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Buffalo Bills mailbag: when to worry about Jairus Byrd contract?

This week's post featuring reader emails focuses on shaky fits for Mike Pettine's defense, Jairus Byrd's contract saga and what's next in our film review series.

Rich Schultz

Off-seasons can be difficult if you run a blog about a pro football team, because even when said team is practicing in the spring, those practices are in shorts, don't include pads and provide very little of substance. Said blog runner is therefore left without much in the way of substantive posting ideas, which is why I have to thank the multitude of Buffalo Bills fans and loyal blog readers that submitted questions for this week's mailbag post. Keep them coming, please. (Seriously: pretty please?)

Brian, can you talk about some of the players that might not be snug fits for the Mike Pettine defense, either this year or in the future? - Richard

Two players immediately came to mind, and for very different reasons: Leodis McKelvin and Kyle Williams.

McKelvin's is based on performance, obviously; five years into his pro playing career, it's hard to imagine him ever bucking the inconsistent label he's earned since 2008. There's a ton riding on McKelvin this year; he's a lock to start at this point, and considering that he was the team's fifth cornerback at times over the last two seasons, that is frankly terrifying. I also don't think of him as a particularly versatile player; he was abysmal in the slot in 2012, and I think he'd be physically overmatched as a safety, too. Pettine's defense is man-coverage reliant, so that might help McKelvin adjust as an outside, starting corner this year.

I only bring up Williams because of Pettine's system. Williams, to my eye, is the Bills' best defensive lineman by a significant margin. He has to be on the field a lot in 2012 if the team is going to reverse their fortunes on defense and, dare we dream, compete for a playoff spot. In the bigger picture, though, Williams is the least versatile of the team's prominent linemen - he's a one-gap penetrator from a handful of different techniques, but struggles to play two gaps head-up on a blocker because of his smallish stature - and his value may decrease quickly for the organization, particularly if younger defensive linemen reach their potential.

Hey Brian, I was wondering if you could do an article on an updated roster projection of the 53 man team? - The Sweeglings

Sure, why not? I'll do about 30 more of these anyway; one of them is bound to be right. (Right?)

Pos. Starter Backup Reserve Reserve
FL T.J. Graham Brad Smith
TE Scott Chandler Lee Smith Chris Gragg *
LT Cordy Glenn Zebrie Sanders
LG Chris Scott Sam Young
C Eric Wood Colin Brown
RG Kraig Urbik
RT Chris Hairston Erik Pears
SL Robert Woods * Marquise Goodwin *
SE Stevie Johnson Da'Rick Rogers *
QB Kevin Kolb E.J. Manuel *
RB C.J. Spiller Fred Jackson Tashard Choice Frank Summers
NT Kyle Williams Alan Branch Torell Troup
DT Marcell Dareus Alex Carrington
RE Mario Williams Mark Anderson Jerry Hughes
SLB Manny Lawson Marcus Dowtin
MLB Kiko Alonso Arthur Moats Chris White
WLB Nigel Bradham Bryan Scott
RCB Stephon Gilmore Crezdon Butler
SS Da'Norris Searcy Jonathan Meeks *
FS Jairus Byrd Duke Williams *
NCB Aaron Williams Justin Rogers Nickell Robey *
LCB Leodis McKelvin Ron Brooks
K Dustin Hopkins *
P Shawn Powell
LS Garrison Sanborn

Do you think the time has come where we will see a return of prominence for the fullback position in Buffalo? - Matthew

It would not necessarily surprise me, but I sincerely doubt it. Put another way: if the Bills do use the fullback more frequently in 2013, I would anticipate that being a short-lived development. Much like a hybrid defense, offenses are trending toward trying to find personnel that can line up in multiple positions to create matchup disadvantages. You'll note that New England, for example, can line their tight ends up pretty much anywhere they want, and it forces a defense to react to a lot of different looks from one personnel grouping.

There may eventually be a rebirth for H-Back types that can catch out of the backfield or split out wide - they offer much more versatility to an offense - but when it comes to the blocking specialists that get occasional goal line carries, I'm not seeing much hope for those - unless they're blocking for a physical player on a run-first team, like Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. That won't be Buffalo any time soon.

I am actively trying not to worry about Jairus Byrd's contract situation. Can you let me know when would be a good time to start worrying again? - Brad

Circle July 14-15 on your "when I should worry" calendar. July 15 is the deadline for franchise tagged players to sign long-term contract extensions; if the Bills and Byrd (and agent Eugene Parker, he of the infamous 2008 Jason Peters holdout) don't have a new deal worked out by then, things will get very interesting. Byrd is free to sign the franchise tag at any point - he won't for the foreseeable future, as it's his leverage point in negotiations right now - but if there's no July 15 deal and he still refuses to sign, we'll be looking at a holdout that could last for quite a while.

There will be roughly two weeks between that July 15 deadline and the start of training camp where, if there's no deal in place and Byrd hasn't signed his tag before training camp, fan angst could escalate quickly. Until then, however, there's no reason not to keep the worrying to a minimum - if only so there's some in reserve if the worst comes to pass this summer.

Hey Brian, I've loved your film study posts lately. Can you tell me/us what's up next in that series? - Brad

First of all - thanks very much, Brad (and everyone else that has enjoyed the work). Those posts require a good deal of time and effort, and I'm glad that folks are finding them useful and interesting. I'm working on one more Mike Pettine-themed post - we'll chart the various places that SAM linebacker Calvin Pace lined up throughout the course of one game to give us an idea of how demanding the defense can be from a responsibility standpoint - and then we'll start getting into some Bills player evaluations. I'm not sure who I'll start with, but the front-runners are Stephon Gilmore and Kevin Kolb. With a long weekend, I'm hoping to have two of these posts up next week - but please don't hold me to that.

If you have questions or requests for next Friday's mailbag, hit Brian up on Twitter (@BuffRumblings) or via email ( Thanks for reading!