I know we had a contest for off-season plans, but there was a lot of speculation around our coaching staff, so I decided to wait until after our coaches were hired before coming up with a plan. I see our biggest needs as (in this order): QB, OLB/DE, ILB, WR, and TE.
In free agency, from the reports I’ve seen for 2013, we should have around $18 million available after rollover and taking out money for rookies. So I’ll use that ball park number to start with. I make several cuts including Brad Smith, Kelsay, George Wilson, Lindell and McGee. I believe that is somewhere around $14 million in savings. I would also tell Fitz he’s either taking a pay cut or getting cut. Now, he may choose to try his luck elsewhere, but I have a feeling if we get a $2 million/year pay cut, he might want to stick around and see if the new regime can get him back on track. So assuming he does, that brings us up to about $34 million to go spending with.
The first thing we need to do is get Jairus wrapped up to a long term deal. If we can’t reach an agreement, then we franchise him. I think we are looking at $8 million in year one, so we drop down to $26 million to spend. I’d love to re-sign Levitre, but honestly I’d wait and let him try the FA waters first. My reasoning for that is we have a quality replacement behind him with Rhinehart. Getting Rhinehart back healthy, we should be able to sign him for a reasonably cheap contract (let’s say $2 million cap hit). And while I would hate to lose Levitre, I think the $7 million/year could be better used somewhere else.
It is way too difficult (and expensive) to target QB or OLB/DE in free agency. So I would focus on finding help at the other areas of need, specifically WR and TE. The reason why I’d let Levitre test FA is that I’d want to see if we could use the money allocated to him for Dwayne Bowe. If we can’t get Bowe then I’d look at Greg Jennings. If for some reason we can’t get either of them, then I’d go immediately back to Levitre and try to use that money on him. So let’s assume we get Bowe for around a $7 million cap hit, bringing us down to $13 million left to spend).
I would use that money on the best CB that we can find. Whether that be DRC, Talib or Grimes. I think it will take at least $8 million of that money to acquire their services bringing us down to $5 million.
My next target would be either Jared Cook or Delanie Walker at TE. With losing Chandler to injury, we really need to find another solid TE. And when Chandler does come back, having two solid TEs would be a very nice luxury to have. Assume a $2 million contract and we are down to $3 million left.
I would also sign Mike Devito to a FA contract. I think he’d be a great addition as a guy that knows Pettine’s defense already and he brings a hard nosed, tough guy approach to our defensive line. He’d chew up the majority of the rest of our free agent money. I know that wouldn’t leave us much to fill out the roster spots for depth.
Moving on to the draft, I’d spend the #8 pick on the best DE/OLB available. We should have some pretty good options out there to choose from in Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones, or Dion Jordan. Moore and Jordan particularly intrigue me as they both could probably play as a 4-3 DE while morphing into a 3-4 OLB depending on the look.
I would then do whatever I needed to do in order to move back up into the first round and secure whichever QB that they collectively feel is the best QB for our future. I don’t see a tremendous difference between Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley, or Mike Glennon. My personal favorite is Glennon, but I trust that our leaders can determine which one is going to be the franchise QB for us.
We’d likely sacrifice our 3rd round pick to do this, so the rest of the draft I’d focus on grabbing ILB, possibly a two gap NT type, and at least one guard. Those guys are typically at positions where you can find quality in the mid to late rounds of the draft. One other thing is that I would use a 5th or a 6th round pick on a top kicker. We need to move on from Lindell and find a young kicker with a bigger leg.
QB – Fitzpatrick, Rookie QB (Glennon, Nassib, Wilson, Barkley)
RB – Spiller, Freddy
WR – Bowe, Stevie, Graham, Jones, Nelson
OT – Glenn, Hairston, Pears, Sanders, Young
OG – Urbik, Rhinehart, FA
C – Wood, Snow
TE – Chandler, Walker, Smith
4-3 DE/3-4 OLB – M. Williams, #8 pick (Jordan/D. Moore), Anderson, Moats
4-3 DT/3-4 DE – K. Williams, Dareus, Carrington, Devito
ILB – Sheppard, Bradham, Barnett, Rookie(s)
CB – Gilmore, DRC/Talib, Brooks, McKelvin, Rogers
S – Byrd, A. Williams, Searcy, Silva
Offensively, I really believe IF we find the right QB, that this plan will be a successful one for the Bills. Adding Bowe to our WR corps, Cook/Walker at TE and a new QB should provide our offense with a nice upgrade. We probably lose a little bit with Levitre gone, but I think our offense would be much improved.
Defensively, having Dareus, Kyle, Devito and Carrington provides us with a nice set of 4-3 DTs and a solid set of 3-4 DEs. We are still missing a stud, two gap NT, but our interior line should be solid if we play a more one gap scheme. Having Mario paired with our top draft pick provides us with two dynamic pass rushers that can flourish as 4-3 DE’s and be passable 3-4 OLBs if used properly. I’d still have some concerns at ILB but I am a big believer in Bradham and I think he’s going to be very solid for us. Our defensive backfield would be solid adding another stud cover guy opposite Gilmore. I think that Brooks/McKelvin can step up and be very solid nickel and dime cover guys. I’d probably move Aaron Williams to safety and let him compete against Searcy. From my understanding the FS and SS roles don’t have much difference in Pettine’s defense.