First, Gailey is so fired. While some Bills fans want to chase the shiny ball (Chip Kelly), Jim Tressel might be a bit more realistic. He was one of the candidates for the Colts job, believes that a balanced offense complements a good defense--which bodes well for getting Spiller his touches. Hue Jackson would be another guy to consider. Yes, he was a head coach but that was for the Raiders and he managed to lead Oakland to a halfway decent record while Al Davis was still above ground. How many coaches could bring in a new starting QB after the start of the year and stay in the playoff hunt until the final stretch. I'd also want to talk to Mike Zimmer, a guy who has gotten good results in a secondary market. I'm not going to worry too much about coordinators at this point since the head coach would know the guys he wanted, which would play a part in the interview process. I suspect that Jackson would be my pick at the end of the day.
According to nyjestscap.com, Buffalo currently has about $105.5 million of cap space committed to the active roster for 2013. The 2013 cap should be $120 million, with Buffalo able to roll any remaining 2012 cap space into 2013-which was $9 million before the Urbik deal, and about $7 million after. Roll over the $7 million left in 2012 cap space to the 2013 year and the available cap room increases to about $21.5 million. ($120 million 2013 cap + $7 million from 2012 cap - $105.5 in 2013 cap already allocated.) That number has to increase in order for the Bills to sign the guys currently on the roster and try to nab a free agent or two. I start looking at some of the overpriced contracts that Nix handed out:
Chris Kelsay has to know that he's not getting $5 million this year, not from Buffalo and certainly not from anyone else. I look to restructure his deal, dropping his yearly compensation to an even $1 million. If he doesn't take it, fine. I suspect that he will and be happy to cling to the 7 figure salary range. This drops his cap number by a bit over $3 million, and raises the available money to $24.5 million while keeping Kelsay or $25.5 million if he stupidly refused the deal.
Terrence McGee isn't worth his $2.1 million salary; he's injured more often than he isn't and has lost more than a step. Cutting him would save $2.1 million. Still, it might be worth offering him the Kelsay deal, which would lower his salary to an even $1 million. The available cap space rises to $25.5 million if he takes the deal and $26.5 million if he doesn't.
Mark Anderson would cost $1.5 million to cut. He stays. Case closed.
George Wilson, on the other hand, has been largely bad this year and cutting him saves closing in on $3.4 million. The available cap space grows to roughly $29 million.
Brad Smith has been a disappointment as a kick returner, mediocre in the Wildcat and I think may have thrown an INT on his only pass attempt. He's gone and the cap space grows by $2.75 million, to a bit over $31.5 million.
Fred Jackson is in line to make $2.65 million, which is too far much for a back up RB. The cap saving from cutting Jackson is $1.6 million. The options are either to trade Jackson in the offseason or to keep him, since I think there is zero chance of him taking a reduced deal. If he's traded the cap space grows to about $33 million, and I'm looking to trade him on the ‘let a guy go one year too early instead of one year too late' rationale.
We've got to reserve about $4 million for rookies, so drop the available space to about $29 million.
Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre are my top guys to re-sign. Eric Weddle signed a deal for $40 million for 5 years, about $8 million per year. Chris Snee is the highest paid guard, set to earn $6.2 million next year with a cap number of $8.783 million. Those seem reasonable ballparks for Byrd and Levitre. Each man is going to get a deal in the range of 5 years/$40 million, or about $8 million per year. Spreading it out relatively evenly the cap hit for each man would be about $8 million or $16 million total. The cap space left to play with drops to about $13 million.
Like many of you I watched with dismay as Leodis McKelvin failed to develop into a good CB. He was better this year though, and led the NFL in kickoff returns. I can see trying to keep him as a 3rd or 4th CB and returner. Dumping Brad Smith makes it easier to offer him $3 million a year for 4 or 5 season. Cap space is down to $10 million.
With the threat of giving him a tender, I offer Chad Rinehart something like $8 million over 5 years. To keep the math neat, let's say the deal is $2 million against the cap in 2013, dropping the available amount to about $8 million.
