First I want to say that as much as I've enjoyed reading BROPs, last season I couldn't have even attempted one of these. Two years of reading posts and articles by much more knowledgable Rumblers has taught me so much. Thank you!
Even though the Bills ended the 2013 season at 6-10, there was a lot to be hopeful for in their play. Mostly gone were the soul-crushing 50+ point blowouts of 2012 - apart from a few games (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, New Orleans) the Bills stayed competitive in 2013, particularly when E.J. Manuel Was healthy. In most of his ten games, we stayed within striking distance of a win.
A defense which excelled at getting to the quarterback and taking the ball away was part of the reason for this competitiveness. With the loss of Pettine, the coaching staff will attempt to maintain the gains made in 2013, making only minor changes to personnel and scheme.
On the offensive side of the ball, our goal is to give E.J. the tools to succeed. E.J. Manuel's aptitude and work ethic, along with his physical tools, were what got him drafted. Given a full offseason, I expect to see him improve. He doesn't have to become an elite quarterback for the Bills to contend for the playoffs. Two or three more games in 2013 would have been wins if the Bills could simply have held on to the ball or extended a drive or two. E.J. struggles reading blitzes and maintaining his footwork under pressure. So improvement on the offensive line and additional reliable receivers - 'safety blankets', if you will, are a priority.
This season was also a below par performance for C.J. Spiller. There were a few reasons for this, but poor offensive line play was definitely one.
Jairus... I want you to stay, but I don't think it is in the cards. The clincher for me is Aaron Williams. Knowing that the Bills cannot afford to pay both Williams in 2015 (assuming he continues to play at a high level) when his rookie contract ends, and Byrd, I am saying goodbye to Byrd. Jairus Byrd is a great player. But Aaron Williams (who also showed in 2013 that he can play CB well in a pinch) plus a first round pick is worth more to the Buffalo Bills than a difficult-to-please and possibly disgruntled Jairus Byrd. Thus, Jairus Byrd is tagged ($8.3m) and traded to the Green Bay Packers for their pick #21 in the 2014 NFL Draft.
I thought hard about trading Jerry Hughes to The Cardinals for pick #51. I would have picked up a 4-3 DE like Scott Chrichton in the draft, perhaps at #41. Eventually, I decided against the trade. As weak as he is against the run, Hughes is too good a pass rusher to give up for an unknown quantity. Buffalo doesn't have the money to pick up a high value DE in free agency, but the Byrd trade frees up 2015 money to allow a move here if needed.
Free Agents I am not Re-signing
Scott Chandler had a career high year and deserves a big paycheck for it. But I think the Bills can do better, so I am going to let Chandler find a place on another team.
Jim Leonhard made some great plays in 2013 and has just one year left in his NFL career. I suspect he will find an opening in Cleveland, if nowhere else.
Arthur Moats has been solid depth for the Bills since he was drafted. But we've seen his ceiling in Buffalo, and will be bringing in new talent.
Thomas Welch is OT depth, but did not show well in the playing time he had, and the Bills can do better.
Mike Caussin will also not be re-signed.
Free Agents I am Re-signing
Dan Carpenter tied for 10th in the league in field goal percentage. I resign him for 1 yr./$2m, because I am not sold on Dustin Hopkins yet. They will compete for the job in the offseason.
Alex Carrington figures into my defensive scheme as a possible DE and depth on the inside. I resign him to a 1 yr./$1.8m contract. If he shows the high level of play he was at before his injury, I will look to sign him to a longer contract at the end of the season.
Chris Hogan, Antoine McLain, Brandon Smith and Frank Summers are all resigned at the veteran minimum of $.63m
That's a 2014 $14.62 cap hit on current Bills free agents.
Kevin Kolb, Erik Pears and Doug Legursky are all cut. Legursky and Pears simply did not play well in 2013. Kevin Kolb should preserve his health and stay off the football field. With $7m less on my cap hit, I am left with $14.28m.
Not surprisingly, since I have said goodbye to Byrd, I am extending Aaron Williams with a five year contract, APY $4m. Additional cap hit is $2.33m.
I am also extending Marcell Dareus's contract with a new 5yr. contract, APY $7.5m. Additional cap hit is $1.07m.
I have $10.88m for new free agents.
Rodger Saffold is a so-so right tackle with the Rams but a great guard who would rather be a guard. He has a significant injury history, but a number of teams will be knocking on his door. I will offer him a 2-year contract with a $3.5m APY, and pencil him in as starting LG.
Darryl Sharpton has been strong against the run at Houston, where the Texans have cap issues. I bring him in as a two-down thumper for 2 years, $1.2m APY, and pencil him in as the backup MLB.
$6.18m under the cap.
#9 - Greg Robinson, RT
Houston can't afford Schaub even if they wanted to keep him. Houston, Jax, and Cleveland all go for QBs, as they must. Oakland takes Watkins. Atlanta snaps up Clowney, the Rams pick Matthews, and Tampa goes for Mack. Minnesota gets Barr, leaving Robinson on the board. Robinson will be solid at RT and able to back up Glenn at LT with a little work at his pass protection skills. He is a mauler in the running game and will surely free up CJ and Freddy for some big gains. I liked Mike Evans here, but the next pick will help soothe that loss.
#21 (from GB) - Jace Amaro, TE
Ebron is off the board. Amaro led the NCAA in TE yardage in 2013, proving he can be a go-to guy for EJ. He may not have Ebron's speed, but he is a matchup nightmare who can outrun linebackers, drag DBs, and do everything Chandler does, but better. And besides, would you rather the Patriots get him?
#41 - Jimmie Ward, S
Ward is the Bills expected replacement for Byrd, a hard-hitter who excels in coverage. Right now his skills complement Searcy's, but over time I expect him and Aaron Williams to make a solid duo at safety.
#73 - Chris Borland, ILB
Borland is an instinctive player and outstanding tackler, often compared to Zack Thomas (they are the same height) with a motor and spirit that doesn't quit. He will take the Mike position and free up Kiko to make plays as a Will. Sharpton is just insurance at the position. I expect Borland to be the longterm answer here.
#105 Charles Sims, RB
Like Freddy and CJ, Sims excels as a receiver, and has been compared with Matt Forte. He is an ideal talent to learn behind these two.
#137 Jon Halapio, G
Halapio excelled at Senior Bowl practices, a solid guard who will excel with outstanding tackles and a center, like Robinson, Glenn and Wood by his side. He will compete with Saffold for the LG position. Devin Street was a luxury pick here, as a developmental big receiver. With Saffold's injury history, Halapio was the wiser pick.
# 169 Walt Aikens, CB
Aikens, who also turned heads at the Senior Bowl is just what the Bills' secondary needs - a big, athletic corner with the talent to play inside or outside. coming out of a small school, he may not be ready for a starting position yet, but he will provide solid depth and be a possible future starter.
# 201 Patrick O'Donnell, P
This guy is built like a TE with 4.6 speed. That's worth at least one fake punt in 2014...
This BROP, hopefully gives EJ better protection and CJ better blocking, especially on the edges. Glenn and Robinson could make a pair of elite bookend tackles. It also gives EJ a big target and a scoring threat, especially down the seam. While Jimmie Ward is not Byrd, hopefully between the Williamses and Ward, we can get a longterm duo at safety. Borland and Alonso working in tandem should be awesome against the run. Depth is added on the offensive line and secondary. It resolves the Byrd situation, freeing up money for bigger free agency moves or extensions in 2015.