Alright so lets get the title out of the way right now. I promise if I change the defensive scheme in the next two years I will fire myself. I know It doesn't really matter says the team front office that has changed it 5 times in the last 4 years and are changing it again now. The fact is it does make a difference in player personnel and there is something to be said for continuity. I mean how many defenses has K. Williams had to learn since becoming a Bill. I know this last one was not there fault but I had to get that off my chest.
Lets start with an end of season review on offense, defense and ST.
On offense EJ and CJ could not stay healthy and when combined with a terrible LG situation and receivers not knowing who was throwing them the ball from week to week, the offense looked sloppy and out of sync most of the year. Third down conversions were a problem especially in the red zone. CJ, Pears, and SJ regressed. Fred was solid through injuries again. Chandler and Graham improved.....that is not a misprint. Glenn, Wood and Urbik did fine, and Woods, Goodwin and Gragg showed varying degrees of promise in their rookie campaign. All the while our new franchise QB looked OK between three injuries, but has a long way to go in accuracy and consistency.
The defense was much improved especially in some key statistics. In fact I would say that I was beyond impressed with the sack and int. numbers. On the other hand the run defense was very inconsistent and down right bad at times. Third down conversions given up was again a problem and the amount of third and long's converted was very frustrating. I got the feeling that this was a unit with a lot of individual talent that never could consistently play as a complete team. They gave up way to many big plays at crucial times and for all the raving about the sacks, they gave up a very pedestrian 24.3 points @ game.
The ST unit was just down right bad. I am not in the Crossman camp, but I don't have time to look for replacements to a coach that will be here for one more year anyway. We got very lucky getting Carpentar at the last minute or this would have really been ugly. I thought we were deep with talent in the punt return spot, but even when McKelvin was struggling we just kept giving it to him, and Leonhard who was actually the better of the two. Poor lane containment and bad tackling cost us on several occasions, but the quantity of dumb penalties is what convinced me that this has more to do with coaching than the players.
I had some problems with the coaching, but Crossman is the only one that should be replaced. On offense Hackett has got to figure out how to get CJ in space. I am all for having a small amount of read option in the playbook, and they need to be safe about it but the play is useless if you are giving it to the RB 98% of the time. These two things are on Hackett to fix. On defense I think Pettine was getting exactly what he wanted out of his system and players. Doug Marrone has got to figure out the challenge flag, but I like a lot of what he is bringing to the table. I really like that he seems to be a good planner and never seems like he is caught off guard. I like how he made a point in one of his post game pressers that all the sacks in the world were not helping us to win games. I think he had a plan for how he wanted Pettine to change some things in his system to help bolster the run defense even if it cost us some sacks. I also like how he handled the whole DC change process. He was on top of it and implemented the plan and got his man fast. I think he is 2/2 in bringing in the best available DC, I hope we don't have to go three in a row. I think DM had an end of year plan to get the team better in coaching by bringing in a defensive and offensive assistant. Someone who could help each coordinator with ideas and time management. He did this on the defensive side first, but then Pettine left and took his assistant with him. Now with Schwartz it is probably not as much of a need. on offense he brought in Hostler and a QB coach so that Hackett can spend more time being an OC and less being a position coach. I don't know if it will help, but it cant hurt.
What is the plan moving forward?
My BROP is designed to address the shortfalls of last season and continue to bring in and develop young talent, but I will target a few players in FA that might be considered a veteran stopgap as I think there will be some good value in FA after the largest part of the money is spent. I will target one impact FA and the rest will be dust settlers.
I have already mentioned the coaching problems, so I wont spend much time there, but we need to scheme Spiller into space better. He also needs to be on the field more snaps as a decoy so that when he is on the field the defense cant just key on him so much. I fully expect that EJ will show more development in his first full offseason. I will bring in more talent around EJ and upgrade the O-line so that he will be without excuse after this season. I said this in last years BROP and I will say it again, we have to be better at converting 3rd and short. I will bring in a RB that will make this long time problem go away. We have to be able to stop the run, and to do this we will be only slightly less aggressive on defense. We will focus on being gap sound, and we will improve the talent in the front 7. I fully expect some of the key stats to look worse, but the points allowed @ game to decrease.
I am not making any coaching or front office changes.
Our free agents.
