I completely understand why so many fans are annoyed that Nix hasn't filled more holes on the team via free agency. It's been so long since the Bills have been relevant and the fans patience has run thin. I just hope that everyone can look at the big picture here and see that Nix has a plan.
Think about the roster as is right now. We are weak at RT, TE, ILB (strong side), and SS. We have some players with potential at a few very important positions that will be free agents- Johnson, Bell, and Fitzpatrick. We have starters at OLB, RG, ILB, WR (Evans) and even CB that either have to prove they can stay healthy and/or be productive for a full season.
So if you consider what we have at the 3 most important positions on the field (in my opinion), QB LT and OLB what do we really have? A QB who is going to be a free agent and with a reasonably successful season will want to be payed like a starting QB in this league. A LT who has a lot of potential, has improved each season and is coming off a season which he was about average in the league. If he can improve to be a top 12 LT and still show that he has potential he could command a pretty large contract this off season. Then you have Merriman at OLB who could potentially reel in double digit sacks this season if he stays healthy, which I feel he will. If you think he will repeat that the following season than your looking at possibly extending his contract in the off season.
Then after that, think about all the young players with potential that we just simply don't know how they will turn out: Spiller, Dareus, Carrington, Troup, A. Williams, Sheppard, Moats, Coleman, Searcy, Hairston, C. White, J. White etc... How do you pick and chose which ones play well and which don't? Maybe RT is a huge need now, but whats to say Pears doesn't play well enough to hold the job for two seasons while Hairston develops? How can we tell if Troup will develop into the ever important NT that you need to be successful in the 3-4 (at least for some looks you need a NT who can play the 0-technique)? What to say Moats or C. White don't show they can effectively play strong side inside backer? Can Searcy be a starting SS in this league? I could keep going but I'm sure you understand the point I'm getting at.
I understand that people can argue that a fair amount of these players won't pan out and you should add quality football players to the team when you have a chance. I get the thinking, but is now really the time to do that? Nix has stated that his goal when he arrived to Buffalo is to make this team a contender in 3 seasons. It been one full season and two drafts by the CHIX regime and right now the team is showing promise. Would it have been awesome if we could land Clabo/Burnett/Boss and fill these holes? Absolutely. But ask yourself this- would adding one or even two of these players be the difference between this team being a playoff team or not this season? If your answering honestly, the answer is probably no. Players like Fitz, Bell, Merriman, Johnson, Mckelvin/McGee will be essentially play the biggest roles in how this team does as they play some of the most important positions on the field. Pretty much every player (with the exception of Johnson) have a lot to prove this season if they want to figure into the organizations plans moving forward. So why tie up money by signing starters at SILB or RT when you:
A) don't know if you have a young player who can be an effective player at the position or
B) have question marks at the most important positions on the field
J2 wrote a very good piece about how RT's aren't drafted very highly (if at all). When is the last time a block first TE has gone in the first round? Maybe Heath Miller, but other than that I can't think of one. How often is a LB drafted to play strong side ILB in a 3-4 in the first 2-3 rounds? There's a reason this is the case, and its because you can't build a team around RT/TE/SILB. It's not that they aren't important, but they are positions that you improve after you have an effective nucleus to a team in place. It's not that we don't have a potential core group of players at this point as much we just can't be completely confident that they are all going to be contributors moving forward.
We probably didn't move on a TE (at least publicly) because Miller was going to draw a big pay day and Nix didn't feel it was worth it to pay Boss ~5 mil per year mainly to block on running downs. We have so many good WR's its why not just pay David Martin or Scott Chandler to block on running downs and put 4 WR's on the field on passing downs? I mean isn't depth at WR our strength? Why take Smith/Nelson of the field by signing a TE?
When all things are considered if your Buddy Nix why rush things? Sure, we have 30M in cap to be spent, but we don't have to spend it. I know, it's exactly this kind of attitude that leads Jerry Sullivan to rip apart the Bills at every given opportunity, but this league is a business. Buffalo is a small market and don't have money to simply toss around. The fact that the cap floor won't be put into effect until next year is huge for the Bills. It allows us to take an extra year to look at the roster and figure out where we are really weak, figure out which of those positions is the most important to address, as well as give us some extra cash to put towards resigning a guy like Stevie Johnson or Demetrius Bell (if he has a breakout year). I can understand if that is frustrating, but such is life as a fan of a small market team. If withholding an extra 30 mil this year helps us figure out where we want to spend it AND is some extra money that can go towards keeping the teams home games in Buffalo then I'm all for it. I know in the world of sports it may not seem like so much money, but considering the team is probably only bringing in around 40 mil a year in profit and not getting more than 10 mil a year from revenue sharing (at least per the old deal) it could actually be very helpful in resigning some of our key players who produce or even keeping the Bills in Buffalo for as long as possible.
Sorry if I have lost you to this point- so much to try to say that I hope I made this easy enough to follow without rambling on too much. I'll end this on one final note:
Buddy Nix and the rest of the Bill's scouting department have had 6 months of nothing to do nothing but scouting, and 3 of those months were after the NFL draft/before FA... Obviously Buddy did his homework on each and every player available and he picked his targets, put a price tag on them, and stuck to it. That's what good GM's do- they assess the value of a player and what he will bring to your organization and they don't overpay. We made our move on Clabo, Burnett, and Poz but we were outbid. I promise you that's not because we couldn't outbid Atlanta/Miami/Jacksonville, but because we didn't want to. You can't really ask for a GM to do much more in FA than shop, put a price tag on the things you like, and be disciplined when the bidding starts happening- especially when the organizations plan all along has been to build through the draft and resign key players. What has Buddy done so far to make people so nervous? Have a little faith and patience, the organization is heading in the right direction.