John Wawrow of The Associated Press published his annual Buffalo Bills team preview on Tuesday - which you can read here - and we've received a lot of inquiries regarding one line thrown in regarding the team's recent trade of receiver Lee Evans to Baltimore.
Writes Wawrow of the trade (in which he discusses the different explanations GM Buddy Nix provided for the trade): "Nix didn't handle trade talks, leaving that job with Jim Overdorf, the team's salary cap specialist and senior vice president of football administration."
Most of the reactions we've heard dealt specifically with Overdorf, a prominent front office executive (he handles all of the team's contract negotiations with players) that has survived a few regime changes at the top of the organization. Much like other secondary front office members, including Tom Modrak most prominently, fans have questioned how Overdorf has escaped criticism, particularly if he's involved in negotiations to this level. We'd caution only this: it's extraordinarily unlikely that the Bills, as an organization, agreed to this trade without Nix's final authority. He's the ultimate decision-maker. If you're upset about the Evans trade, your vitriol should still be directed at Nix.
There is, however, concern to be found within Wawrow's words.
Ultimately, minutiae like this won't determine Nix's fate in Buffalo. Every general manager in the NFL has people underneath him that handles a lot of the day-to-day, and Overdorf through the years has been outstanding in negotiating contracts, even with some prominent misses here and there (most notably with Jason Peters). The team's performance - not how Nix runs his department - will be the deciding factor in how long he and his team run the show in Orchard Park.
It is a little odd, however, that the team's salary cap specialist would be involved in determining the contents of a player and pick swap to the level that Wawrow intimates Overdorf was. Yes, Overdorf would need to be involved, as there are financial considerations to every single personnel move a team makes. Overdorf's involvement isn't the concerning part of the statement - it's the idea that he'd be involved in compensation from Baltimore that is odd.
As previously stated, every GM is a delegator to some extent, but Nix seems to take this to the extreme. Obviously, I don't have intricate knowledge of the inner workings of One Bills Drive, but with the front office currently structured as is, Nix's position is more executor than workhorse. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. There's absolutely no reason to believe that Nix isn't making the final call on each and every decision. He does, however, appear to have a very sound and highly developed structure below him - from college and pro scouting, to an Assistant GM in Doug Whaley with an unusually prominent role for his position - that makes his job perhaps slightly lighter than that of your average NFL GM.
Our concern doesn't involve the idea that Nix wouldn't be highly involved in trade negotiations, either - it's merely that he delegated to the wrong person. We've no idea who else was on the horn with Ozzie Newsome with Overdorf, but if Nix wasn't, then at minimum, Whaley should have been. In fact, if Nix isn't doing the negotiating, then Whaley should be taking the lead on that. We'd hope that someone with a much better background in personnel would be knee-deep in those conversations, as well.
To sum up our opinions on this: there's no reason to blame Overdorf if you weren't a fan of the Evans trade compensation, as there's no way Nix didn't have final authority over that decision. If you're looking to criticize the idea that Overdorf is involved to that extent, we're with you, but only if Overdorf was flying solo - and we hope that if Nix is delegating these tasks to other upper-level management, that Whaley is at least involved, as he's the heir apparent to Nix's job.