I haven't really dove into the mock draft hysteria yet, but I think my waiting is finally over. It's the slowest part of the pre-draft off-season right now, with the Combine still over a week away. I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring with some thoughts, hoping to get more discussion going. I am also going to go a little trade heavy because
I want Ron from NM to got his jollies for the week I want to really turn this roster over ASAP. I know it's highly unlikely that we'll see too many trades, or the ones that I propose, but I'd like to believe they are realistic and could happen. :) I also wanted to get one in before the Combine and before the free agency letdown occurs.
I think the Bills will be involved in a busy, but underwhelming, player movement in the coming months. Will we see big name additions? Nope. Will we see a lot of additions and subtractions? I think that's very likely. I think we're going to see a solid chunk of lower tier free agent signings, mostly to help the transition to the 3-4 defense. Nothing significant, but enough to help make the switch a little easier this season. There will be some short term fixes, which I'm fine with, as we build young depth.
I also want to acquire as many draft picks as possible, without going totally overboard. Chan Gailey is concerned about defensive depth already, so I think that's going to be one of the bigger priorities of the off-season. I think we'll see some trades to get more draft picks in order to help solve this problem. Dumping any veteran defender who doesn't fit has to be done.
Free Agent Additions:
Veteran ILB - Larry Foote is my first target. Having no idea how Doug Whaley feels about him, I'll just assume that their Pittsburgh connection is a good thing. Foote would be a nice experienced pickup. He'll be 30 when the season starts, so I'm guessing he can help us for 3-4 years as a starter or eventually quality depth. I also don't know how Poz will make the transition, though he should be okay, so this may be his only season as part of Buffalo's 3-4. If Foote doesn't happen, Matt Wilhelm or basically any veteran with starting experience as the SILB. Tim Dobbins or Kevin Burnett are young RFA's that'd I'd keep my eye on if they receive low tenders. I choose Foote.
Veteran OLB - I think we absolutely need to bring someone in with experience to push Maybin and let him ease into his new role. It's not going to be a top player, obviously, but somebody with experience who can take a good number of snaps and rush the passer would be a nice short term option. Tully Banta-Cain has been mentioned, but I think NE will bring him back. Derrick Burgess could be an option, even though he struggled for the Pats this year. He had a nice final month (3 sacks in the four games) and may not be a bad choice. Chike Okeafor or Marques Harris could be options too. If the Pats dump Adalius Thomas and he doesn't go to the Jets or back to Baltimore, he could be a guy worth looking at because I think he'll play with a chip on his shoulder. No matter who it is, we need to add an experienced player here. I don't think Joey Porter is an option. Maybe Chris Gocong in Philly could finally get the chance to play in a 3-4. I'll choose Burgess for now with Kawika Mitchell also playing some OLB for us.
Veteran 3-4 DE - I'd push hard for Dwan Edwards, a player who excelled in stopping the run for the Ravens. With Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson all likely to be squeezed into the position, we need a guy with successful experience, as well. Jarvis Green would be a nice addition, too. Heck, maybe Paul Spicer could be given one last shot. I'd love to add a young veteran looking for an increased role like Stephen Bowen in Dallas, but he'll likely be retained via Restricted free agency. Jason Hatcher is another Cowboy in that position. Edwards is my pick here.
Veteran WR - We've heard Chris Chambers mentioned before, but I'm expecting KC to try hard to bring him back. I wouldn't mind a Nate Burleson type player, but I doubt that'd happen. Kevin Walter would be a nice choice, and a reasonable option as Houston may move on after a disappointing season out of him. Kaisertown keeps bringing up Bobby Wade, which I think is probably someone the Bills will look at.
The Bills will probably have to add a veteran Nose Tackle, at least for depth purposes. Ian Scott and Bryan Robinson have been mentioned here before. Either of them wouldn't surprise me. Jason Ferguson is a long shot because I think he'll retire. Kendrick Clancy missed the season, but might be a good depth option. Old man Hollis Thomas could be an extremely short term option. A trade for a vet like Alan Branch, Isaac Sopoaga or Louis Leonard could happen, but I don't see it. I think we'll add a body here, though it won't be a significant addition.
I'm beginning to think the Bills will stick with Trent Edwards at QB (bleh) with the hopes of Gailey coaching him up or even Ryan Fitzpatrick again. I don't think Brian Brohm is a viable candidate, but could be down the line. I'm guessing a trade for a veteran isn't likely, meaning no Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Jason Campbell or Tyler Thigpen. Am I missing anyone there? If Chad Pennington has interest in coming to Buffalo, I'd definitely be down for that one. He'd be a nice stabilizing presence as the Bills look to build up their roster.
