As free agent frenzy reaches and surpasses its third week, I am left wondering what the future of the LG position holds in Buffalo. We entered this offseason with a shocking (to some) last minute release of Derrick Dockerty. Since free agency has began, the Bills have made two offensive line moves, retaining Kirk Chambers and adding Gregg Hangartner. The Bills have effectively taken a passive role towards filling the LG position vacated by Dockery, only brining in Kendall Simmons for a lookey lou. Since that visit, the Bills have not explored other possibilities to fill the left guard position. This sequences of events has left me wondering waht the future of the LG position holds for the 09 Bills. In light of pressing needs for any sort of a competent pass rush, a need for a strong side LB, a need for a TE that does not suck, and a need for safety help, it is easy to overlook the LG position on next years team. I am interested to see how the remainder of the offseason shapes the plan for this oft overlooked, but essential and critical position on next years team.
As I see it, two options exist in the big picture; in house or draft. The only two inhouse candidates for the LG position are Demetrius Bell and Kirk Chambers. Demetrius Bell is a Mailman lovechild that interests us all. I believe that his raw athleticisim and untapped potential offer a world of exciting possibilities for the future of the BIlls line. But, just one season removed from small school play, I believe that there are serious doubts about whether he can comptently man the LG position for a full year. In short, I dont think he is ready yet.
The other inhouse option is Kirk Chambers. Chambers proved himself to be a more than capable sub last season, logging valuable minutes in relief of Jason Peters and in relief of Brad Butler. But, the looming question there is whether his effective substitute outings would translate into the same degree of success as a full time starter. As many Bills fans remember, many a BIll has shown promise as a role player only to prove worthless as a starter (read Rob Johnson, Ryan Denney, Keith Ellison, etc., etc.). While I believe Chambers is our best in house option, I have two concerns. First, his versatility as a supersub is irreplaceable and is increasingly valuable as the Jason Peters situation returns to focus. Second, I am concerned about his ability to man the position over a full season in a competent manner. He is in his 30s and no team has identified that ability before the BIlls. While this does not indict him as unsuccessful as a starter, it is defnitely a damning sign.
If the two in house candidates cannot fit the bill for 2009 (no pun intended), then surely a free agent is out there to resolve the situation, right? Wrong, chief. The free agent pool at guard is thin and riddled with turnstile guards at this point. We are left with hacks like Duke Preston seeking work. Duke Preston could not block his arteries with 50 cheeseburgers and a tub of butter, yet alone the top DT in the AFC East. Each availabile free agent faces the same potential jeers alleging ineffectiveness.
The BIlls then are left to the draft to fit the need at OG. But, with holes at more "glamorous" positions like DE and OLB, I believe that a Bills guard pick is unlikely to occur before about round 4. Round 4 would be a fine time to address the OG position, because interior OL are devalued in the draft in general. Under my suppositon, the BIlls will spend their first three picks on OLB, DE, and TE. There could be very good value available at the OG spot in round 4, but that is aweful hard to predict. Read any draft blog/mock draft website for an idea of who may or may not be therein Round 4.
This long and protracted discussion leads me to a crucial point. LG is a big hole on the BIlls, but ranks likelty as our 4th need on draft day. For those who argue that the BIlls should shop multiple picks for the likes of Shefter, Cutler, or any other experienced player, I caution you to consider the ramifications. While the Bills have taken steps to address their present needs, serveral pressing needs remain unsatisfied. The LG position is a perfect case study. The pressing needs remaining to be filled by OBD will likely be left to the draft and post draft FA signings. WHile either trading picks for non-need players (read Jay Cutler) or using picks to draft non-need players (read BJ Raji) is exciting to some, I encourage those advocates to consider the larger picture. Quite simply, this team has too many unfulfilled needs in my estimation to invest any draft picks on luxury items. Just like a person on unemployment and facing foreclosure should not intelligently invest their income in a new big screen TV, the Bills brass cannot invest their draft picks on luxury items. Luxury items are considered just that for a reason; those who are poor cannot afford them. The BIlls are poor