At this point in our re-build, forging an explosive offense is an easier and more achievable goal than making a reliably good defense. So, lets DO IT! In my estimation, it would require 2 moves to improve depth, 3 moves to solidify existing talent, and 4 moves in the draft to aquire additional talent. Here’s how I see it:
At the end of the season this team will have no viable Backup QB. Tarvaris Jackson is a fringe starter in this league and we seriously disrespected him this year in both action and word. I see no reason why he would want to be affiliated with the BILLS and see him bolting for greener pastures. At the same time, when the BILLS front office re-negotiated Thigpen’s contract earlier this season, they successfully voided the final year of his contract as well. Smart move OBD! I think we’re all ready to move on from Thiggy... Only problem is our cupboard is (once again) woefully thin at QB. The solution is to start making moves NOW to retain the services of a future franchise BACKUP QB. So, depth move #1...
#1a. Release Chris Scott (G) from the 53 man roster
#1b. Pluck B.J. Coleman (QB) from Green Bay’s practice Squad.
This move costs us nothing but a 4th string guard, while giving us reliable depth at the most important position in all of sports. By taking him NOW, Coleman will have plenty of time to learn the playbook, get comfortable with the WR’s all while continuing to work on his mechanics. An additional bonus is that Coleman is already worlds more talented than Thigpen, and has a very high ceiling. Best case scenario... Coleman develops into a Frank Reich-esque backup QB. Worse case scenario... he provides decent insurance against QB injury but is never active and then gets cut at the end of NEXT season in lieu of a better prospect. Depth move #2...
#2a. Cut Martin Ruvell (WR / Special Teams 30 years old)
#2b. Promote Kevin Elliot from the practice squad (WR / Special Teams 24 years old)
The sick, sad fact of the matter is that THIS season is over. The BILLS need to work on solidifiying the best possible roster for NEXT year-- and for years to come-- right NOW. That said, we need a young developmental WR prospect that can play elite special teams. Elliot, at 6-3", 215lb is your prototypical WR. He has decent speed, decent hands and was developing a reputation for excellent special teams play when the Jaguars cut him. Best case scenario... Elliot blossoms into a legitimate starting quality WR and provides competition for TJ Graham all while playing special teams. Worse case scenario... Elliott’s newness on special teams forces a coverage error and lets the Dolfish or Jets run a kick back, we lose the game and ... move up a little in the draft (oh no). He would still have the capacity to grow in his dual WR / special teams role.
Solidifying talent is as simple as:
#1a. Re-sign Nelson
#1b. Re-sign Levitre
#1c. Re-sign D.Jones
This is continuity I think we can (almost) all get behind. I put Nelson first because it should be easy to get his contract done, and because this offense doesn’t run as well without him... On to adding Talent:
#1. Draft Ryan Nassib (QB) in round 1
I would be perfectly happy with Glennon or Smith, but I chose Nassib because I believe he can run a more explosive, faster tempo, horizontal spread offense than Glennon could. I also think Nassib’s elite play fake skills + CJ Spiller in the backfield would help open everything up on offense. Nassib has the skills to outperform Fitz in training camp and at this point I would expect him to start from day one, a-la Russel Wilson. Best case scenario... he becomes an elite HOF QB who leads us to the promised land. Worse case scenario... he flops and puts us in prime position to draft Jadevon Clowney next year and Johnny Football the year after.
#2. Draft Jordan Matthews (WR) in round 2 and move Stevie into the slot.
Jordan Matthews is the 4rd best WR in the draft behind Allen, Austin and Woods, but could in fact become the best of the bunch. He has exceptional hands (he is Jerry Rice’s nephew FWIW) and at 6-3, is tall enough to be the "open, even when he’s not open" WR that Nix wants. Watch him play and he’s repeatedly making impossible catches in traffic and tight coverage. He’s the real deal and drafting him would not only allow Stevie to slide inside to the slot (maximizing his potential) but it also seems to be a successful strategy to draft the franchise QB and the #1 WR in the same draft. This way the pair gets to develop in tandem. They can push one another during the good times, and lean on one another when times are bad. Drafting an elite outside WR could put the finishing touch on one of the most explosive offenses in the league.... I currently have the WR’s graded in this order (Jordan Matthews / Keenan Allen / Robert Woods / Aaron Mellette / Justin Hunter / Terrance Williams). One of them will be available in round 2. I don’t expect any to be available in round three.
#3. Draft Jordan Reed (TE / FB) in round 3.
Jordan Reed is the best blocking TE in the draft, and might be the most explosive pass catcher of the TE crop. He’s an Aaron Hernandez type player, who can do a little bit of everything effectively. The best part is, Reed might actually be better than Hernandez in every facet of the game. I think he falls just far enough to get drafted by us in rd3 because he doesn’t fit in most NFL offenses, and at 6-3" he doesn’t have prototypical TE size. This is a good thing however! I think he’s just short enough to make an effective lead blocking TE/FB combo (much like Dwayne Allen in Indy), as well as being a tricky little weapon that can slip into the flat... or... stay in to pass block (he’s easily as good as Lee Smith, but doesn’t have after--the--play aggression issues and doesn’t signal to the defense that this is going to be a running play). Reed can take Dorin Dickerson’s and Corey McIntyre’s roster spot (Remember when Kyle Williams lined up on the goal line as fullback? Sad to say that spelled the beginning of the end of Corey McIntyre’s career)
#4 Draft Dustin Hopkins (K) in round 6.
We need a kicker that can reliably put the ball out the end zone on kickoffs, AND be trusted to make a 50+ yard FG on a crappy day in December at the Ralph. Hopkins has the leg, the accuracy and already has rapport with punter and holder Shawn Powell. Not only does this move solidify special teams for 12+ years, but it also lets us reliably score points from farther away... which is important since the only chance we have next year is to plan to play a shootout and succeed in putting up points at every opportunity.
This offseason strategy doesn’t leave much room to help fix the woes on defense, but I don’t much care anymore. We’re not one offseason away from fielding an elite defense. I think the best way we can help the D at this point is to field a strong offense. Lets take the pressure off by letting the D play with the lead.. having points on the board is the easiest way to stop a running game (cough, cough).. Stop the running game and our D-linemen can pin their ears back and get after it. The rest of the D is fixed with band aids. Using our 4th round pick to get a rotational DE like Devin Taylor would be nice. A 5th round LB like Tuggle could help and might even be a nice surprise. The rest of the defense can be fielded with vets on one year contracts (though Glenn Dorsey would be nice to keep around for a while).
It’s not a perfect solution, but it is ONE solution that I think has some feasibility. I don’t see Chan getting canned, and if that’s the case Buddy’s gonna throw resources his way to help him succeed. Here’s hoping they find that success. Click to enlarge