I'm all for the Bills adding a veteran LT if possible. If Chad Clifton doesn't stay in GB or New England lets Matt Light go, I'd be happy to see the Bills push for either of them. Signing one would give them more flexibility come draft day. I'm going to go ahead and assume the Bills do add a veteran capable of starting, just for fun here.
That's probably a little too much free agent action with Foote, Burgess, D. Edwards, a WR, a depth NT, maybe Pennington and a LT being added, but I really think the Bills will be busy with these types of free agents. None are long term options and none are going to lead the Bills to the playoffs, but helping them field a more competitive roster while allowing for the growth of young players behind them is something that I hope Nix, Whaley and Gailey consider.
I touched on the possibility of trading for a veteran NT or giving up picks for RFA's, but it's probably not going to happen. Something that I can see happening is Buffalo looking to unload as many vets as possible for draft picks. I think there could be teams that come calling too. One thing that we haven't really discussed is the impact the CBA problems will have the final 8 teams of the playoffs. Those teams will be limited in the number of free agents they can sign based on the players they lose and the money involved. Here's a good read from Mike Lombardi. If a playoff team like Arizona, Indy or New Orleans wants to add veteran depth at DE, they may have to look at trading for players like Chris Kelsay instead of signing someone like Aaron Kampman for a good chunk of change. I agree with Lombardi that there could be more trades of veterans this season than usual. Hopefully, Buffalo jumps in the fray.
Chris Kelsay for a 6th round pick. Yeah, I know, that's crazy and unrealistic and something I would never recommend any team doing, but I could actually see it happening. Maybe Carolina will look to add a veteran to replace the departing Julius Peppers in a cheapish manner while Everette Brown comes around? Maybe Indy will want more of a run stuffer to team with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney? Maybe Perry Fewell will want to bring him to New York to help with some of the Giants run defense issues? I think Kelsay might have more value as a depth player to certain teams than he ever had as a starter in Buffalo. Plus, this is my dream scenario, getting rid of Kelsay and getting something in return. I had to do it.
Roscoe Parrish for a 7th round pick. Just sit back and let hit happen. No need to question this, I wanted more picks.
I can see Aaron Schobel being traded, but I think he'd rather retire or just play a final year here giving the 3-4 a shot. I don't think Houston is a viable landing place because of their DL depth. I understand why New Orleans would be a good fit for him and the Saints, but I struggle to believe they'll pay him his $6M+ salary to be a part-time player when they are already paying big bucks to Will Smith ($7M+ this season), Charles Grant ($4M) and to a lesser extent Bobby McCray ($2M). Now if Grant ends up released, it's another story. I don't really see too many other potential destinations. He's likely to remain or retire. I think he'll play one more season, maybe two if it's a surprise year for the Bills.
Depending on how the Bills plan to use Kyle Williams, he would be a very valuable trade chip. I think he'll get a shot at NT and DE though. He's a good enough player where he can jimmy his way into a productive season as a poor fit at those positions. If he is traded though, I'm okay with it as long as Buffalo can get a 3rd or better. He'll stick with my current roster for now though.
If I'm wrong and Edwards is completely done in Buffalo, maybe someone gives up a 7th. For some reason, the Rams blog seems to like him. You never know.
Everyone's favorite trade topic, Marshawn Lynch, may very well be on his way out. I really think San Diego would be a great fit for him and I wouldn't be surprised if they offered as high as a 3rd rounder. I just don't think it'll happen, and I'll keep Lynch around hoping he can become the RB he was drafted to be.
Donte Whitner could have a number of suitors, but I think he'll get one final chance here. Is he worth trading for a 4th or 5th rounder? Hmmmm....
I'm going to go into the draft looking for more picks, and following kaiser's belief that the team doesn't have to address the offensive line early. My addition of a veteran LT will help with that.
I think there is a good chance that Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Russell Okung and Anthony Davis will all be gone by the time our pick comes up, along with Suh, McCoy, Berry and Haden. I do think that Rolando McClain and Dez Bryant will be available, and make the Bills pick very valuable to other teams. I think Denver and Miami would covet either player, and I think McClain would be a great fit for the Giants. I think McClain will be a very good NFL player, but part of me is concerned that #9 is too high for him, especially if he runs a 4.6 or so and doesn't wow in the other agility drills. Part of me thinks he is getting treated like the next Patrick Willis, but I don't think he's that good. For a team like Buffalo, I'm not sure he's a good fit, but for a team with much fewer holes like the Giants, he could be a major get. I'm going to go ahead and trade down with the Giants, getting the 15th pick, and their 3rd and 4th round picks.