I was optimistic about keeping Byrd until about three weeks ago. I did an in depth look into how much spendable cap money each team had in FA. I then cross refrenced that with a list of teams in real need of improving at the S position. The results convinced me that we are going to lose Byrd. Sure we can FT him and make him play here one more season, but we wont get our moneys worth this year on the field that way and then we will loose him anyway. There is a good demand for Byrd's services right now and I really thought FT and immediate trade was the way to go. I will admit that my original plan was very similar to Dan's BROP as far as the Byrd, Hughes trade I just had the trade going with the Eagles for there first and second round picks rather than the Browns. Now that it's apparent that there will be no trade I will painfully reflect that in my BROP in an attempt to keep it realistic. Apparently I tested the trade waters and was not offered anything more than a 5th round pick I wanted to just let him go in FA and try to get a compensatory pick next year but the more I looked at it, that is looking like slim odds as well. The only solace here is that the cap money saved will be spent bringing in more talent for the defensive front 7.
I would love to upgrade here, but the bottom line is that there is not much out there in FA or the draft that is much better, and Chandler while having some liabilities is better than he gets credit for. I am not ready to spend a first round pick to get Ebron so I will bring Chandler back. Teams have been overspending on TE's for several years now and with almost half the team strapped for cap space I think they are starting to see the light. I will sign Chandler on a three year 11.5M deal that includes 4.5M in guaranteed money (1.5M in signing bonus plus his first year salary of 3M). That makes his 2nd and 3rd year salary @ 3.5M each, and his cap for this year is 3.5M.
The Bills need to keep him but I think he has already decided to test the market. There are a lot of big names in front of him so after a week and no big offers I think he will be back in Buffalo. I sign him to a 3 year contract worth 6.5M. He gets a 1.5M signing bonus, with yearly salaries of 1.5M, 1.5M and 2M. I also give him a yearly bonus of .75M every time he has more than 70% of the snaps. His 2014 cap is 2M.
Yes he will have camp competition, but I don't want him walking just yet and he is a RFA so he only costs us .65M on his tender.
Same deal if all works out in the draft he wont make the team, but for now he gets a RFA tender for .65M
Total=4.8M towards the cap to resign.
Letting them go.
D. Carpenter, M. Caussin, T. Welch, J. Leonhard, A. Moats, A. McClain and B. Smith.
Cuts for the cap.
K. Kolb +3.1M
E. Pears +2.9M
D. Legursky +1M
Looking into the 2015 offseason there are several players that will be FA's that I want to address this year. M. Dareus has had some periods that were below expectations but I know I want him on my team moving forward. That being said we also have a 5th year option on his rookie contract. I am picking that up so that I can give him a big contract next year. A. Williams has got to be a priority now that Byrd is all but gone. The good news is I think he can have almost as much production in the next 5 years as Byrd would have had for us and at a much lower cost. I will sign him long term and find out. G. Sanborn has been a very dependable LS for us and there is no reason not to keep him around for one more contract. I will resign him this year. F. Jackson will be a FA in 2015, and I intend to resign him one more time, but at his age we will have to wait until next offseason. C. Hairston, L. Smith, E. Rodriguez, T. Lewis, C. Bryant, and D. Searcy are all FA's next year as well, and we will have to make decisions on them next year.
Contract extension details.
A. Williams' contract is a 5 year 27M extension (11M guaranteed). I give him a 7.5M signing bonus to lure him in early. His salary stays the same this year but then goes up to 3M in 2015. His salary for the next three years is 4M @ year. Then his final year he will make 5M. His total cap hit for 2014 is 2.9234M. I have to add 1.25M to Williams' projected cap for 2014.
G. Sanborn's contract is a 3 year 3.925M extension. I give him a 1M signing bonus. His salary stays the same this year and then goes up to 975K @ year for the next three years. His total cap hit for 2014 is 1.35M. I have to add .254M to Sanborn's projected cap for 2014.
I was going to trade Byrd and Hughes to the Eagles for their 1,22 +2,54 with a total trade value of 1140 points, but as I explained above this is not going to happen now. I could still trade Hughes, but I don't like the DE position in this years draft, and I don't see us spending the big bucks in FA on the numerous big name DE's I think we are more likely to just stand pat and see if there is anyone left in FA after the money dries up. So no trades.
Cap room left.
I start the FA period with 23.9M Thanks to the NFL teams cooking the books and raising the cap for the year.....They had to or else only half the teams could participate in FA this year and there would have been good talent not getting contract offers after all the teams were broke. In the end the NFL infused 224M dollars into the FA market so that all but a few teams could play in the FA game. This will make FA much more competitive than It would have been with the original 126M team cap that was projected.
