Identifying the "crux players" on Buffalo's roster

Two weeks ago - a day before the Buffalo Bills fired head coach Dick Jauron, in fact - we here at Buffalo Rumblings took a look at the core players of Buffalo's roster. The idea behind the post was to identify players that, based on their contract status with the franchise, are very likely to survive a regime change at One Bills Drive.

We'll recap the fruits of that labor quickly after the jump, but the purpose of this post is to take that exercise a step further. With the core players out of the way, it's time to look at the players that I'll term "crux players" - guys with flexible contract situations that will define a new regime's focus on re-building the Bills.

Core player recap
We named 17 current Bills as "core players," splitting the group up into vested veterans, young players with promise and role-playing veterans awaiting new roles once the regime change is complete. Of those 17 players, we defined a solid 9 as starting-caliber, a further six as fringe starters, and two as reserves. Here's that breakdown:

Starters: RB Fred Jackson, WR Lee Evans, G/C Eric Wood, DE Aaron Schobel, DT Marcus Stroud, LB Kawika Mitchell, CB Terrence McGee, FS Jairus Byrd, P Brian Moorman

Fringe starters: TE Shawn Nelson, OT Brad Butler, OG Andy Levitre, DE Aaron Maybin, DT Kyle Williams, CB Leodis McKelvin

Reserves: C/G Geoff Hangartner, DT Spencer Johnson

Keep in mind that all of these players are currently under contract through the end of the 2012 season. That means that, if each plays to the end of their contract, they'll be in Buffalo for another three years. The fact that each player has at least three years left on his deal at least ensures that they'll be part of the roster in Year 1 of a new regime, and many of them will be playing considerably large roles.

For this exercise, the criteria changes a bit. "Crux players," as far as we're concerned for now, are players that, once the 2009 season ends, will have either one or two years left on their current deal. Each is under contract for the 2010 season, but each also has a deal that makes it possible for a new regime to play football in 2010 without these players under contract. They are truly "crux" players in that a new regime will be making its most important decisions amongst this group. The entire new direction of the franchise from a personnel standpoint will be based largely on evaluations of these 19 players.

Keep in mind, also, that this list changes if 2010 is an uncapped year. Ask MattRichWarren about it.

Buffalo's 19 "crux players"
You'll have a task at the end of this exercise, but for now, here's a quick summary of the 19 crux players on Buffalo's roster:

  • Trent Edwards, QB - Signed through 2011. He's been benched and needs a new environment, but some talent remains.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB - Signed through 2012. Has proven to be reliable as a backup, but is not considered a franchise signal-caller.
  • Brian Brohm, QB - Signed through 2012. A project player with some solid tools, there's a chance he never sees the field for Buffalo.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB - Signed through 2013, with an opt-out clause in the final year. No longer the starting running back, Lynch might be the subject of trade talks this off-season.
  • Corey McIntyre, FB - Signed through 2011. Run-of-the-mill player.
  • James Hardy, WR - Signed through 2012. Buffalo invested a second-round pick in him, and the talent is there, but Hardy has had injury issues and hasn't seen the field much.
  • Roscoe Parrish, WR - Signed through 2012. Has clamored for a trade, but a new regime might be inclined to keep him as a punt returner. Unlikely to get PT as a WR anywhere.
  • Steve Johnson, WR - Signed through 2012. Held in high regard by current regime, but that could change quickly, and doesn't carry the same investment as Hardy.
  • Derek Fine, TE - Signed through 2012. Probably survives a regime change because he's a role player with special teams ability.
  • Demetrius Bell, OT - Signed through 2012. Has struggled with injuries and on the playing field, but again, there is raw ability to work with.
  • Chris Kelsay, DE - Signed through 2011. A heady veteran who has improved under position coach Bob Sanders, but has a large salary that might seal his fate.
  • Chris Ellis, DE - Signed through 2012. Does not play a significant role now and that's not likely to change, but represents a significant investment ('08 third-round pick).
  • John McCargo, DT - Signed through 2011. Nothing more than a rotational tackle at this point in his disappointing career.
  • Paul Posluszny, LB - Signed through 2011. Sure to be the most intensely-debated player on this list.
  • Drayton Florence, CB - Signed through 2011. Has been excellent as a fill-in starter, and has scheme versatility.
  • Reggie Corner, CB - Signed through 2012. Reserve-type corner that has his uses, but should never be counted on as a starter.
  • Donte Whitner, S - Signed through 2011, with an opt-out clause in the final year. Could be a UFA as soon as this coming March. New regime might feel differently about him.
  • John Wendling, S - Signed through 2011. Special teams player only.
  • Rian Lindell, K - Signed through 2012. Reliable and gets more consistent with age.

Your Task
There's your list, folks. Some of those names obviously carry much more weight and importance than others. Your task: pick out the players that you believe are worth keeping around. Then, of those names, split them into starters and reserves. Combined with your input from the original post, this should really cement your ideas about where you'd take the franchise if you were GM.

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