1st (15) - Dan Williams NT Tennessee - He's a big, strong, very stout player with the ability to penetrate or anchor the 3-4 and command double teams. He was productive at UT and would be a great fit as our big fatty at NT. I think he's one of the top 10-12 players in the draft. Bryan Bulaga is another option, but I like Williams a wee bit more.
2nd - Brandon Spikes ILB Florida - He's likely to slide into round 2 and I'd love to see the Bills add him if possible. With Foote or Wilhelm or whoever as a shorter term fix, Spikes could either take the job outright making them quality depth, or spend a season in a rotation before taking over for the long term in a season or so.
3rd - Rodger Saffold OT Indiana - I think this is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft. Saffold is athletic, experienced, has good feet and the size necessary for LT. He had a very good career in the Big 10, and backed that up with a great East/West Shrine week. A year behind a guy like Light would really give this kid the chance to grow into the Bills future at LT.
3rd (from NYG) - Lamarr Houston DE Texas - Adding more beef to the front 7, Houston will be making the move out to DE from his defensive tackle position in college. He did play some end at Texas and will give the Bills a potential pass rusher from NT in passing situations. He has long arms and a good base. With guys like Stroud and Williams not being ideal fits at DE in the 3-4, adding a rookie in the early rounds makes a lot of sense.
4th - Lindsay Witten RLB Connecticut - The former DE will have to make the move to OLB in our 3-4, but he has the athleticism and pass rush ability to have an impact right away. He had 11.5 sacks this past season and provides good pass rushing value at this point. One downside to this pick....he's Donte Whitner's brother.
4th (from NYG) - Jonathan Crompton QB Tennessee - Nobody is really talking about him, and I really don't understand why. He finally put it all together this year under Lane Kiffin, and has all the tools to be a successful NFL QB. He has prototypical size, can make all the throws, is accurate (with room for improvement) and is getting better and better. Under Chan Gailey and George Cortez, I think this guy could really surprise and develop into a potential starter for us. In the 4th round, he's worth taking a shot on.
5th - Walter Thurmond CB Oregon - I know, can you believe it? A Cornerback? Jairus Byrd's former secondary-mate could have entered the draft last year and been selected somewhere in the first 3 rounds. Like Byrd, he's a ball hawk, but is coming off a knee injury that shortened his senior season. I think this is a low risk, high reward type pick, and a position that we may actually need to add some depth to. Remember, Ashton Youboty is a free agent. Drayton Florence is in the final year of his contract. Terrence McGee, despite the recent extension, looks to be on the downside of his career. Reggie Corner is not good. Ellis Lankster is not a guy to be counting on. Where is this position in 2011? Adding a talented player like Thurmond is a good move for the future, even if he isn't ready to play in 2010.
6th - Marcus Easley WR Connecticut - Easley has very good size at 6'2", 215 lbs, and is expected to run somewhere around a 4.4 at the combine. He's a very late bloomer, having walked on at UConn and making an impact only in his senior year, but he has all the attributes you look for in a WR. He has very good hands to go with prototypical size and speed. He needs a lot more work, but could really be a major find for whatever team drafts him. With so many questions surrounding James Hardy and Steve Johnson, it's worth a gamble here.
6th (from Philly) - Antonio Brown WR Central Michigan - Dan LeFevour's favorite target left school after a very productive junior season. He has very good speed and looks like a potential slot receiver in the NFL. He's also a top return man, providing the Bills with Roscoe Parrish's replacement at punt returner.
6th (Kelsay) - Nate Byham TE Pittsburgh - The Bills need to add depth to the position and provide Shawn Nelson a running mate that is an above average blocker. Byham has very good size and is one of the better blocking prospects in the draft this year.
7th (from Detroit) -Corey Peters DE Kentucky - The former college DT had a very productive and active senior season in the SEC. He'll make the transition outside and would provide youthful depth at the position.
7th - Travis Ivey NT Maryland - A huge kid (6'4", 340 lbs) that that will be given the opportunity to make the team as the backup NT. Developing depth along the front 7 continues to be a major sticking point for my off-season.
7th (Parrish) - LaMarcus Coker RB Hampton - Has great speed, good size, return ability and is very talented. He has enough ability to become a big play threat in the NFL. His off the field problems led to his dismissal from Tennessee, but he could be a great find late in the draft. I'll take my chances at this point.
As you can tell, building up the front 7 would be a priority under my leadership. I would also make rush LB and DE priority free agent positions, as well.
I know this type of off-season isn't likely to occur, but I'd really like to see the Bills add building blocks to their defense, while building depth along both lines. If they have a chance at one of the top QB's or OT's, I would hardly be opposed to adding them. No matter who they select, Buddy Nix and friends need to find long-term starters in this draft.