I spend 4.8M resigning my FA's, but I gain 7M in cutting some veterans for the cap. I spend an additional 1.504M towards the cap in my contract extensions. In the end I have 24.6M in cap money to spend in FA.
Free agent signings.
In FA I simply want to fill some holes and add the talent neccesarry on defense to be able to stop the run, allowing me to focus the draft on the offensive side of the ball. I would love to target some depth here as well but in the back of my mind I am still thinking about trying for a FA net loss. I can only get three players as I am only losing (Byrd, Carpenter, Moats, and Leonhard that I think will count towards the net loss) . I am focusing on ILB, S, and DE.
The Bills sign ILB Daryl Smith to a 3 year 12M contract.
Smith has long been a good ILB and had a great year last year. His only problem is his age, but I think he still has 2-3 years left in the tank and the contract is structured so that if his production drops off he can be let go without any major cap hit. Smith is just a stop gap for a few years but he can help our run defense dramatically and he allows us to push Kiko out to the WLB position. Smith gets a 3M signing bonus with a first year salary of 2.5M He makes 3M in year two and 3.5M in his last year of the contract. His 2014 cap is 3.5M.
The Bills sign S C. Clemons to a 4 year 24M contract.
Clemons is no Byrd, but he is a good coverage S and very dependable. He has only missed three games in 4 years. I think this is a little high, but I think that is what it will take to get him, and it is still roughly half what we were going to have to pay Byrd. With Clemons and Williams locked up we can put the safety position behind us finally. Clemons will get a 6M signing bonus and his first and second year guaranteed (14M). His salary will be 4M a year for the first two years, and then 5m a year for the final two years. His 2014 cap will be 5.5M.
The Bills sign DE Willie Young to a 4 year 18M contract.
Young has improved each year and has experience in Schwartz's system. He can compete with J. Hughes to see who gets the start opposite M. Williams. Either way we will have good depth at the position. Young will get a 4M signing bonus with a 3M salary in each of his first two years. He will then make 4M salary in his last two years. His 2014 cap will be 4M.
End of Free agency money and a look forward.
We started the FA period with 24.6M in cap space and with my three FA signings (that total 13M) we have 11.6M left.
I know this was not very flashy, but all I wanted to do is fill some defensive holes improving our run defense, and have some extra money to start resigning our 2015 FA's before FA starts next offseason. Guys like F. Jackson, T. Lewis, C. Hairston, C. Bryant, and D. Searcey depending on their play this year could all be good candidates to resign prior to them hitting the market. I don't expect any of them to be big contracts, but I want a little money left at the end of the year just in case one of them really improves this year and needs to be locked in prior to next years FA. If next years cap is anywhere near the 140M that is now being reported factoring in the contracts already on the books plus this years drafted and FA pickups we should be in the 110M range of already on the books contracts for cap for 2015. That gives us a really nice 30M plus 2014 rollover to start 2015. M. Dareus will eat into that but we should be able to sign him long term and still be able to make a good splash next year for a SB run.
Ok so I filled most of my holes on the defensive side of the ball in FA, so now I can really improve the offense in the draft. There is no disputing that EJ needs more time in the pocket and more dependable targets to throw to. A big bruising 3rd down conversion running back will also help him to extend drives and keep him on the field. There will be an occasional LB or two sprinkled in, but this is going to be an offense dominated draft.
Round 1 pick #9
RT G. Robinson You can quit laughing now, I know you don't think there is a chance he will be there, but that is why I get paid the big bucks to manipulate the draft and make sure that he is. Let me explain. I think we can all agree that the top three QB's, Clowney, Watkins, Mack and at least one OT will be off the board in the first 7 picks. In my mock I have that top LT being J. Mathews to the Falcons at #6. This leaves G. Robinson, M. Evans and Mosely as the top talent on the board when the Vikings go on the clock. The Vikings have already expressed interest in trading down and all I have to do is make sure that the trade is with a team wanting a WR rather than Robinson. Robinson would be the top talent, but the next teams needing an OT are the Titans (11) and the Giants(12). The Titans wont want to move up as they are in good position to get a top three OT at #11 considering two of the three are still on the board. I looked really hard at a Vikings(8)/Giants(12) trade, but I just don't think they will pull the trigger with the depth at the OT position and their need for keeping their 3rd round pick. The next best trade option for the Vikings would be with the Lions. They have their heart set on picking up a big top talent WR with their #10 pick to play opposite Megatron. The problem is that with Watkins already off the board and with the Bills already expressing interest in a big WR the odds of M. Evans falling to them is looking slim. So all I have to do is put it out there that I really like the OT talent at the top of the draft but that we really like the talent at WR especially M. Evans and that if he is there at #9 he would be really hard for us to pass up. I don't see any other teams that would be willing to trade up with the Vikings so the hook is baited, and now all I have to do is wait for the really wanting to trade down Vikings and the really wanting M. Evans Lions to come to an agreement in terms. In the end the Lions only have to give up their first and fourth round picks to get their guy, leaving G. Robinson to us at #9. consider OT fixed for the Bills for a few years.
