McKelvin may get too much opportunity in '09 (AP)
Brace yourselves, Buffalo Bills fans, for your daily obligatory mention of new Bills receiver Terrell Owens.
Yeah, I'll admit it: I'm getting tired of talking about him already. Thankfully, the impact his arrival has on the Bills is far-reaching enough to ripple its way over to the cornerback position, even getting as far as second-year corner Leodis McKelvin, the central figure of this post.
Owens is only part of a developing situation in which McKelvin - already one of the league's elite kick returners and a corner with tremendous potential - is staring an improbably vital role in the face for the 2009 season. The rest of the plot includes several current and former Bills; it's Owens and Jabari Greer, however, acting as the catalysts for a move that could leave McKelvin to assume three starting positions in 2009. That might be bad news, folks.
How Owens effects McKelvin
One of the more popular topics centered around the arrival of T.O. in Buffalo is what is going to happen with overpriced gadget receiver Roscoe Parrish. Scheduled to make $2.7 million in 2009, Parrish is now Buffalo's fourth receiver and their starting punt returner. With second-year players James Hardy and Steve Johnson waiting in the wings (and the Bills legitimately running seven deep at receiver), there is sentiment that the speedy Parrish might be an appealing option as trade bait.
Ironically, Buffalo has been rumored to be exploring opportunities in trading for an offensive lineman, in particular Kansas City's Brian Waters. The team released left guard Derrick Dockery on the eve of free agency, they let three interior linemen hit the open market, and their only hole-plugging move up the middle was to sign former Panthers reserve Geoff Hangartner as their new starting center. Hangartner and Butler represent the full extent of the Bills' full-time interior offensive line depth. The team has work to do on the line, to put it obviously. It's very safe to assume that if the Bills explore trade opportunities to address this issue, Parrish might be a big part of the conversations.
If Parrish goes, McKelvin becomes Buffalo's best option as a punt returner. Sure, backup running back Fred Jackson has done it, and done it well. But McKelvin set an NCAA record with seven career punt returns for scores. At the very least, he'd split punt return opportunities if Parrish ends up on a different team.
Greer departure elevates McKelvin to starter role
While the Bills were chasing a man they ultimately wouldn't need in WR Laveranues Coles, a storyline that sort of went by the wayside was the Bills' attempts to re-sign cornerback Jabari Greer. Obviously, those attempts were in vain; Greer signed with the Saints the day after the Bills withdrew their offer and replaced Greer with former Charger and Jaguar Drayton Florence. Buffalo's newest corner is being touted as training camp competition for McKelvin at the second starting spot behind Terrence McGee. More realistically, Florence will assume the team's nickel role and possibly even moonlight at safety. It will be shocking if McKelvin isn't the starter opposite McGee on opening day.
You may be seeing the predicament at this point. McKelvin is already the full-time kick returner; he's likely to add full-time starting cornerback to his resume, and if Parrish is moved, he'll have part-time punt returner to hang his hat on as well. For a second-year player that still needs some polishing around the edges, is it possible that Leodis might have too much on his plate at the moment?
There's very little doubt in my mind that McKelvin is the right mix of talented and youth to acquit himself should he eventually have to deal with all three of these responsibilities. But one of the unintended consequences of letting Greer walk and Owens' presence possibly leading to a move of Parrish could mean overwhelming a young and talented player. This situation bears watching, particularly as the trade market heats up prior to the draft. Leodis is already one of Buffalo's most electrifying playmakers, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to develop an over-reliance on a second-year performer. Stay tuned, folks.