BROP: Pay the men!!!

1. General Strategy

As newly appointed football czar, I'm overseeing a team that was on the verge of making the playoffs (it really was), in spite of serious issues at quarterback and a totally dysfunctional running game. I want to have this team ready to go into the playoffs now, and here is my four point plan for doing that:

  • Hire an experienced coach who is capable of taking a talented team to the playoffs
  • Find a better quarterback to replace EJ Manuel as the starter
  • Keep the important pieces in Buffalo so they can help this team gel on its way to the playoffs
  • Fill remaining holes mainly with veterans or rookies who are ready to compete now

2. Front office moves and coaching staff

After the coaching carousel was finished spinning, I have to approve of the ultimate choices made in Buffalo. I think Rex Ryan is exactly the type of smart head coach this team needs, and he will do a great job motivating the players to compete and form a core group in Buffalo. I think Greg Roman is a fine choice as offensive coordinator, and the defensive personnel ultimately don't bother me when the team played so well under Mike Pettine with fewer experienced, talented players.

3. Bills Personnel

I called this BROP "Pay the men," because that's exactly what I plan to do. Certain players on the Bills have earned big raises, and I want to keep the core together as long as possible. We start with $31 million available. Let's break it down.

3.1 Jerry Hughes - 6 years, $66 million ($24 million guaranteed)

I don't care how good Rex Ryan is at scheming defenses. A defense with four great pass rushers is better than a defense with three great pass rushers, all things being equal. It's a big chunk of change, but it locks up a young productive pass rusher for the majority of his career.

3.2 Marcell Dareus - 7 years, $100 million ($55 million guaranteed)

Pay the man, right? This contract, which would extend Dareus beyond his 2015 fifth year option on his rookie contract, is the big one. It would keep Dareus, one of the best defensive tackles in the league, on the roster until his age 33 season. Dareus is currently slated for an $8 million cap hit in 2015, and I'll give him a $5.5 million bonus on top of that as part of this contract. The deal would then pay him an average of $13.5 million per year from 2015 through 2022. It's comparable to the Gerald McCoy and JJ Watt contracts. I'm not too worried about the overall cost because the salary cap will keep increasing each year.

3.3 Da'Norris Searcy - 4 years, $16 million ($8 million guaranteed)

As a veteran starter who can range between bad, average, and good on a game-to-game basis, I'm fine with bringing back Searcy on a similar contract to Corey Graham to be one of our starting safeties.

3.4 Marcus Easley - 2 years, $4 million ($3 million guaranteed)

This one is pretty straightforward. Take Easley, who is our best special teamer, and give him the same contract the Patriots gave Matthew Slater (their best special teamer)

3.5 Chris Hairston - 2 years, $1.5 million ($0.5 million guaranteed)

How much do you pay a player with four years of experience who hasn't started a game since 2012? Hairston is only 25 years old, and has the build of a tackle or guard that fits Buffalo's prototype. I think I can keep him around with a small-ish raise and see if, recovered from his injury/illness, he can finally push for a starting job again.

3.6 Marcus Thigpen - 1 year, $1 million (fully guaranteed)

I don't think Thigpen is worth the value of his RFA tender, but I don't want to outright lose him. Instead, I come to a compromise, spending $1 million to keep him around another year as kick returner to see if he can keep doing his thing.

3.7 Chris Hogan, Corbin Bryant, Jordan Gay - 1 year, $500,000 (fully guaranteed)

These three are all exclusive-rights free agents, and I definitely want to keep them all at their current price. Hogan is a good third/fourth receiver, Bryant gives the Bills DL depth, and Gay did his job of keeping Carpenter fresh adequately.

3.8 Cut: Keith Rivers, Chris Williams (post-June 1st)

Rivers is expendable with Alonso healthy (and Buffalo agrees), and Chris Williams failed to make an impact this season, while being paid a starter's salary. Cutting them both frees up $4.3 million in cap space.

3.9 Gone: Erik Pears, Brandon Spikes, Jarius Wynn, Stevenson Sylvester, Larry Dean, Lee Smith

Most of these choices are fairly straightforward. Pears should retire. Spikes would be a bit too pricey and doesn't have a spot in the linebacking rotation of Alonso/Bradham/Brown. Wynn is a tweener that I can't see finding a place in Rex Ryan's defense. Sylvester was on IR all season, Dean was a special teamer. Smith isn't being kept around, because I think we can find better options at tight end to compete with Chandler, Gragg, and Marquise Grey.

3.10 CJ Spiller

I really want to keep Spiller around. I like his potential and I think that when he's used in the right system, he can break games open. But I don't think I'm willing to pay the $20-25 million it would take to retain his services. There are a lot of great running backs in this draft class, and I'd be more willing to draft a rookie, pay him $500k, and put him in a rotation with Jackson, Dixon, and Brown, than to pay $5 million for CJ Spiller to rotate with those guys. Besides, the contract would limit me in other signings.

