For Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron, his coaching staff and the current front office executives at One Bills Drive - henceforth referred to here as the "current regime" - 2009 marks a critical, future-deciding season. The current regime has produced three consecutive seasons in which the Bills finished 7-9; responsible for the final three years in a nine-season playoff drought, it's "playoffs or bust" for the current regime this year. (Though, if you recall, we were saying the same thing a calendar year ago.)
The three-plus seasons that the current regime has held fort in Buffalo has included four periods in which the roster has been overhauled. On a lazy Thursday afternoon in late May, let's take a look at how the current regime has gone about building this roster. Note: As we break down the manner in which each player was acquired, projected 2009 starters will be highlighted in bold.
10: Holdovers from previous regimes
These players were brought into the organization by a previous regime - headed up, of course, by infamous GM Tom Donahoe. All of these players, with the exception of CB Terrence McGee, have received contract extensions from the current regime; in addition, it should be noted that WR Josh Reed and DE Ryan Denney were unrestricted free agents in March of 2006 and were consciously re-signed to four-year deals by the current regime.
WR Lee Evans, WR Josh Reed, WR Roscoe Parrish, DE Aaron Schobel, DE Chris Kelsay, DE Ryan Denney, CB Terrence McGee, S George Wilson, K Rian Lindell, P Brian Moorman
10: Unrestricted free agent signings
In four free agent signing periods, the Bills have obviously signed more than just 10 players. However, as we're only including players currently on the roster, just ten names are in this section - and it's unfortunate that other names like Royal, Dockery and Tripplett didn't have a bit more longevity here...
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Dominic Rhodes, WR Terrell Owens, OT Langston Walker, C Geoff Hangartner, OG Seth McKinney, DT Spencer Johnson, LB Kawika Mitchell, LB Pat Thomas, CB Drayton Florence
1: Players acquired via trade
The only other way to acquire ultra-talented veterans is to trade for them. The Bills have added just one player via trade in the current regime's four years here, and that is starting DT Marcus Stroud.
15: Street free agent signings
Sometimes, a player that is technically a free agent is brought in; for example, when the team is forced to address a position mid-season, that's what we'll consider a "street free agent" for these purposes. A whopping 15 players on the current roster fit this description; some were true diamonds in the rough, while others are current young players hoping for a shot:
QB Gibran Hamdan, QB Matt Baker, RB Fred Jackson, FB Corey McIntyre, WR Justin Jenkins, WR P.K. Sam, OT Kirk Chambers, OT Jonathan Scott, C Marvin Philip, DE Copeland Bryan, DT Marcus Smith, LB Blake Costanzo, CB Dustin Fox, S Bryan Scott
29: Players acquired via the NFL Draft
This is where a franchise's money is made: only through the NFL Draft do successful franchises build the young, talented cores of their football teams. Through four drafts, the Bills have assembled a roster that features 29 current-regime draftees. Say what you will on draft day, but there are a lot of good, young players on this list...
QB Trent Edwards, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Xavier Omon, WR Steve Johnson, WR James Hardy, TE Derek Fine, TE Derek Schouman, TE Shawn Nelson, OT Brad Butler, OT Demetrius Bell, OG Eric Wood, OG Andy Levitre, DE Aaron Maybin, DE Chris Ellis, DT Kyle Williams, DT John McCargo, LB Paul Posluszny, LB Keith Ellison, LB Alvin Bowen, LB Nic Harris, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Ashton Youboty, CB Reggie Corner, CB Cary Harris, CB Ellis Lankster, S Donte Whitner, S Jairus Byrd, S Ko Simpson, S John Wendling
22: Undrafted free agent signings
Though the "22" up there may look alarmingly high, it's important to note that of this group, 12 are current rookies, and the other ten have stuck around for a various assortment of mostly meaningless reasons (like the practice squad). There are a couple of notable names in this group, however...
RB Bruce Hall, WR Felton Huggins, WR C.J. Hawthorne, TE Jonathan Stupar, TE Travis McCall, OT Chris Denman, OT Joel Bell, OT Nick Hennessey, OG Brandon Rodd, DE Gerald Washington, DE Jermaine McGhee, DT Ventrell Jenkins, DT John Faletoese, DT David Lindquist, LB John DiGiorgio, LB Marcus Buggs, LB Jon Corto, LB Ashlee Palmer, CB Lydell Sargeant, K Danny Urrego, LS Ryan Neill, LS Garrison Sanborn
I find it encouraging that exactly one out of every three players on the current roster was drafted by the Bills. There aren't a lot of superstars in the bunch (yet) - and that's why the team can't break the 7-9 barrier - but there have been a lot of contributors. This is the core of our team, folks - and for every missed draft pick, the team has made up for it pretty well in the later rounds. 11 current Bills starters - yeah, that's half of them - were drafted by the current regime, and of those 11, five of them were drafted in the third round or later.
- Of the 22 starters, 11 were drafted (50%), 5 were holdovers from the Donahoe era (22.7%), 4 more were UFA signings (18.2%), 1 was acquired via trade (Stroud, 4.5%), and one was a street free agent signed mid-season (Scott, 4.5%).
- Valued reserves have been found every which way, from draftees (WR Steve Johnson, DE Aaron Maybin, S Ko Simpson) to undrafted free agents (LB John DiGiorgio) to street free agents (RB Fred Jackson, OT Kirk Chambers) to unrestricted free agency (DT Spencer Johnson, CB Drayton Florence).
- Though this is certain to change, the Bills' current regime is enjoying an incredibly high retention rate when it comes to their draft picks making the roster. Through four drafts, the Bills have selected 34 players, and as of today, 29 of them (85.3%) remain with the team. The only Bills draftees no longer with the club? OG Aaron Merz (2006), OT Terrance Pennington (2006), RB Dwayne Wright (2007), DE C.J. Ah You (2007) and CB Kennard Cox (2008).
Lots to chew on when it comes to discussing an entire roster at once. There are many routes this discussion could take; we'll let y'all handle that in the comments section.