This post started out as my guess as to how the Buffalo Bills' offense would be addressed this off-season. Then I realized that the only semi-interesting part was the section on quarterbacks. Buffalo has several options as to how to deal with the QB position this off-season.
Buffalo can choose to stick it out with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. Good old status quo. They can acquire a QB off waivers. They can also try to acquire a QB via a trade. The NFL Draft always provides tantalizing options. Free agency is always a tempting method. They could even address the position with a combination of those methods. Each option has upsides and downsides, which brings us, of course, to the crux of this post.
Option 1: Status Quo
Buffalo could roll with the three players on the roster. This has the obvious positive of refraining from burning draft picks that could be used on the other areas of pressing need. The Bills currently have the psychologically traumatized Edwards, certified second stringer Fitzgerald and a sphinx in the once highly touted Brohm. None of them have inspired much in the way of confidence, but new head coach Chan Gailey has a history of turning below-average quarterbacks into guys who don't kill their teams. Gailey and Buddy Nix - henceforth referred to as 'Chix' - might well decide that Edwards can be salvaged, that Fitzpatrick can hold the fort, or that Brohm can step up.
Working against that thought, of course, is that the QB position is where new regimes make their most visible stamp. Perhaps more to the point, none of the three have proven to be franchise players. Additionally, Chan's comments at Thursday's press conference (as reported by ESPN's AFC East Blog) couldn't have warmed the hearts of the three guys already on the roster:
"You have to have a quality player there. It does not have to be a big-name player. You just have to have quality production. That's the decision you're trying to make."
If Chan felt he had 'quality production' at the QB position, my guess is that he probably would have named the guy.
Option 2: Waiver Wire
Buffalo could acquire a QB off of the waiver wires, though I can't imagine who would be both waived and an upgrade for the Bills. This seems like the least likely of the available options.
Option 3: Trade Block
Buffalo could acquire a QB via trade. The only way that the Bills can swing a trade would be to include draft picks in the deal. I just can't see Chix parting with draft picks when the team is in full-on rebuilding mode - particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills don't really have any players to offer in exchange for a QB in lieu of picks. Marshawn Lynch (one stupid move away from a long suspension), Roscoe Parrish (certain to be cut) and Chris Kelsay just aren't going to draw significant interest. This option doesn't seem any more likely than the waiver wire option. I, by the way, might be reading a bit too much into this quote from the same AFC East Blog posting:
Gailey also acknowledged rumors the Bills are interested in trading for a veteran quarterback.
Acknowledging that rumors exist about Buffalo being interested in a veteran quarterback isn't the same thing as Gailey confirming that, yes, Buffalo wants to add a veteran QB. The smart money, of course, is on Chix adding a veteran QB, but that doesn't mean that the Bills will part with much-needed draft picks to get one.
Option 4: NFL Draft
Buffalo could acquire a QB in the draft. This would allow Chix to have 'their guy' at QB, which has an obvious appeal. It does, however, hamstring Buffalo's ability to address the other huge needs in the early rounds.
Option 5: Free Agency
The weak free agent class won't inspire much confidence. Chad Pennington is easily the most appealing option, but I don't see Chix going for an average-armed QB coming off of his umpteenth shoulder injury. I think we'll leave it at that.
Breaking down the options
It's only a hunch, but I don't think that Chix will hitch their wagon to any QB on the roster. I can't see Chix giving up draft picks to get a QB in trade. The Bills could draft a QB in the first or second round with the intention of giving him the keys to the car right out of the gate, but with the offensive line still in flux, I just don't see Chix using a high draft pick on a guy who will be given the Carr Treatment. The only remaining option is to swing a trade for a QB... but by using draft position instead of outright draft picks. There are several possible veteran quarterbacks on the radar, and here is the breakdown of the picks those teams have in the first four rounds in no particular order. (Those numbers aren't set in stone, as compensatory selections have yet to be handed out.)
