It has been a while since we ran a Buffalo Rumblings Mailbag post here, thanks to a very busy Buffalo Bills free agency period and the passing of team owner Ralph Wilson. And, let's face it, the last time we did this, most of our discussion was centered on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so we're overdue for a more Bills-centric mailbag post.
Because it's been a couple of weeks, our backlog of fan mail has reached its expiration date, so consider this a call for some fresh ones. If you have something on your mind that you'd like to ask or see discussed here, you can reach us via email, Twitter or Facebook with your inquiry. We do have a duo of questions that trickled in unsolicited (thank you very much to those readers!), so let's dive right in, shall we?
The whole "the Bills might trade or release Stevie Johnson" thing is happening again. How long is this going to be a thing?
It will keep happening as long as Johnson is working for this current regime, and the Bills continue to invest in that position, particularly with young talent. Consider: Johnson's cap hit in 2014 is $8.5 million. The next-highest cap hit at the receiver position belongs to Robert Woods, at $1.11 million. If the Bills were to draft a receiver with their No. 9 overall pick next month, his cap hit would be roughly $2.3 million.
Johnson is an expensive player to keep around, period, and that's especially true if the team can also say that they have [insert name of Top 10 pick], Woods and Marquise Goodwin to build around for the future. If Johnson is not part of the team's long-term vision - or, even if he is, that salary is deemed too rich for a player with his role in the Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett offense - then it would make sense for the team to explore moving on from him.
But that's all an "if" scenario, really. If the Bills had been able to sign DeSean Jackson, then it becomes a story. If the Bills land Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, then it becomes a story. If any other scenario plays out, though, it's hard to envision Johnson's role not being a very significant one next season - and even if they do bring in one of those highly-touted rookies, Johnson would still have a huge advantage over a player like Goodwin in terms of utility and experience. In short: this Johnson story is being overblown a bit, but it's something that should definitely be in the back of your mind.
Thanks for the question, Jeff!
Most Bills draft talk is focusing on WR and OT with the first-round pick. What sleeper position should we be talking about?
It's one of the most coveted skills in the NFL, so it's probably not prudent to categorize it as a "sleeper" candidate for the Bills, but the easy answer is defensive end. Two weeks ago, we discussed the fact that the Bills' apparent plan to platoon Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson at end across from Mario Williams seems rather unwise, given that their roles in 2013 did not really come close to what a base 4-3 end needs to do.
Hughes can and should remain the team's designated pass rusher, which would put him on the field for over 50 percent of snaps in a fully healthy season, but he can't and should not approach the amount of playing time Williams typically sees. Lawson, in my opinion, should not even be in the discussion at end. He is a linebacker, and a good one at that, even if he is miscast in the type of defense that the Bills are expected to play next season.
Unless the Bills want to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney (which would cost quite a bit), or forego top-level receiving or line talent on offense to move down for a guy like Kony Ealy, however, Round 1 does not seem like a snug fit for the position. But unless Jim Schwartz has a wrinkle up his sleeve that we're not yet aware of, the Bills badly need to address their depth at that position - and, more importantly, find a year one contributor that, at minimum, can platoon with Hughes.
Thanks for the question, Rob!