul Posluszny to play in '09. Linebacker depth is a need regardless of where Poz lines up, so we're putting "swing" linebacker here - we want a guy that can play both outside and inside.
* Developmental safety prospect: Ko Simpson's Bills career is on wobbly legs, even if he is worth millions, and Donte Whitner has been rather underwhelming for a former eighth overall pick. A developmental project here is good insurance for a position that many felt was a team strength just a year ago.
* Viable third running back: No matter how "easy" it's perceived that this position can be filled, the Bills would be wise to get a guy ready to contribute in the event that something awful happens to Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson.
There it is, folks. Your 2009 Buffalo Rumblings Community Needs List. Your new charge: start throwing potential acquisition names out there. On your suggestion only can we put together a list of off-season targets as free agency draws ever nearer. So reflect, comment, and get brainstorming, folks!