Philadelphia (Michael Vick and, much less likely, Donovan McNabb): 24, 56, 71, 120, 125
Miami (Tyler Thigpen): 12, 43, 74, 108
Washington (Jason Campbell): 4, 37, 101
Jacksonville (David Garrard): 11, 76, 107
Buffalo could swap 41 for 56 with Philly for Vick. It's the equivalent of a late third-round pick. While I don't want Vick, I can see the appeal for Philly in that their one-year experiment with Vick gets them, basically, a third-round pick. McNabb - again, highly unlikely he gets dealt - would obviously cost more. If Buffalo swapped 9 for 24, Philly would effectively net a late first-rounder. Swapping 9 and 41 for 24 and 71 would get the Eagles the equivalent of a late first and early third. I wouldn't do it if I were Andy Reid, but if Philly's set to start Kevin Kolb, it's at least not an outlandish idea. If McNabb were traded, it would have to happen well before the draft to get the deal (trade and contract) finalized. A Vick trade would also likely happen before the draft to smooth over McNabb's ego as well as to give Buffalo fans time to get used to the idea.
Buffalo could swap 9 for 12 for Thigpen. It's the equivalent of a late third-round pick. Chan has experience with Thigpen, so I could see the draw for Buffalo. However, I see Miami wanting a bit more than a third for Thigpen. If the Thigpen trade happened, I suspect it would be a draft day decision - and entirely due to Miami coveting a guy they thought Buffalo, Denver or Jacksonville would take ahead of them
The perpetually draft-pick-depleted Redskins would likely send Campbell packing for a draft pick or two. I don't see Buffalo doing that, so the best offer on tap would be a swap of 73 for 101. It's the equivalent of a late third-round pick, and that might be enough to get Shanahan to start wheeling and dealing - but only if he has Sam Bradford (or another QB) pegged as his guy at No. 4 overall.
Jack Del Rio has got to be salivating over Rolando McClain. There's a good chance that McClain doesn't make it to Jacksonville but that he is available when the Bills are on the board. The problem is that swapping 9 for 11 is only effectively a late third-rounder. However, the Jags have no second rounder. Buffalo could add a swap of 41 for 76 to the pot, and suddenly the value jumps to a mid second-rounder. I can see the Jags considering it (mainly because Del Rio has been willing to overpay to move up); not so sure about Chix giving up that much position for Garrard.
My guess is that Chan, of these options, would choose to swing a trade for Thigpen (wouldn't happen until draft day), with a pre-draft trade for Campbell being a distant second possibility. As a McNabb fan, my initial reaction to the Philly deal (9 and 41 for 24 and 71) would be sheer delight, but I just don't see it happening - and I'd have to basically not watch the draft considering how crippled the Bills would be. The Vick option is more likely than McNabb, but why would the Bills reportedly call Philly about McNabb and then settle for Vick? That would be like going to the Chevy place looking for a 2SS Camaro and driving off the lot in an Aveo. The price for Garrard would be too high for what Buffalo would get in return. If any of the trades come to fruition, either Edwards or Fitzpatrick get cut (maybe after camp) and the team keeps Brohm as a developmental guy.
To recap, Buffalo (through four rounds of the draft) could end up with:
- Vick + picks 9, 56, 73, 105
- McNabb + picks 24, 71, 73, 105
- Thigpen + picks 12, 41, 73, 105
- Campbell + picks 9, 41, 101, 105
- Garrard + picks 11, 73, 76, 105
Any deal except McNabb would allow Buffalo to take the third or fourth OT off the board in the first round, or trade down and add an early-round pick or two. The McNabb and Garrard deals replace Buffalo's second round pick with an early third-rounder, which would limit Buffalo's options when it comes to finding a quality NT. From a value standpoint, I'd love to see the Thigpen trade happen; the Bills would still get one of the highest rated players on their board at 12 and retain draft position.