Round 2 pick #41
WR J. Mathews With the steal of G. Robinson in the rear view mirror the Bills target the big WR they have been looking for a few years now. Mathews needs to bulk up but has a frame that can handle it. His routes are good and his hands are strong. The combination of Mathews and Woods on the outside and running SJ and M. Goodwin out of the slot should give the bills opponents something to think about. The Bills will now have speed to pull the safety deep(Goodwin) plus two talented outside WR's freeing up SJ working underneath and spreading the defense enough to let CJ get back to his romping ways. Now if we can just get EJ on the same page with our WR's we should see a marked improvement in the passing game this year.
Round 3 pick # 73
OG G. Jackson Three picks and two O-lineman. The O-line transformation is complete. E. Pears, C. Brown and D. Legursky are no longer masquerading at the top of our depth chart and a (Robinson, Urbik, Wood, Jackson, Glenn) O-line looks good to me both in the run and passing games. EJ, FJ and CJ should have no excuses. Lets get it done.
Round 4 pick #105
RB J. Hill I don't know if he will be there at this pick but I have a feeling he will be. If not there are some other POWER backs that will be available in the 4th-5th round like T. West, or J. Wilder. We will carry a #3 RB on the 53 man roster there is no reason why we cant have one of our RB's be a power back that will improve our third and short conversion percentages. This has been a need for a long time.
Round 5 pick # 137
ILB M. Bullough I finally take a break from the offense and take a stout thumper ILB Bullough should give us some good depth behind D. Smith and in a few years could take over at the position.
Round 6 pick # 169
OLB Best available I am running out of time and so I will just leave this open.
Round 7 pick #201
P C. Webster We need to bring in someone to compete with Moorman and groom for the future.
After the draft
I will be very aggressive in the days after the draft signing some flyers for depth on the roster. Positions I will be looking at are below.
QB someone to compete with J. Tuell would be nice.
FB competition for Summers.
RB I will want someone to compete with Hill for the #3 RB
TE L. Smith will be a FA next year and getting a blocking specialist in camp this year would be nice.
OT Depth is still a concern if Hairiston is not back in the fold.
DE Lets take a flyer on a raw pass rusher
OLB I would have liked to address the depth behind M. Lawson earlier in the draft so lets bring in another body
CB I want some competition for the #5CB spot.
Depth chart (53man)
Sorry I don't know how to do the fancy charts that make it look so good I bet B. Nix didn't either.
QB---- EJ Manuel----T. Lewis----- J. Tuell
RB----F. Jackson-----CJ Spiller----J. Hill
TE----S. Chandler----T. Moeaki---C. Gragg--L. Smith
WR1--R. Woods-----S. Johnson---TJ Graham
LT----C. Glenn------C. Hairston
LG---G. Jackson---JJ Unga
C----E. Wood----M. Asper
RT----G. Robinson--E. Coughman
WR2--J. Mathews---M. Goodwin
LDE---M. Williams----J. Hughes
DT---M. Dareus-----A. Branch
DT---K. Williams----S. Charles
RDE--A. Carrington---W. Young---C. Bryant
WLB---K. Alanso----N. Bradham
ILB---D. Smith-----M. Bullough
SLB---M. Lawson---T. Powell
CB1---S. Gilmore----N. Robey---M. Butler
SS---C. Clemmons---J. Meeks---D. Searcy
FS---A. Williams----D. Williams
CB2---L. McKelvin---R. Brooks
K ---- D. Hopkins
P ----C. Webster
Thanks for reading and GO BILLS!!!