Man, this was hard. My brain hurts. Remember, I'm just an amateur.
The Plan: As NWA once said, ruthless. We're going young. Mistakes aplenty, but that's the best way I know how to build football teams. Mature together. They've already done a lot of that anyways. If we can add a few talented pieces, get rid of some of the older guys, and get some aggressive coaches in here, I think BFLO can become a playoff contender in the short-term.
Management: Sorry, Chan my man. You're out. I really liked you early on, sticking up for your players, shouting at unruly fans for heckling your guys in training camp, gutsy coaching moves like going for it on 4th down in crunch time against the Bengals, turning a bunch of losers into guys you could cheer (half-heartedly) for. But over the last 16 months, you've somehow been replaced by Dick Jauron. Refusing to kick long field goals in close games, throwing some of your guys under the bus, constantly backpedaling in the media, looking mildly disinterested during the few periods of 'crunch time' we've had. I admire your ability to turn a collection of misfits and draft picks into an offense that can put up points, but we just can't seem to win those games that are in our grasp.
I keep Nix. I think he's done a nice job with the draft, free agency, and on the waiver wire. I think the rebuild is about to go into labor, although I'm pretty sure the baby won't be born until 2014. I also publicly announce a succession plan, informing the media that Nix is stepping down at the end of the 2013 draft to take on a consultant's role (call it whatever you want) and Whaley is taking over the GM position full-time. This is to give the fans a sense of continuity and the belief that there IS a Plan, while keeping Whaley from getting antsy or being scooped up by someone else.
Chan's replacement will be Darrell Bevell, late of Seattle. He's young (early 40's), he's worked with and succeeded with a rookie QB, he's coached one of the greatest of all-time (Favre) and he's a former QB himself. His run-first offense is also scoring at a crazy clip lately, as the Bills fans are aware. If the Bills are going to build around a young QB, then I think he's just fine for the job as mentor and offensive game planner. He's also a Mormon. I don't know what that has to do with anything. Anyways, Bevell's main job is finding an OC and a DC, b/c Chan's gang is cleaned out. His only restriction? The Bills will be playing a similarly styled defense, maybe a 40, maybe a 46, b/c Nix has already tried the ol'switcheroo, and it set the D back a year or two.
The Current Personnel: Here's where it gets ruthless. First, most of the Chan hangers-on are jettisoned. The following guys are let go: Thigpen, T Jackson, F Jackson, MacIntyre, Wilson, Scott, Martin, Dickerson, Choice, Young, Silva, McGee, Brad Smith, Troup, and S Johnson. Sorry guys, some of you did a bang-up job during your stay in BFLO, some of you were slightly better than useless, as you did fill out the uniform rather nicely. Choice, Brad Smith, you can follow Chan to wherever he may land. I give George Wilson the opportunity to remain in the organization, maybe as a community outreach guy. The media seems to love him, and I think he would be great at pitching the Bills. I'd do the same for Freddie, but I presume he will be quite bitter about the whole thing and decline.
With the cap space thus gained, I resign the following guys: Byrd gets a nice contract, around $8.5m/year for 5. Guy is a playmaker, something the Bills are woefully lacking. I think he's the best defender on the team, not even close. Levitre comes next. Steady, durable, does a very good job in run and pass. He gets $6.5 per for 6. While McKelvin on the outside makes me queasy, I thought he was salvageable covering the slot most of the time, and his return game was tremendous. He receives $3m/year, for 3 years. I pick up Rinehart's RFA deal with $2m/3 years, and pay David Nelson $1.5/year with some nice incentives if he can come back from his injury. Donald Jones gets $1.33/year, although it pains me to resign him. He made a few plays this year, but still not sure if he's average or just terrible. Lastly, to keep some depth on the D Line, I keep Merriman for $1.25 for 1 year, and Kyle Moore at $1 mil for 2 years. Some of these guys I might have been a bit generous on, but I want to overpay a little bit to send a message to the league that we're not fooling around – the Mario Williams thing was not a one-time deal.
Free Agency: With most of the cap room used up on resigning our own young guys (another message to the league), we don't have much to use on free agents, but that's OK. We're going to tinker around the edges a bit to fill out the roster.
