A lot of people around here seem to think defensive end is one of Buffalo's top priorities this off-season (or at least should be). Although I do share many of your concerns with the quality of play of both Schobel and Kelsey, I find it highly unlikely that the Bills make an assertive attempt to upgrade the position this year - whether it be free agnecy or the draft. Why you ask? Money. Here are the numbers from rotoworld (http://rotoworld.com/content/playerpages/player_main.aspx?sport=NFL&id=2297) and WGR (http://www.wgr550.com/column.php?id=0599):
Aaron Schobel signed his new deal on 8/24/2007. He signed a seven-year, $50.5 million contract. The deal includes $21 million in guarantees. His base salaries from 2007-2010 are guaranteed. 2007-2008: $2.5 million, 2009: $3 million, 2010: $6 million, 2011-2013: Under Contract. In 2014 he will become a free agent ( and also be 37 years old!)
According to WGR Schobel has the highest cap number on the roster in '08 at $8.7 million. His base is guaranteed for the next THREE seasons so he will at least be around that long. Depending on his 2011-2013 salaries he would be in a position to be restructured or cut, but the bottom line is he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Chris Kelsey signed his new contract on 2/26/2007. He signed a four-year, $23 million contract. The deal included an $8 million signing bonus and an initial roster bonus of $3 million. 2008: $1.4 million, 2009: $3 million, 2010: $3.7 million. In 2011 he becomes a free agent. According to WGR he has a cap number of $5 million this season. That's good for 4th highest on the team.
Although Kelsey's numbers seem reasonable for the next few years, it's hard to tell how much of the signing bonus was amortized over the remaining three years. The $5 million reported by WGR gives us a clue (that a good chunk of that bonus must have been accounted towards '08). Regardless though, it's a moot point. The Bills didn't give Kelsey $11 million in guaranteed money less then a year ago so he could ride the pine in '08. Also cutting him would not be realistic because they would have to eat a good portion of the remaining contact. Kelsey has three years left on the deal he signed last year and he's likely not going anywhere in that time.
It may surprise some that Ryan Denney isn't really hurting in the wallet either. He has two two seasons left on his contract and rotoworld reports that he has a cap number of $2.3 million in 2008 and $2.4 million in 2009. WGR reports that he has a '08 cap hit of $3.1 million (that's good for 10th highest '08 cap hit on the team - just below all-pros Jason Peters and Lee Evans). Regardless of which figure is accurate that's a lot of money for a number 3 DE.
Schobel and Kelsey (and especially Denney) are over-paid for their productivity and ability, there is no denying that (in '07 they had 10 sacks among the three of them - total!). However, there is also no denying the numbers. If you use WGR's numbers, together they have three of the top ten salaries on the roster in '08 (first, fourth, and tenth), totaling an absurd $16.8 million. That's 15% of the entire cap space in '08! Although many of us would like an upgrade, in the end the Bills have invested heavily in these guys, and for better for worse, they have to play the hand they dealt themselves. I agree with many that the DE position could be upgraded when solely looking at the talent level. But when the contracts and investments are taken into consideration (along with the coaching staff's seemingly high praise for these guys) reality sets in. A lot of people are talking about drafting Gholston or Havey in the first round and I find that AMAZINGLY unrealistic. With the position they are in now, look for them to add pass rushing specialist that can spell Kelsey on obvious passing situations. Whether they look to the draft or free agency to fill that need, I don't know. I do know that I would be shocked if the Bills invested big FA money or a high draft pick on a DE this off-season.
Again, not becuase I beleive in the talent (I don't) but becuase I beleive Marv's two biggest mistakes at GM were the two contracts he gave to Schobel and Kelsey.