Bills had high hopes coming into 2013 with the regime change. However, anyone who expected dramatic results was disappointed by the end of the campaign. While it was a 6-10 season on paper, it was a much more improved effort. We saw a team that played hard all game long and throughout the entire season.
Yes, there were times when we just stunk, such as the game against Tampa Bay. However, it was not the same old lame duck team that trotted onto the field and started thinking about hitting the club during pre-game warmups. Despite only accumulating 6 wins, the team made almost every contest competitive, and were very close to winning more than those 6 games. That is more than we can say about past seasons.
2014 Plan of Attack
The goal of 2014 would be to build on that competitiveness and address the areas of need. Much of 2013 was also a player evaluation period for Doug Marrone and his staff. With most of that evaluation having been completed, the coaching staff should have a greater understanding of what positions are in need of upgrades in order to put a winning team on the field this coming season.
The playoffs are not out of the question as a three or four game swing is entirely possible with the current roster. All three areas (offense, defense, special teams) do have some concerns from a staffing and scheme standpoint that may have large implications as to the success this team can enjoy.
If these questions have answers that create results, it is entirely possible the Buffalo Bills could reach the post-season in 2014. Building on the foundation that is already present, there are not a great deal of holes that need to be addressed. And the team really has flexibility to do what they wish with the draft as they don't need to draft any position in particular. This gives the team the ability to trade up, move down, or stay put and go with whoever they like most.
Font Office & Coaching Staff
After what appears to be a very successful off-season in 2013, the Front Office is going to remain intact in 2014. We should not be in the business of tinkering with success. As for the coaching staff, the group of coaches that we have kept on staff for the 2014 season and hired during this off-season will remain in place. However, Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman will be relieved of duties immediately. We wish to thank Danny for everything he did for us this past season, but we believe it is in both of our best interests to move on.
The special teams unit was a disappointment for us this past season. While Dan Carpenter had a career year, we were often plagued by spotty special teams coverage which arguably could have cost us two separate games in 2013. The difference those two games make is the difference between a 6-10 team and an 8-8 team.
The Buffalo Bills are proud to present the next Special Teams Coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich. Coach Ulbrich comes to the Bills after two very successful years as the UCLA Special Teams coordinator. Ulbrich played in the NFL for 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers as a linebacker. After his career as a player, Coach Ulbrich began his coaching career with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 as a Special Teams Assistant. In 2012 he was hired as the Special Teams Coordinator and Linebacker Coach for the UCLA Bruins.
During the 2013 season, UCLA had the 5th best kickoff return unit and 19th best kickoff coverage unit, of all college teams nationwide. During Coach Ulbrich's two years at UCLA, no team blocked more punts or kicks in college football than the Bruins. Much of that success can be attributed to the passion and energy that Coach Ulbrich brings to his team. We are very happy to present Coach Ulbrich to the fans of Western New York.
This is probably the most guaranteed move of the off-season. After Kolb's last concussion which kept him out for the entire season and apparently away from Buffalo, NY altogether, Kolb is released to save $3.1 million in cap money. It is not ideal to head into 2014 with three young QBs again (EJ Manuel, Thaddeus Lewis, Jeff Tuel). There is still that very likely possibility we are able to bring in a veteran QB. We won't even rule out drafting a young QB in the later rounds.
Pears is a below average player at an important position on the offensive line. At his cap cost of $2.9 million, he is greatly overpaid for the value that he brings to the team. There is no actual concrete plan in place to replace Pears. Obviously there is a possibility the Bills draft an OT or target one in free agency. However, despite not having someone ready to take over for Pears, I can feel comfortable with this move as it is unlikely that we actually downgrade. Perhaps we don't find an ideal candidate, but if we have to settle for a marginal or below average player, such as Pears, we will do it at a fraction of the cost.
|PLAYER||2014 CAP RELIEF
After receiving the Franchise Tag in 2013, the Bills were hopeful that we would be able to reach a contract agreement with Byrd during this off-season. While Buffalo had the cap space to resign Byrd, doing so would really handcuff the team for the immediate future. It's difficult to have the richest defensive player in league history, Mario Williams, and the highest paid safety in the league (which is what Byrd is seaking). We considered signing Byrd to a 5 year, $43.75 million contract, with $22 million guaranteed. However, the team decided that this route would limit their ability to continue to add good players to the roster. As a result, the team has elected to utilize the Franchise Tag in 2014, which results in a cap hit of $8.337m.
