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FA Visits and Levy Bashing

Free agent RB Josh Scobey

Most of you have probably heard by now, but this past week the Buffalo Bills hosted two free agents: Seahawks RB Josh Scobey and Ravens WR Alex Bannister. Both are widely viewed as potential special teams signings, although Scobey seems to have the skill set that offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild is looking for in his running backs. Scobey has solid speed, really nice size (6'0", 220 pounds) and actually caught 18 passes in 2004 while he was with the Arizona Cardinals; this shows his potential as a receiver out of the backfield.

Bannister is a player that the Bills have brought in before as a potential signee, but he went to Baltimore last off-season after beginning his career in Seattle. He has always been one of the league's most explosive specialists, but to me his signing would be a moot point with special teams ace Sam Aiken already on the roster.

Scobey would be a much more important signing to me because of his versatility: he could chip in on offense in a pinch, he has played well on coverage units in Seattle and most importantly, he can return kicks. The club will likely look for a new kick returner, as Terrence McGee is now our #1 cornerback and cannot risk injury on kick returns (although he could still pull that duty in special circumstances). If Scobey were signed, he would give the Bills options in the kick return department.

Chris Cluff, a writer at, did not have nice things to say about Marv Levy or Tom Donahoe in an article he recently wrote for the site. (Of course, who these days does have nice things to say about Tom Donahoe?)

As mind-boggling as some of Donahoe's moves were during his five seasons as general manager, Levy has made heads spin even faster with some of his decisions in just over one year on the job.

Last offseason, Levy essentially negotiated against himself in trying to bring back receiver Peerless Price. No other team was that interested in the former Bill, who had been a bust in Atlanta, yet Levy gave him a contract worth $10 million over four years.

Then Levy overpaid in the draft as well, reaching for safety Donte Whitner (eighth overall) and trading back into the first round to draft defensive tackle John McCargo with the 26th pick. The Bills got terrible value for both players, whom the team could have had much later.

Levy began this offseason by similarly overvaluing free agents. He retained Chris Kelsay -- a good, but certainly not great, defensive end -- with a deal worth almost $6 million per year and then chose to let some of the team's best defenders go and instead overpay two average linemen.

In a money-mad dash in early March, the San Francisco 49ers lured away cornerback Nate Clements with $22 million in guaranteed cash, while the Bills preferred to join the ill-advised guard giveaway by paying $18.5 million in bonuses to Derrick Dockery and giving tackle Langston Walker $5 million a year. While the Bills should be commended for finally trying to fix an offensive line that has been broken for years, they overpaid the wrong players.

Levy also let go of two of the Bills' starting linebackers (Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher-Baker), leaving a huge need at that position.

Ouch. Of course, as usual, a media writer fails to notice the good that came out of last year's draft. For starters, Whitner and fourth-rounder Ko Simpson became mainstays in our defensive backfield and have very bright futures. Fifth-rounder Kyle Williams unseated Tim Anderson and McCargo for a starting gig at DT. Sixth-rounder Keith Ellison was a special teams force and held his own as a starter, leading the coaches to believe that his potential made Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher-Baker expendable. Seventh-round pick Terrance Pennington became our starting right tackle and figures to compete hard with Langston Walker for the right to keep that starting spot.

In addition, McCargo, third-rounder Ashton Youboty and fifth-round lineman Brad Butler all figure to see significant increases in playing time this season, and all three are - at least potentially - expected to hold their own. With such a deep and promising draft class, Cluff's views are terribly one-sided.