First, we need a third-string QB. Yikes. Not much out there, and certainly not too many guys who would hold a clipboard or go from the #2 guy to the #3. I want a smart guy who knows he isn't going to play much but can help in the film room. I'll go with Jordan Palmer, recently signed by the Jags. He's cheap, so I can get him at just a smidge over $600K.
Next, I want to add some depth to the D-Line. I like Sammie Lee Hill from Detroit, he's big, would do a nice job filling in for Dareus, can start if need be, and can stuff the run. Detroit is probably going to be spending some cash on a bunch of free agents, so maybe we can sneak him out of there for $2.25m per year.
We need some special teams players on the squad, to add a bit of depth. I bring Derek Hagan back from Oakland, as the Bills stop-gap 6th WR and a special teams player, for a measly $750K.
Lastly, I want to give the new coach a new weapon for his offense. Welcome James Casey of Houston to BFLO. He can play TE, he can play FB, so he's versatile. And he's the fullback in Houston, so he knows how to block. He is in motion a lot, creating all kind of match-up problems. And his catches have gone up every year. Plus, without any good sense of when Chandler is going to return, BFLO is going to need some security at TE. He is given a nice $3.25m/year contract and told to go out and catch 6 TDs.
That leaves my salary cap at $122.5 before rookies. On the low-end, which should make ownership happy.
The Draft: So, I go into the draft looking for a QB, a speed edge rusher, a coverage LB, a TE, a playmaking WR, and some athletes. I used the Draft Tek consensus Mock for some guidance.
Round One: This is where things get crazy. With word in the Hall whispering that the Jets and the Eagles have a deal in place so NY can move up and pick their QB, the Bills stun everyone (including me) by moving up from 7 to 3 and selecting Mike Glennon, QB, NC State. The Bills swap their spots with Oakland, give up a third rounder, and add next year's #1 to the mix.
Round Two: Addressing needs with athletes is my game. Here I will add Arthur Brown, OLB for Kansas State, to help on coverage. He's a playmaker, has some size (230#) and serious speed, and fits a need. I was this close to cutting Barnett. This selection would let me do that, albeit a year later.
Round Four: Many of the top pass rushers are now long gone, so I'm looking for value here. I decide to pick up another weapon for the new coach, Joe Fauria, TE, UCLA. He is strong in the red-zone, athletic, runs well and runs routes well, but isn't a terrible blocker. Great insurance if Chandler isn't the same after the knee injury.
Round Five: Time to take a flyer. I know he's coming off multiple injuries, but his potential is just too juicy to pass up. Plus, Buddy's been getting away from his southern roots on the last two picks. So here I select Brandon Jenkins, Florida State DE. IF he can get his explosiveness back after rehab, BFLO may have an enormous steal.
Round Six: I need a change of pace guy for Spiller, not b/c he gets 'too winded' after running 10 yards, but b/c he isn't a power type of guy and Casey isn't really a short-yardage runner. So I get the proverbial falling running back here, Le'Veon Bell from Michigan State. He's a bruiser, maybe too much of a between-the-tackles grinder, but has some athleticism and some escapability. Nice value.
Round Seven: Tough call here. Honestly, I don't much about most of these guys. I liked Daimion Stafford from Nebraska to back up Byrd, but decided instead to go with a second QB, Sean Renfree of Duke. I know, it's Duke. But he's obviously smart, has three years of starting under his belt, is extremely accurate, and he could easily replace Fitz in the near-future as the smartest player on the team. He did wear a sweater vest in his program picture, but everyone makes mistakes. I think he can give Jordan Palmer a run for his money as the third string QB and if not, wait a year on the practice squad.
My prospective Roster:
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Glennon, Jordan Palmer/Sean Renfree
HB: CJ Spiller, Le'Veon Bell
FB: James Casey, Zach Brown (not the one with the band)
SS: Aaron Williams, Da'norris Searcy
Summing Up: Well, they've got their QB (or two). They've got a new head coach. They're going to have a new GM before the season starts. A lot of changes. But personnel-wise, they mostly remain the same. Generally the same defensive scheme, give or take. Bold moves on Draft Day that hopefully will net a couple new starters. Added some depth in free agency. They've gotten younger, hopefully faster, and are hungry. With the Jets rebuilding, Miami in the midst of their rebuild, the Bills should challenge for a 9-7 record and playoff contention. But 2014 should be the time when the Bills show off the baby.