I got off to an early start on my BROP and am taking another shot at it given that mine didn't follow the format that was laid out. So, off we go:
End of season review:
The season's results were disappointing to say the least. The Bills finished in the top 10 in the draft, again. Manuel showed some flashes but thanks to his repetitive knee injures he didn't show that he was definitely the franchise QB we've pined for far longer than we'd care to remember.
Front office and coaching staff
The coaching staff and front office are largely set at this point in the offseason, for better or worse. I'd like to get rid of one assistant coach but it's just not going to happen. I'd also like to ditch Brandon-trying to back out of a deal he just extended with Toronto doesn't inspire confidence-and replace the structure of the front office to make Whaley a true GM, not one hamstrung by front office dwellers who have presided over 15 years of futility. I'd also like to hit the lottery and that isn't happening either. So, no additional changes are predicted in this area.
With $17.8 million extra dollars to play with in 2014 and the cap now been set at $133 million, Buffalo has about $150.8 million to build a roster for 2014. In my earlier BROP I had linked to a story that pegged Buffalo's roster at around $125 million as it exists. That gives the Bills about $25.8 million in cap space before making some cuts. The following players have their 2014 cap hit/cap space saved by cutting/trading.
Dumping Kolb, Pears and Legursky adds $7 million to Buffalo's $25.8, bringing it up to $32.8 million. I'd like to dump Hairston and Moeaki as well but I don't see it happening. In my previous BROP I had dumped Graham but not only won't that happen but I was convinced by the TJ Graham series that he's worth hanging onto.
Next, I looked up when players are slated to become free agents who Buffalo could look at re-signing. I looked not only at 2014 but also 2015 as I don't believe in just letting good players walk once they've gotten close enough to free agency to get those under-the-table offers from teams.
2015: Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughs, Erik Pears, Fred Jackson, Kevin Kolb, Aaron Williams, Garrison Sanborn, Da'Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Lee Smith, Tony Moeaki, Marcus Easley, Kevin Elliott, Thad Lewis, Corbin Bryant
Of those I'd want to try to re-sign current free agents Byrd, Chandler, Carrington and Carpenter. I'd be interested in extending Dareus, Hughs, Williams, Sanborn, Searcy, Easley, Lewis and Bryant. I can hear the howls now about Fred Jackson not being on the list. He'll be 33 when his contract expires and time is not friendly to RBs. If he's still productive at that time I could see trying to re-sign him to a team friendly deal but I don't see giving him a deal before he's a free agent. We got over Thurman Thomas in a Miami uniform; we can get past Fred Jackson playing for someone else in 2015.
The Bills will need to sign the incoming rookies. As near as I can tell, the team picking 9th last year (New Jersey Jets) had about $12.5 million dedicated to their 2013 rookies over 4 years. With a $0.3 million bump I'm putting that total around $12.8 million for slot #9, or about $3.2 million against the cap. If the Bills trade up to #5 in the draft it looks like the rookie cap hit would be closer to $5 million while trading back to, say, 15 would drop it to about $2.5 million. I do love trade scenarios and the rookie wage scale has provided another rationale! I'm going to reserve $3.8 million for rookies, which should be more than enough and drops the amount of available cap space to $29 million.
I VERY much want to get Byrd re-signed. However, I'm convinced that the Browns and perhaps other teams have had detailed conversations with Eugene Parker. Whaley has to choose between a single year of Byrd's services versus cap space and draft picks that he could get for Byrd. Given that the Bills aren't going to contend in 2014 the smart money is on a tag-and-trade scenario unfolding. Damn.
I'm not a huge Chandler fan but he is big and reliable. He's not an elite TE by any means and I can't see paying him like one. Vernon Davis is only (!) making $4.7 million. Chandler made about $2.5 million each of the last two seasons. He might think that he's in line for a huge payday but I hope Buffalo isn't the one paying for it. I don't know that I'd offer him more than $3 million. Chandler walks.
Alex Carrington, who made less than a million last year, wouldn't do an extension after getting hurt early in 2013. He was playing well.....in a defense the Bills no longer run. I'd like to keep him around but I can't see spending much more than $2 million to do it. It's a fair bet that Pettine included some roster moves in his interviews with the Skidmarks and that one of them was luring Carrington to Cleveland. Oh, and Carrington's agent? Eugene Parker, the same guy leveraging Byrd out of Buffalo.
