TE Royal facing potential release (Associated Press)
Any time an NFL team begins executing off-season plans aimed at improving their on-field product, there are players that most directly receive the consequences of player acquisitions. For the Buffalo Bills, that list of players is expected to be lengthier than usual as the team prepares for free agency. With Buffalo's front office and coaching staff in full-fledged "win now" mode, the team is expected to target players at several positions to help them achieve that goal.
Naturally (and for a variety of different reasons), there are several current Bills players who'll be anxiously charting Buffalo's moves over the next few weeks. Here are the seven Bills players with the most to lose as the Bills begin making changes to their roster.
RB Marshawn Lynch
If Fred Taylor's free agent visit with the Bills is anything, it's a direct message to Lynch that he's on the shortest leash of his life. Not even his mother's leash is shorter. Facing a possible league suspension after his February 11 arrest (his second arrest in nine months), Lynch needs to be aware of a few things, not the least of which is that running backs are highly expendable in today's NFL. As valuable as he is to this team, there are always alternate options. The Bills may explore those options.
TE Robert Royal
Every day that Houston TE Owen Daniels remains a likely target of Buffalo's is another day in which Royal undoubtedly ponders his future. Buffalo has struggled at the tight end position for close to a decade, and with QB Trent Edwards in need of a short-area weapon, it's believed that Royal may be experiencing his last few days as a Bill. Even if Royal survives free agency (a distinct possibility), he's got another sweat-inducing NFL Draft period awaiting him as well.
DE Chris Kelsay
Contrary to popular opinion, it is unlikely at this point that many Bills fans will get their wish of seeing Kelsay released. The veteran end is still held in high regard by Buffalo's front office, and some feel that his problems stem from playing too many snaps. Regardless, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has already made plain his desire for a speedy pass rusher. With Aaron Schobel returning to full health and fortifications on the way, Kelsay, at a bare minimum, is looking at a significantly reduced role in Buffalo.
CB Ashton Youboty
Much-maligned early in his career, Youboty was a pleasant surprise last fall when he secured Buffalo's nickel cornerback role out of training camp. However, Youboty would finish the season on IR for the second time in three seasons. With Terrence McGee entrenched as a starter, Leodis McKelvin waiting in the wings and the team moving hard to re-sign Jabari Greer, Youboty's role is difficult to define next season. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Youboty may not have many opportunities to earn that second deal, at least not in Buffalo. A lot depends on Greer's status.
DT John McCargo
Having fallen out of favor with Buffalo's coaching staff, Buffalo tried and failed to trade McCargo to Indianapolis during the '08 campaign. The former first-round draft pick has a new position coach and a degree of public backing from VP of College Scouting Tom Modrak, but his future with the team is light years from certain. With an aging Marcus Stroud anchoring a solid yet highly unspectacular DT corps, Buffalo may look to significantly upgrade the depth at the position. If that happens, McCargo is gone.
FS Ko Simpson
Though he may be "worth millions", Simpson is the second of two Bills to be arrested during the off-season. Once considered the long-term starter at free safety, Simpson has dealt with injuries and inconsistency and is no longer a full-time starter for the team. If there's any safety in Buffalo with job security, it's Donte Whitner, and the Bills already want more from him. If the Bills look at adding a ball-hawking safety for depth and rotational purposes, Simpson very well could get the axe.
WR Roscoe Parrish
Though his special teams contributions are undeniably brilliant, Parrish has long clamored to be a bigger part of Buffalo's offensive game-planning in their WR corps. With second-year pro James Hardy's status uncertain for the 2009 pre-season as he rehabs a torn ACL, the Bills are expected to address their WR depth in some capacity. If Buffalo can bring in a significant on-field contributor to help Lee Evans, they almost have to do it. That might leave the speedy Parrish disgruntled, as he views himself as something more than just the league's premiere punt returner.