ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Leodis McKelvin #21 of the Buffalo Bills reaches in to break up a pass intended for Derek Hagan #80 of the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Yesterday, we discussed the 24 draft picks made by Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix currently on the roster, and which ones might be on the bubble as training camp approaches. A reader named Gerald mentioned to me that a similar post regarding the 17 players that Nix inherited from the Dick Jauron regime might yield an interesting conversation, as well.
We've talked before about how 12 of those 17 players have had their contracts altered or re-done by the Nix regime. It's right along that line that I think you can delineate between "locks" and "bubble" players, with a few notable exceptions. I see 13 locks among the Jauron holdovers to make the team; we'll get into the four exceptions after the jump.
The holdover locks (once again assuming full health for all involved): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Williams, Bryan Scott, Terrence McGee, Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Rian Lindell and Garrison Sanborn.
Of the above group of locks, the two players that haven't (yet) gotten new deals from the Nix regime are Levitre, who has Pro Bowl potential at left guard, and Byrd, who has already made a Pro Bowl (with the potential to return again) at free safety. The two former 2009 second-round picks are among a trio of players that Nix has said he'd like to re-sign, preventing them from hitting unrestricted free agency.
The group of four bubble players among the Jauron holdovers, then, only features one player that got a new deal from the Nix regime, and three that have had their contracts untouched since Nix was hired in December of 2009.
Corey McIntyre, fullback: Buffalo's offense has featured more receivers and far less fullback over the last two years, and McIntyre's role as a lead blocker has grown increasingly irrelevant as time has progressed - nearly to the point that he's on the roster exclusively for his special teams ability (and he's a very good special teamer). He's entering the final year of a short extension he signed at the beginning of the 2010 season, and with other players (chiefly Dorin Dickerson) looking to further increase the irrelevance of his role, his roster spot is no longer safe.
Spencer Johnson, defensive lineman: Hovering very close to "lock" territory, Johnson's reliability and end/tackle versatility would seem to make him a valuable commodity in Dave Wannstedt's defensive line-friendly 4-3 defense. In truth, while the chances that Johnson - entering the final year of a five-year deal he signed in 2008 - makes the roster are very high, the defensive line position is something of a free-for-all (particularly inside), and Johnson's spot on the final roster, while very likely, isn't a certainty.
Leodis McKelvin, cornerback: The common theme here is that these players are in the final year of their contract, and that's true of McKelvin, just as it's true of the other three players named here. McKelvin, the 2008 first-round pick, began the 2011 season as a starter, and then was an infrequently used dime back (and stand-out special teams player, for the record) at the end of the year. This summer, the Bills are trying McKelvin in the slot for the first time to try to resuscitate his career, but as the team has drafted four quality cornerback prospects in the last two years, McKelvin's spot on the final roster is anything but a safe bet.
I imagine that many of you are poised to pick apart my list of locks and name players among that group that you think are in danger. Have at it!