The next order of business would be to resign Dan Carpenter. Carpenter was a pleasant surprise for Buffalo in 2013, and this team could get used to having similar surprises in the future. If Carpenter were to become a free agent he would likely be the most coveted kicker on the market. The problem with Carpenter is that while he had a great year kicking Field Goals, his kickoffs leave a lot to be desired. Only 40% of his kickoffs resulted in touch-backs when the league average is approximately 50%. However, the team has to evaluate what is more important: putting points on the board, or putting the ball out of the back of the end zone. The team ultimately elects to go with the former, which renders Dustin Hopkins pretty much useless for 2014 and perhaps a late cap casualty in the spring. The lack of a strong kickoff will drive Carpenter's contract numbers down to a more friendly price for the Bills. Carpenter is set to receive $9.5 million over 4 years, $3 million of which is guaranteed with a cap hit of approximately $2.15 million.
Moats signed a 1 year contract extension this off-season to the following terms: (1 year, $850,000, $120,000 guaranteed).
Summers is an exclusive rights free agent and has been resigned to a 1 year, $630,000 contract.
Hogan is also an exclusive rights free agent and has been resigned to a 1 year, $630,000 contract.
|PLAYER||YEARS||SALARY||2014 CAP HIT
Williams made the move from CB to S in 2013 and it seemed as though he was playing there all along. He seems to have a natural feel for the position, despite his hesistation at moving. DB Coach Donnie Henderson said he saw something special in Williams and it showed on the field. In the second half of the season he really flourished. Despite some foolish penalties early in the season, Williams really improved as the season went on, even though he was needed to play CB throughout the season due to injuries in the secondary. Williams was rewarded with a 4 year, $24 million deal. The first year of the deal is set to take place in 2015, he will finish out the last year of his rookie deal.
Dareus had an option year in 2015 that the team could elect to pick-up. However, we felt it was best to lock up the young Pro Bowl DT now rather than after the 2015 season. Dareus will be paid similar to Kyle Williams, making the Buffalo defensive line one of the most highly invested defensive lines in all of football. The deal will take place after the 2014 season as the team did not want to pick up the 2015 option of $7 million. The deal is for 5 years at a total of $30 million.
Due To Become Free Agents
While Scott Chandler had the best season in his career, statistically, we are always looking to acquire very good players. Head Coach Doug Marrone did say he would like to have Chandler back. We did attempt to resign Scott Chandler to a contract that we felt was in line with his value on the Buffalo Bills and in this league. However, Chandler decided to test free agency after his career season in 2013.
We hoped to resign Alex Carrington this off-season as well. Carrington is known for his ability to block kicks and we were very excited for him this past season with his role on the defense. However, injury cut his season short and he missed the remainder of the year. We did offer Carrington a contract but like Chandler, Carrington elected to test the free agent market.
The best trade partner for Jairus Byrd is the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has a lot of cap space and has an abundance of draft picks. Byrd also thrived in Pettine's system and would make an easy transition. However, it was ultimately the Philadelphia Eagles that ponied up and traded the #54 for Jairus Byrd.
Hughes gained the most out of Mike Pettine. He actually hit an escalator and gained another $4 million based on his play in 2013. Hughes was considered a bust in Indianapolis. However, he was one of the most efficient and effective pass rushers in 2013 in the NFL. When you consider the pressure he generated in comparison to his snap counts, he was the best. Cleveland agreed to send #83 (from Pittsburgh) in exchange for Hughes.