The best kickers in the league get north of $2.5 million a season. With Buffalo already having a big leg in Dustin Hopkins signed for about $0.5 million I can't see dropping an additional $2 million on Carpenter. As good as he was in 2013 I see him in another uniform in 2014.
I'm not all that worried about signing Moats, Summers or Hogan. If they can be signed for minimal contracts I can see bringing them back. I don't see signing them for any more than that.
After trying to re-sign some 2014 free agents - and failing all the way around - the Bills are still at about $29 million with extensions and free agents yet to sign. Yes, I'm still pissed about losing Byrd.
I want to extend Marcell Dareus before he can get anywhere near free agency. He's unlikely to sign for less than he was making, which was about $6.5 million. I'm eyeballing a contract that pays something like $7.5 million a year for 5 years but I'm going to call it an $8 million average just to be pessimistic--$15 million of that in the form of a signing bonus. That raises Dareus' 2014 cap figure from $6.3 million to $11.3 and drops the cap space to $24 million.
After cut downs are made I look to sign Jerry Hughs to a two year extension averaging about $4 million a season. Signing it in September protects him from a down year after the departure of Pettine. With $4.5 million of the extension being signing bonus the additional cap hit is $1.5 million in 2014. $22.5 million left to play with.
Searcy has been making about $1.5 million. In the DB happy NFL I can see extending him, perhaps to the point of $2 million a season per year for 3 years. With $3 million in the form of a signing bonus it's another $1 million against the 2014 cap over his current cap number, dropping the available amount to $21.5 million.
I try to sign Sanborn, Easley, and Bryant to deals averaging about $1 million a year over 2 or 3 years. With part of each of those deals being signing bonus money it's another million or so added to their combined cap numbers in 2014. $20.5 million left.
So, what to do with $20.5 million?
My first thought is that the Bills have lost Byrd. The defense is also going to be without Carrington. I've let go of Pears and need someone to step in and play RT since I don't trust Hairston. The LG position remains a shambles. Chandler has walked, leaving a hole at TE. WR and LB remain glaring needs. That is far too many holes to fill in free agency and it will be a challenge to fill them all in the draft.
On the plus side, Byrd now costs nothing against the cap. He has the ability to effectively kill any deal by refusing to sign a long term deal. The good news is that Buffalo can draw teams into a bidding war for his services so long as Byrd doesn't object to the team. While Cleveland may have been the driving force behind Byrd's refusal to sign in Buffalo it's easy for a guy on a bad team to consider signing with a proven winner. Green Bay ships Buffalo pick 21 in order to make Byrd the highest paid safety in the league.
Jimmy Graham wasn't given the exclusive free agent tag, meaning the Bills could - in theory - sign him to an offer sheet and give up a pair of first round picks. That seems to be a blind alley. Graham might indeed sign the deal just to walk it back to New Orleans. What worries me more is that the Saints might not match Buffalo's offer. Graham + Brees = fantastic. Graham + Manuel = ?. A pair of first round picks and most of the free agency dollars for a question mark? I don't see it. I also don't see any other TE in free agency worth $3 million a year. The TE position will need to be addressed in the draft.
I had Jonathan Martin on my first BROP but looking at just free agents, Eugene Monroe will sign to be a LT not a RT, the Raiders have gobs of money to keep Jared Veldheer, Branden Albert is perpetually hurt and Austin Howard isn't a clear upgrade over Hairston. This is another need to address in the draft.
Geoff Schwartz is someone I'm looking at signing for LG. He was part of a line that opened holes and protected Alex Smith. The top 10 guards in the league - Levitre is 4th by the way - average $7.5 million. Great. Now I'm pissed about losing Levitre over $300,000. Moving on. I'm looking to sign Schwartz to a 4 year deal worth an average of $5.5 million (12th among NFL guards) which drops the available cap space to $15 million.
