Dear Fellow Buffalo Bills fans,
Ten million dollars. That is a one followed by seven zeroes. That's $10,000,000. That's a big mistake.
While the Bills are not even close to being in salary cap "prison" they are certainly handcuffed by the contract that was handed to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The magic of Fitz certainly fooled Buddy Nix and now the team must suffer from Fitzpatrick's invisible wand. I will openly admit that at the time the contract was signed, I was not necessarily against it. However, I am not paid the big bucks to make these decisions. As a blogger, I can most definitely look back and analyze it and try to make sense of where the Bills went wrong and where they can go moving forward.
Fitzpatrick had taken Western New York by storm after leading us to a 5-2 record, defeating the hated Patriots along the way and everyone was falling in love with the Bills at the time. Fitzpatrick was in a contract year and Buddy was facing either losing him in free agency, paying him even more at the end of the season if he kept that pace or giving him a "cap friendly" deal at the time. He chose incorrectly, we are left without a franchise QB and a dead money hit of $10,000,000. I do realize that it could have been worse. It could also be a lot better. It is what it is. So where do we go from here ??
The obvious answer is to find our "franchise quarterback". The trouble is finding this obvious answer. So, I thought I would take a stab at it. It's pretty simple, really. We need to find our next Jim Kelly in the draft. That is just the way it goes. There are exceptions to this rule (Kurt Warner comes to mind) but when looking around the league most Super Bowl quarterbacks are drafted by their team. In fact, most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are drafted in the first round. Not all of them are but most are. So here is my plan:
Draft a QB in the first round -
I know that there are arguments that have been made that this draft class is weak in the QB department. I say, so what? I know a lot of people think we are very far away from contending and are in fact again (still) rebuilding, I disagree. Last year, Fitzpatrick had the ball in his hands in four games with the game on the line. Any signal caller would only hope to have this situation. Fitzpatrick went 0-4 in this situation. With a winning QB that went 4-0, we were in the playoffs. Even if he goes 2-2, we are a .500 team and look much closer to the promised land on paper.
I haven't yet decided which QB I want in round one, but I think I am almost positive. I will let you all know in a future post. Here is my reasoning as to why this is a necessity: The Bills really don't have many holes. Sure we could use a WR, LB and CB among other things but so could Tom Brady or Manning or Manning. My point is that the QB makes the team, not the other way around. This team is screaming for a QB. Someone who will take charge of this team in a positive and controlling manner. He isn't in this draft! (Is that what you are saying ? ) So what?!, I say.
Here is the thing with first round draft picks thanks to the new CBA: First round draft picks are cheap AND clubs have a fifth year option on the contract. So let's say we spend a 1st round draft pick this year on a QB, right? What does he really cost us? If we use Gilmore's contract as a comparison, it averages out to $3 million per year for 4 years. That is back-up QB money in today's NFL. Isn't a GOOD back-up QB worth that? If you argue NO, then I will not convince you of my theory but if you answer YES then please read on ....
Next, we must draft another QB in the draft
Yes, we only have 6 draft picks and we already used our 7th rounder on T-Jax. So, essentially we would be spending 3 picks on QB's this year. You might say that is too much. I say we need a QB. That is really all. Maybe not for this year but in the future, if you have found your QB, free agents will follow. Sure we get dogged for our cold weather and taxes, but in reality athletes want to win. It sucks when you lose. Without a QB, you are more likely to lose than win and so will these free agents. So here, hedge your bets and take another QB in this draft. They are cheap and can be used for trade bait if you nailed your 1st round pick. Look at Mallet, he is suddenly a sought after QB and has never played a meaningful down in the NFL. Similar to Kolb, Cassel, Favre, Young, dot dot dot. Teams need QB's. Always. Let's be a QB farm. Invest and turn those investments into future investments. That's how successful franchises operate and do NOT be surprised when playoff teams are picking QB's this year in the second round to cash in on that investment in the future.
Draft a QB in the first round in 2014
Unless we hit the jackpot in 2013. A head coach in the NFL should be expected to know (reasonably well) if a QB has "it" after spending a year with a first round draft pick. Especially if he plays in his first year, which I would expect a first round draft pick to be able to do. If he is showing good improvement in his first year, maybe you draft a QB later in the draft but with the Bills on a 16 year drought at the QB position, why wouldn't you pick another player that may turn into the face of your franchise? I am expecting T-Jax to be on the roster this year to prove himself and he may have the opportunity to join training camp next year. If he completely fails this year we will need a replacement. I hear so much about Buddy trying to "stack" players at positions, let's do it at the QB position for a change.
Without naming names that is my plan
I do not disapprove of the job that Nix has done this far. He has done a pretty good job in the draft. Spiller, Dareus and Gilmore all look legit. On offense we have one of the top running backs in the league and a good back-up. We have a perennial 1,000 yard receiver. We have a good O-line coached by a former lineman. On defense we have 3 pro-bowlers in Byrd, K.Williams and M. Williams. We have two first round picks in Dareus and Gilmore who both look like they could be blue chip players.
That is a solid foundation and I like the approach of building the team and especially the trenches and building out from there. Nix made mistakes with Gailey and Fitzpatrick, he gets a pass from me on both. With the foundation set, he has one more chance to turn the team around. That chance lies on his new HC and his new QB. It is much easier to change QB's than head coaches so I suggest he hedge his bets on the QB and let his HC decide his QB. BUT he must give his HC options at the position and his HC must be flexible and able to manage an influx of talent at the QB position.
I like the approach the Bills are taking in free agency this year, which is let's wait it out. All of the players that signed so far are being way overpaid(in my opinion) and the Bills are actually in a pretty good salary cap situation, despite the ten million dollar mistake. If you look at the Bills cap, it is a very rare situation. All of our top players are the ones getting paid and when I say getting paid they are getting paid in a fashion reasonable to their cap hit. And let's say worst case scenario(financially) is we draft 3 QB's in the next two drafts. Their combined salary cap hit would at most average around $7.2 million combined per year through the duration of their rookie deals(unless one were to restructure because they lit it up).
When math is so simple as $7.2 million < $10 million, the mistake should be avoided the second time around ....