Remember, we rolled over $17.8 million in cap space from 2013 to the 2014 season. Had we not been able to do that, we'd be $4.3 million over the cap right now. So while we have about $18 million available after contract extensions and releases, we need to be careful how we spend that money. If, for instance, we use all of that remaining cap money this year and next year we are tight with the cap we will have very little cap room to maneuver. With that being said, we will continue to work free agency and look for players who provide high value to the team.
Rinehart has been signed to a contract for the 2014 season. Rinehart is likely to come as a surprise to many Bills fans after he left Buffalo after the 2012 season. He will be expected to start at the LG spot again for Buffalo in 2014. The contract details are as follows: 3 years, $7.5 million with $2.5 million guaranteed. The cap hit for 2014 is $2.33 million.
Strief had a great year for the New Orleans Saints and it's really a surprise that he's not a highly coveted free agent. Obviously Doug Marrone knows a lot about Strief, having coached for the Saints in the past. However, it's not so much the connection that brings him to Buffalo, but the team's need for a RT and Strief's proven track record of being a very good OT. The contract details are as follows 3 years, $15 million with $5 million guaranteed. The cap hit for 2014 is $4.66 million.
Young saw an improvement in 2013 with the Detroit Lions. The former 7th round pick is obviously familiar with the defense that Jim Schwartz runs and would benefit from not having to make much of a transition. The contract details are as follows: 3 years, $7.5 million with $2.5 million guaranteed. The cap hit for 2014 is $2.33 million.
Jordan had a quiet but solid season for Kansas City last year. He isn't a marquee free agent, which is why he had our attention. We're hoping Jordan has a similar impact that Manny Lawson was able to have for us in 2013: few headlines, big contribution. The contract details are as follows: 3 years, $9 million with $3 million guaranteed. The cap hit for 2014 is $2.8 million.
|Kevin Kolb Released||+$3.1m|
|Erik Pears Released||+$2.9m|
|Jairus Byrd Tagged||-$8.337m|
|Dan Carpenter Resigned||-$2.15m|
|Arthur Moats Resigned||-$850k|
|Frank Summers Resigned||-$630k|
|Chris Hogan Resigned||-$630k|
|Jairus Byrd Traded||+$8.337m|
|Jerry Hughes Traded||+$3.995m|
|Chad Rinehart Signed||-$2.33m|
|Zach Strief Signed||-$4.66m|
|Willie Young Signed||-$2.33m|
|Akeem Jordan Signed||-$2.8m|
#9 to Baltimore for #17 & #48
Analysis: With a draft as deep as this, another deal similar to the 2013 draft in which we traded back was obviously something we were very interested in. The thought process is that moving back 8 spots would still land us an elite talent while also accumulating picks which will provide us more opportunities to bring in very good players. Many would have suggested we take Eric Ebron or Mike Evans here. However, we were targeting a TE that could be a threat in the pass game and hold his own in the run game as well. As for Evans, we have a lot of youth at the position and have a young QB in EJ Manuel.
#17: Kony Ealy
Analysis: With the switch in defenses this off-season, we needed to really re-evaluate what our team needs were. The defense run by Jim Schwartz puts a lot of emphasis on the front 4 defensive lineman generating a lot of pressure. We have 3 Pro Bowl players on the defensive line already in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. We are hoping Ealy is the final piece to that puzzle that really makes our defense click.
#41: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Analysis: Eric Ebron received a lot of hype, and we certainly had the opportunity to select him. But with the emphasis of our running game, we wanted a TE who could immediately help in the running game as well. We didn't want to telegraph what we were doing based on personnel, and we didn't want a one dimensional guy. Seferian-Jenkins is a threat in the passing game and is an excellent run blocker. This provides us with a lot more flexibility with our playcalling and keeps us less predictable.
#48: Kyle Fuller
Analysis: As we know from the 2013 season, you need a good group of players in the secondary. Due to injuries we were stretched very thin in the beginning of last season. That obviously had an impact on our season and could've changed the outlook on our season. This move is clearly one of necessity in today's pass happy NFL.