David Nelson and Donald Jones have each been playing for about a half million a year. I'd offer each of them something along the lines of $3 million for 4 years, which is about $750,000 per year against the cap. Together they drop the available space to $6.5 million.
Buffalo needs a 4th DE and probably won't be able to target one in the draft. Moore has been terrible against the run but better at rushing the QB than Merriman. Merriman counts less against the cap as a veteran. I'll take Moore on the assumption that he can learn to be better against the run instead of keeping a guy with little left in the tank. With Merriman the obvious backup plan and likely few suitors waiting in free agency, Moore may be convinced to take a 2 year deal for $1.5 million. If not, Merriman clearly would. That drops the cap space to about $5.75 million.
Scott plays for not that much over the vet minimum and doesn't even cost that much against the cap. He may be worth keeping around as a light LB/heavy DB (depending on the outcome of the draft) for another year on a one year deal for $800,000 which is about $500,000 against the cap. That puts the cap at about $5.25 million.
I don't want to re-sign Choice but for now I'll keep him on the list at vet minimum. If he won't take it then I'd find another veteran RB who can pass block and occasionally run the ball.
I make no effort to re-sign Tavaris Jackson (thanks for visiting), Spencer Johnson ($3.5 million for what again?), Ruvell (Hands of Stone) Martin, Corey McIntyre (Draftee FB will be way cheaper), Terrible Tyler Thigpen, Colin Brown, or Mike Caussin.
There's about $3.5 million of the cap already devoted to guys on the practice squad. That's a bit high but I'm not going to add it into the money that is available. With only about $4.5-$5 million left the Bills don't have much to go after free agents. That rules out the guys at the top of the free agency pool. It is still possible to get an impact guy, largely depending on the position. Buffalo could throw much of the remaining cap room at TE Jared Cook. The Thumbtacks have a lot of holes to fill and might not match an offer in the $4.5-5 million range. Cook would be one of the higher paid TEs and Buffalo would get an extremely athletic guy who seems to be hitting his stride. 2 TE/2 WR/Spiller sets would be tough for defenses to match up against. If a defense goes heavy to stop the run then the Bills can throw the ball with multiple mismatches to take advantage of. If the defense goes light to stop the pass then the Bills could give them a steady diet of Spiller.
This won't be popular but I'm trading Fred Jackson. Spiller's ascendency has firmly relegated Jackson to backup status. He makes way too much to be a backup and I don't believe that he'll willingly take a pay cut. The Bills can help themselves in two ways: get draft picks and get Jackson out of the division, preferably out of the conference. I'm targeting the Green Bay Packers. The team is almost a perfect fit for Jackson and Jackson is almost perfect for the team. I'd start by trying to get a 3rd out of Green Bay, and might well succeed if the Packers get bounced from the playoffs due to less-than-elite RB play. For this mental exercise, I'll assume that the Packers give Buffalo a 4th and 7th in 2013 with perhaps a conditional pick in 2014-up to another 4th depending on performance targets. Good luck, Fred. I hope you get a Super Bowl ring; you deserve it.
With free agency moves all but done, the Bills enter the 2013 draft with something like picks #6, #41, #72, #103, #125 (from Packers), #134, #169, #222 (from Packers) and #234. I have the Bills entering the draft with about 8 holes to fill: QB, RB, RB, FB, WR, OLB, MLB, CB. The good news is that the QB is likely to sit behind Fitz for at least part of the season, the 2 RBs are backups, the WR would be the 6th on the roster, the OLB would be the 5th and the CB would be the 6th. So, the QB, ILB and one of the RBs have to be solid hits while the rest aren't likely to be called on much.
