Reading some of the reaction to the news that Laveranues Coles has signed in Cincinnati, I sensed a wave of near panic among the masses. Some are making it sound as though the 2009 season is already doomed and that the Bills can do nothing to recover from the devastating blow... of missing out on a possession receiver on the wrong side of 30. Come on, guys! WR wasn't even identified as one of Buffalo's big off-season needs.
I was hoping for the Coles signing because he'd be a good #2 receiver, bumping Josh Reed to the slot while allowing James Hardy time to recover/develop. Some are now suggesting that the Bills chase Amani Toomer, Marvin Harrison or some other WR as a consolation prize. Buffalo already has a consolation prize - the league's leading punt returner. Roscoe Parrish would have been cut or traded (some have questioned his trade value) had Coles been signed. Now Buffalo will keep Parrish and I, for one, would rather have Parrish than an over the hill free agent WR. I've been a frequent and sometimes caustic critic of OBD, but I have to give them credit for not going overboard for Coles.
Some people were hoping for the Bills to sign Jason Brown or Matt Birk, the consensus top centers in free agency. Brown wanted a pile of money (the Rams obliged), far more than the Bills wanted to commit to the center position. I preferred a young guy (preferably a high round draftee) to Birk and so did OBD - though their young guy (Geoff Hangartner) was a free agent pick up. I don't blame OBD at all for not chasing Brown and/or Birk... and no one, and I mean absolutely no one, has been banging the "Buffalo Needs A Real Center" drum longer or louder than I have.
Some people, myself included, were hoping that the Bills would take care of the DE position by luring Terrell Suggs or Julius Peppers to Buffalo. That obviously didn't happen. Since both guys were given the franchise tag there was just no way Buffalo could have gotten either one - even if the money side worked out. Beyond those two studs, there really weren't any DE options worth pursuing in free agency. It's terribly unfortunate that the DE market was so thin this free agency period as I fear that Buffalo won't be able to get a top tier DE at #11. The pass rush will continue to suck. While OBD could have addressed it last year or the year before (instead of giving Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel ridiculous deals), there's nothing to be done about it this off-season.
There's something else to consider. The Bills reportedly offered Coles $6 million per year at the same time the team was offering Jabari Greer $5 million per year AND talking to Jason Peters about an extension. So far, about $3 million of that $11 million has been given to Drayton Florence. That leaves Buffalo with about $8 million with which to sign a few second (or third) tier free agents and work on extending a guy like Terrence McGee for a couple of years... or Ashton Youboty if OBD thinks McGee will be on the decline after the 2009 season... or Trent Edwards if the team believes he's the long term answer and wants to sign him at an affordable rate... or Fred Jackson to keep him from getting a whiff of free agency in 2010.
Missing out on Coles and company doesn't mean the sky is falling. Buffalo still has a chance to continue to improve the roster this off-season (mainly via the draft) and possibly keep a core of good players around for a longer stretch of time.