I'd like to find a ILB in free agency but there are problems. Daryl Smith and Karlos Dansby are both 33. Donald Butler re-signed with San Diego, Vinny Rey is a RFA and D'Qwell Jackson figures to be signed before Buffalo can even talk to him. Erin Henderson keeps getting arrested and Brandon Spikes isn't good in coverage. I noted above that I hoped to sign Moats to a minimal deal though he's not the long term answer either. OLBs in free agency aren't very impressive either. Back to the draft.
The Browns figure to let TJ Ward go, particularly as they are a likely landing spot for Byrd. While the Bills won't shell out over $9 million for Byrd I am looking to sign Ward for a contract averaging $7 million a year, which is at the bottom of the top 10 safety contracts in the league. Buffalo is left with about $8 million in cap space.
WR and CB are needs that haven't been mentioned. About 20 WRs have contracts north of $8 million. I don't trust that Eric Decker will be as productive without Manning. James Jones hasn't had over 1000 yards in a season, Boldin is 34 and not the #1 WR the Bills need, Edelman isn't the size mismatch the bills need. None of the free agent WRs promise to be that #1 big bodied WR Buffalo so badly needs. The options are better at CB. Vontae Davis, Captain Munnerlyn and Sam Shields are all 26. Aqib Talib is a headcase who figures to re-sign with New England but luring him away has the added benefit of weakening a division foe. I prioritize signing Vontae Davis to a deal averaging about $7 million, going to $8 million if needed. McKelvin, who did have a better year in 2013 than any other, is more of a slot corner. Davis is taller than Munnerlyn and he's got a bigger build than Shields.
- Houston pretty much has to go for a QB, let's say Bortles.
- The Rams have said they're ‘open for business'. They won't drop down too far as they need to address the OT situation. They aren't going to get the haul they got from the Redskins last year. They ‘settle' for picks 4 and 26 from Cleveland. The browns take, let's say, Bridgewater.
- Jacksonville sits tight and takes a QB, with Manziel being the last of the top 3 QBs left.
- The Rams do another deal, dropping from 4 to 6 and add a 3rd rounder to boot. Atlanta grants Clowney his wish.
- Oakland has a lot of holes but they will have filled quite a few of them in free agency so they can take WR Sammy Watkins.
- The Rams don't toy with fate and take OT Jake Matthews.
- Buffalo ships 9 and 73 to Tampa Bay for 7 and 100. Buffalo takes LB Khalil Mack.
21. Buffalo takes WR Mike Evans, WR Marqise Lee or TE Eric Ebron depending on who is available. I'm going to guess that Evans will still be available due to his lack of elite speed and quickness but that Ebron will be gone. WR Mike Evans
41. Buffalo takes TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Jace Amaro, or TE Troy Niklas. With TEs becoming more and more a part of the passing game I'm going to guess that ASJ and Amaro will be gone when Buffalo is on the clock. TE Troy Niklas.
73. Traded away as part of the deal with Tampa Bay.
100. With the Bills needing to bring in someone to, at a minimum, be the swing reserve OT, the team could take a chance on OT Antonio Richardson's medical issue, OT Billy Turner, OT Seantrel Henderson or OT Michael Schofield depending on who was available. I'll predict Seantrel Henderson.
105. With all of the positions of need addressed in free agency or the draft the Bills can take draft without worrying about need and go with the true BPA.
Post Draft Moves
I don't have any specific UDFAs as I don't know who will get drafted and who will still be available. Buffalo will need to bring in WRs, LBs, OGs and OTs.
In my BROP I have:
- Lost Byrd, Chandler, Carpenter, and Carrington. Hogan, Moats and Summers may or may not have re-signed to minimal deals.
- Extended: Dareus, Hughes, Aaron Williams, Searcy, Easley, Lewis and Bryant.
- Signed free agent guard Geoff Schwartz to start at LG, safety TJ Ward to replace Byrd, and Vontae Davis to start at CB, shifting Leodis McKelvin into the slot.
- Moved up to draft LB Khalil Mack, snagged a sliding WR Mike Evans at 21 (Byrd pick), picked TE Troy Niklas in the 2nd, had no 3rd round pick, and taken OT Seantrel Henderson with Tampa's 4th rounder.