#54: Jimmie Ward
Analysis: Thanks to not being able to participate in the NFL combine, Ward's stock dropped a bit. He had an excellent Senior Bowl that really turned a lot of our scout's heads. We feel as though he can immediately step in and replace the departed Jairus Byrd without a hiccup. Despite being listed as a SS, Ward will be lining up as a FS for us.
#73: Chris Borland
Analysis: There is no doubting Borland's game. The knock on him was his lack of size and arm length. That is something we certainly took into consideration. But at the same time, if you can play, you can play. Borland has drawn a bunch of comparison's to Zach Thomas, and we'd be very happy with that level of production. We love his tenacity and believe his drive will be enough to overcome his lack of physical stature.
#105: Christian Jones
Analysis: Jones was listed as an ILB, although he will be making the move to the strong side for us. Jones is a bit more of a project player, but he has incredible athleticism for a 6'3" 240lb guy. He may not see the starting lineup this season, but he's definitely someone who could earn some looks throughout the year. He has the ability to become a starter at the position with some hard work in refining his coverage skills.
#137: Caraun Reid
Analysis: Reid is a guy who really impressed during the Senior Bowl. He isn't huge (6'2", 301lbs) but he has good arm length and is an Aaron Donald-type of defensive lineman. He has burst, quick hands and can get penetration. I would not be surprised if Reid sees the field a good amount in his rookie season, despite having Pro Bowlers Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on the team. It would certainly create an ideal rotation situation to keep everybody fresh.
#169: Jon Halapio
Analysis: This is another player who really caught our attention at the Senior Bowl. Halapio has great power and good hand placement. He also has some athleticism which helps him get to the second level when necessary. He played throughout 2013 with a torn pectoral muscle which probably dropped his draft grade, but we're very happy to select him here. We believe he's the type of guy who can develop into a mauler for us.
#201: Aaron Colvin
Analysis: Considered the top CB by some scouts, Colvin tore his ACL in the Senior Bowl practices which is going to really hurt his draft stock. Colvin won't be able to contribute right away while he rehabs from injury, but he provides an excellent value pick for the Bills at this point in the draft.
|#9||Traded to BAL (#17 & #48)|
|#17||DE Kony Ealy
|#41||TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins|
|#48||CB Kyle Fuller
||FS Jimmie Ward
|#73||ILB Chris Borland|
|#105||OT Ju'Wuan James
|#137||DT Caraun Reid|
||OG Jon Halapio
||CB Aaron Colvin
|QB||E.J. Manuel||Thad Lewis||Jeff Tuel|
|RB||Fred Jackson||C.J. Spiller||Ronnie Wingo|
|FB||Frank Summers||Evan Rodriguez|
|TE||Austin Seferian-Jenkins||Tony Moeaki||Lee Smith||Chris Gragg|
|WR1||Stevie Johnson||T.J. Graham||Chris Hogan|
|LT||Cordy Glenn||Chris Hairston|
|LG||Chad Rinehart||Doug Legursky|
|RG||Kraig Urbik||Jon Halapio
|WR2||Robert Woods||Marquise Goodwin||Marcus Easley|
|LE||Willie Young||Kony Ealy|
|DT1||Kyle Williams||Caraun Reid||Stefan Charles|
|DT2||Marcell Dareus||Alan Branch|
|RE||Mario Williams||Corbin Bryant|
|LOLB||Kiko Alonso||Nigel Bradham|
|MLB||Akeem Jordan||Chris Borland|
|ROLB||Manny Lawson||Arthur Moats||Christian Jones|
|CB1||Leodis McKelvin||Ron Brooks||Nickell Roby|
|SS||Aaron Williams||Da'Norris Searcy|
|FS||Jimmie Ward||Duke Williams||Johnathan Meeks|
|CB2||Stephon Gilmore||Kyle Fuller||Aaron Colvin|
|K||Dan Carpenter||Dustin Hopkins|