How many pieces do we need? Examining the 07-08 Dolphins transition for clues.

There was a discussion recently about Terrell Owens, and whether or not the Bills should try to bring him back. For the most part, it seemed like the consensus was that, since the Bills had too many holes to fill (pre-emptive TWSS), they shouldn't bother giving TO the multi-year contract and millions he will likely demand when they could spend that on someone know...isn't 36.

This got me wondering. I've always fallen on the "we need too many pieces" side of things, but I'm also usually wrong. So I decided to look at the most notable recent turnaround, the Miami Dolphins. The team went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008 after blowing up their front office and coaching staff. Do we have more pieces in place than they did? How many pieces can a team possibly acquire in only 1 offseason?

Half-assed analysis after the jump.

Let's start with a few disclaimers:

  • No, I do not think this team is as bad as the 2007 Miami Dolphins.
  • As excited as we might be about Shanahan/Holmgren/Fewell/Galliford, there is no way our front office and coaching could possibly improve more than the jump from Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller to Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland, with one of the best football minds in the history of the league, Bill Parcells, lurking in the background. Quite simply, Jauron wasn’t as bad as Cameron, and I don't think anyone who's available is in Parcells's league as a talent evaluator. 
  • In the chart below, Jake Long is referred to as Jason Long. It's my nickname for him. Or I got it wrong when I was making the chart.
Okay, now to the analysis: The Dolphins' primary starter changed at 12 of the 22 starting positions from 2007 to 2008. 


  • Three players were acquired in two separate trades
  • Three players were acquired in Free Agency
  • Two players were promoted from reserve roles
  • Two players were drafted in the 2008 draft
  • Two players returned from injury.
What do we know? Given the right breaks, a team can bring in as many as 8 new starters in an offseason. Here are the positions I think the Bills stink at, this year's starter, and how I think they need to get that upgrade: 20091201-jbj6236gqc5cch7ha1a5npbx9j_medium

For the Bills to be good next year, the Off-season can look like 1 of two scenarios:

Scenario 1 (In which our players are better than I think, and we have some sort of genie-trainer)

We sign a FA quarterback (hey chad!)

We resign Terrell Owens

LT Demetrius Bell develops into a competent LT over the next 9 months

C Geoff Hangartner is the weak link in the line (this is totally doable. Example: the 16 games Ndukwe started at G for the Phins in 08 are the only ones he's started in his career, and he's currently a backup for the Chiefs.)

RG Eric Wood returns next year and stays healthy

RT Brad Butler returns next year, stays healthy, and plays the way he was playing this year before getting hurt.

LE Aaron Maybin develops into a very, very good passrusher and splits time with Kelsay, who plays rushing downs. Together they make a good defensive end.

The Bills sign or draft the best either SLB or MLB available, and then Posluzny develops into a competent player at whichever of those spots is left empty. Ellison is a reserve.


Scenario 2 (In which our guys are so bad/unhealthy that Ralph has to sell a kidney to pay for the new guys we need):

Sign a FA quarterback

Draft/Sign a #2 WR (sorry guys, I don't think Steve Johnson or James Hardy is a #2 by next year)

Draft/Sign a LT

Draft/Sign a C

Draft/Sign a RG

Draft/Sign a RT

Draft/Sign a LE

Draft/Sign a SLB

Draft/Sign a MLB

Here's what I think the reality will be: Wood and Butler won't be healthy or effective next year, Terrell Owens will walk, Kelsay and Maybin will split time, and the Bills will bring in a SLB. I don't think that'll be enough, because it'll require serious development from Maybin, Poz and Bell, and I don't expect that. Scenario 2 is pretty much impossible, but, if we don't get healthy and if our youngsters don't develop, that'll be what's necessary for us to compete.

So, to go back to the original question: How many pieces do the Bills need? Anywhere between 2 and 9. If the answer is 9, the Bills aren't going to compete next year. Even in the amazing offseason the Phins had, they only added 8 starters. But if the answer is closer to 2, and I'm not 100% convinced that it isn't, then we can talk.
What do you guys think? Do we need 2 or 3 players, or is it more like 8 or 9?

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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