#6 TRADE: Six of the top ten picks were traded in 2012, thanks in part to the sanity imposed by the league on rookie deals. Buffalo is targeting a QB, finally. With Geno Smith off the board, perhaps first overall, the Bills would likely be taking the second QB off the board if the team stayed put. However, all of the QBs coming out reportedly have some issues and the general consensus seems to be that all of them will need to sit for a bit. That gives the Bills a bit of room to maneuver. With that in mind the Bills accept an offer to move from #6 down to about #11. This ensures that one of Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, Landry Jones, or Ryan Nassib will be on the board when the Bills' turn comes up again. The Bills get the #11 and #45 (we'll know more when the regular season ends in a weekwhich second rounder goes with the #11 pick) picks for the #6 and #103.
#11 QB Ryan Nassib: Matt Barkely is gone, perhaps to someone jumping up to 9 or 10 in order to pick in front of Buffalo. While I would be tempted to drop down to #15 or so, the Bills don't push it and pick their QB. Nassib is described as intelligent and accurate with the strength to make all of the throws. He might be considered a bit of a reach at #11 and some might heckle Buffalo for taking him instead of Tyler Wilson but if he's the guy the Bills want then so be it.
#41 CB David Amerson: The Bills get an unusually tall CB. Amerson stands 6'3" and should represent value at this spot. He could slide into the #2 corner slot if he can win the job in camp. With McGee and McKelvin re-signed the Bills can let him develop if he needs a little time.
#45 ILB Nico Johnson: Buffalo didn't get Te'o, choosing instead to make sure that there wasn't a ridiculous early run on QBs a la 2012. Johnson reportedly is athletic enough to allow him to stay in on passing downs
#72 WR Aaron Dobson: NEPatriotsDraft.com lists him as their #1 senior WR. He's not huge but he's big and reportedly makes some ‘unreal' catches. Given that he'd be catching passes from the erratic Fitz for at least part of 2012 that's a real asset.
#103 TRADE: This was part of the deal that got the Bills #11 (Ryan Nassib) and #45 (Nico Johnson).
#125 RB Montee Ball: He's been productive and was told he was a third round prospect when he filed his paperwork with the NFL draft advisory committee. He could represent value if he fell to this position. Besides, then Buffalo would have Levitre, Wood, and Ball.
#134 OLB Sean Porter: He reportedly does pretty well with covering offensive players, including WRs in short areas. He's got a good first step, and the instincts to make tackles for loss. However, he tends to get walled off by TEs.
#169 FB Zach Line: This might be too early for Line but he seems to be the sort of FB who will do well on special teams and open some holes for Spiller.
#222 I take the best remaining RB, preferably one who understands blitz pick ups. My hope is that he can do well enough in camp to bounce Choice off the roster. If he can't, well, he wasn't expensive.
#234 I'll take a flyer, maybe on another kicker. Lindell was accurate but he doesn't have the strongest leg. Time to get him some competition in camp.
Working Roster (rookies have a *):
QB: Fitzpatrick, *Nassib
RB: Spiller, *Ball, Choice
WR: Johnson, Nelson, Jones, Graham, Easley, *Dobson
TE: Chandler, Cook, Smith
OT: Glenn, Hairston, Pears, Young
OG/C: Levitre, Wood, Urbik, Rinehart, Snow
DE: Mario, Anderson, Kelsay, Moore, Moats
DT: Williams, Dareus, Carrington, Troup
OLB: Bradham, Barnett, White, Scott, *Porter
ILB: Sheppard, *Nico Johnson
CB: Gilmore, *Amerson, Brooks, McKelvin, McGee, Rogers
FS: Byrd, Silva
SS: Searcy, Aaron Williams
The offense would have a new QB who would likely be sitting for a bit, a new RB, a new FB, a new WR, and a new TE. All but the TE would be rookies but none would be called on to fill critical roles-unless Fitz got hurt or just stunk up the joint so much that Hue Jackson couldn't take it anymore. Ball would get some touches but Spiller would be the featured back. Dobson and Easley might trade off being inactive so each could get some time on the field.
The defense will have gotten a little help, with a new OLB, ILB and CB. Amerson would hopefully be able to contend for playing time very quickly. Nico Johnson and Porter could be worked into the mix at LB as situations warranted. They would hopefully be able to take on larger roles as the season progressed.