Let me start off by saying that I like the direction the Bills have started heading this year and I like the talent we've started to accumulate. There are, however, some glaring holes that need to be patched up and quick. So I figured, why not have a little fun and brainstorm an offseason plan that would never happen in reality, but would, in my opinion, get us to the playoffs?
I'll start with what I think is one of our biggest issues to solve: safety. Personally, I would like to see Byrd re-signed long term with us. That being said, I have a very strong feeling he doesn't want to be here. It seems pretty likely we'll tag him and try to deal him. Here's where we get creative and address our second biggest issue (in my opinion), so bear with me.
There have been rumors circulating (and subsequently denied) that Ben Roethlisberger might want out of Pittsburgh after this season. Who better to sit Manuel behind to learn about footwork, extending plays, and reading defenses? At the same time, it looks like the Steelers' free safety, Ryan Clark, is at the end of his contract and is also 34 years old. Now might be the time to upgrade. So, Big Ben for Byrd, maybe swing some picks back and forth to make it work, and Ben restructures his contract so it's not quite as hefty a hit to us. Thad becomes third string, Tuel to the PS. Our QB situation is solved and the headache that is Byrd is also solved in one fell swoop. On to our next issue.
Marrone and Hackett like a power running game. CJ Spiller does not fit that bill. He's like Chris Johnson (in my opinion). Astounding one week, non-existent the next. Freddy has been largely carrying this running game (and Choice to a much lesser extent) with their more downhill running style. Time to finish off the power running package. Deal Spiller for a first rounder (hey, this is outrageous, remember?) or more likely a second and a late rounder. We'll continue this shortly.
On to Free Agency. We need at least one or two good free agent signings this coming off season. My vote goes to a playmaking tight end and a solid guard. This will give us some flexibility with the draft. I don't have much knowledge of the players that will be free agents, other than what I've found from some quick Googling, so I'll leave this to the discussion with my fellow Rumblers on who would be good players to plug in and help us out.
It's also early for the draft and I've never been one to follow college football, so instead of plugging in players here, I prefer to go with what position I would draft, were I the GM. So here goes:
Rd 1: BPA. We've got a fair bit of talent on this team and after my other wheeling and dealing, I don't believe we have many glaring needs. Personally, I'd go with the fairly common suggestion of getting a solid LB who excels in coverage, to help out Kiko in the middle.
Rd. 2a: RB. (Told you I'd get back to this!) We are now down to Freddy, Choice and Wingo. Time to get us a big, nasty, between-the-tackles running back in the vein on Marshawn Lynch (sans the off field issues). Freddy is the change of pace/short yardage/pass protection/ mentor RB. You know, good ol' Freddy. Wingo dukes it out with Choice for the #3 spot.
Rd. 2b: WR. Remember all that talk of the big/tall open-even-when-he's-not type WR? Now's our chance, with the extra pick we netted from Spiller. I think we have enough talent at WR right now (and assuming better QB play from Big Ben) that this could be a bit more of a developmental type guy and could be eased in to the lineup.
Rd. 3: TE. To me, we need a big upgrade here. I'm hoping for our big FA signing to help in this area, otherwise, I'd pick a TE a bit higher than here. Chandler has trouble catching lately and can't block. Lee Smith can't seem to do anything but block. Gragg finally showed us he is, in fact, still on the team (I wasn't sure for a while). I'm all for keeping them around and see if we can get some improvement, but I also think we need a well balanced TE to really make the difference on our offense.
Rd. 4: OG/OT. Now we get to one of bigger issues. Yes, we need an upgrade at both positions. Especially since we now have Big Ben, we need a stronger line that can hold up and give him the time to do what he does best. As stated before, a FA signing will go a long way here. But that won't be enough. I have faith in Whaley and Marrone to find guys in these mid-to-late rounds and UDFA's.
Rd. 5a: FS. With Byrd's spot now vacant, we need to do something here. Searcy is more of a hybrid SS/LB and I expect him to stay right in that niche. Aaron Williams is a lock as our starting SS. We still have Williams and Meeks from this last draft, but I'm not sure where they fit in this picture. Everyone says Pettine's scheme makes the two safeties interchangeable, so I expect them to be rotated around to see what works best. But we still need another safety in the mix here.
Rd. 5b: CB. I'm taking the liberty of adding this 5th rounder as the second half of the compensation from Spiller. With the major holes filled, we need depth, and bad. Gilmore is having an off year, but is still getting back in his groove after missing the first few weeks. McKelvin has been a pleasant surprise. Robey is still developing but is showing a ton of potential. The rest of the crew, meh. My vote goes to a CB that has the size to play, but needs a bit of development.
Rd. 6: DE. This pick is largely because of the Carrington situation. On one hand, he has the same agent as Byrd and we all know how that goes. On the other, he's on IR and we might be able to get him a fair bit cheaper. Which would be nice, since he looked to have finally developed into a starting DE. Really, even if we do re-sign him, it couldn't hurt to have one of those athletic DE/DT hybrid players that Pettine loves so much.
Rd. 7: BPA. I say that, because we can use depth at almost every position, and at this point, I'm not sure which needs it the most. Personally, I'd go somewhere on the OL, but a LB or CB couldn't hurt either.
I also have no clue what our situation is for compensatory picks, so if you're more knowledgeable about it, I'd love to hear where we stand.
So there you have it, friends. About as likely as winning the Powerball? Probably better odds on the Powerball. So let's hear it. How happy would you be with this scenario, what changes would you make, or what discrepancies are there with my plan (salary cap issues, trade values way off, etc.) ?