3.11 Summary

I started with $31 million in cap space. I spend $25.25 million in new contracts for Buffalo free agents, which drops me to $5.75 million in cap space.

Cutting Williams and Rivers gives me another $4.3 million to work with in free agency, leaving me with $10.05 million.

4. NFL Personnel

4.1 Bills trade 2015 3rd round pick and 2016 conditional 3rd round pick for Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver

The Denver Broncos are in a conundrum. Peyton Manning just stated his plan to return to the NFL for one more season. He's coming off a year where, when he wasn't injured, he played at a Pro Bowl level. You can't count him out if he wants to play for your team. That being said, the Broncos have spent three years developing Osweiler on the bench behind Manning. If Osweiler doesn't start this year, he'll be a free agent in 2016, and probably won't want to stick around, given that he never got a chance to play for real.

The Bills, (dare I say) desperate for a good quarterback, come in with an offer. For Osweiler, we offer to give up a third round pick this year, and a third round pick in 2016, which could become a second round pick if Osweiler plays in a playoff game for the Bills this year. This lets the Broncos recoup some value and helps them stockpile picks if they wanted to trade up this year or next for a new quarterback. It's a bit of a steep price for an unproven name, but this might be the only way you get a quarterback with good potential outside of trading for a guy like Eli Manning.

4.2 Bills sign Osweiler to a 3 year, $24 million extension ($10 million guaranteed)

Part of the reason Osweiler will want out is so that he can get a payday. To that end, we add $2.5 million to Osweiler's cap hit this year in the form of a signing bonus, and extend his contract by three more seasons that will pay him $6-8 million per year. It's a combination of guaranteed money and length that won't hurt the Bills too bad if he sucks, and will give Osweiler a chance to net a bigger extension if he proves he's worth it.

4.3 Bills sign OG Richie Incognito to a 1 year, $1.1 million contract ($900,000 guaranteed)

This is another move of Buffalo's I agree with on paper. Incognito was a decent offensive guard, and a one year, low-cost rental might be what the Bills need in order to keep their offensive line good enough.

4.4 Bills sign DE/DT Kenrick Ellis to a 4 year, $5.5 million contract ($3 million guaranteed)

The Bills need to reinforce their defensive line depth. Ellis is a former draft pick of Ryan's who can be used in the rotation as a nose tackle, defensive tackle, or five-technique defensive end. He is coming off of his rookie contract, but as a backup player he shouldn't expect a major raise.

4.5 Bills sign OG James Carpenter to a 4 year, $16 million contract ($8 million guaranteed)

Richie Incognito helps the offensive line depth somewhat, but ideally the Bills would add one more starter here, after losing Erik Pears and Chris Williams in the offseason. After signing a replacement QB plus re-signing Hughes and Dareus, they don't have the cap space to get a big name like Iupati or Orlando Franklin. But Carpenter, who was a slightly below average starter for the Seahawks, can probably be coaxed to sign with a smaller contract that still gives him a raise over his rookie deal, which Seattle decided to end after only four years.

4.6 Summary

A 2015 3rd and a 2016 3rd* were traded for Brock Osweiler. We committed $3 million to him for 2015, and $2.5 million per year for 2016-2018, in guaranteed money. We paid $1.1 million for Incognito, $1.25 million for Ellis, and $4 million for Carpenter. That's $9.35 million, which gets us under the cap.

5. 2015 NFL Draft

Round 1: Traded to Cleveland (Watkins trade)

Round 2: Clive Walford, TE, Miami

The last missing piece on offense is a tight end who can block and catch and do both well. Walford is that type of player, and he's ready to start as a rookie. I think he can have a career like Heath Miller, and that makes him worth adding with Buffalo's only impact pick in this draft.

Round 3: Traded to Denver (Osweiler trade)

Round 4: Traded to Cleveland (Watkins trade)

Round 5 (from Tampa): Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

It kills me to not have more early picks in this draft, because I absolutely love the top running backs, and would happily have drafted a guy like Ameer Abdullah or Duke Johnson in round two, if I already had my needs fulfilled. But the tight end depth is more crucial in my mind, and Walford is one of the few prospects who could address it.

Enough about Walford. Let's talk about Josh Robinson. The 5'9" 215 pound running back is a great addition for the Bills, because of his low running stance, leg drive, and balance. He doesn't go down at first contact, period. Usually he's breaking through arm tackles or pushing a defender forward for another two yards. I'm reminded a lot of Eddie Lacy when I watch him on film. He's a good pass protector, capable of receiving out of the backfield, and most importantly, he can run with authority. He's the addition the Bills need to their running back corps.

Round 5: Derrick Lott, DL, Chattanooga

While we make sure the team is playoff-ready, we have to address depth as well. The 6'4" 300 pound Lott brings diversity as a potential DT/DE who can be a sort of universal third stringer for the Bills. Coming from a small school, he needs to develop quite a bit before he's ready to start in the NFL.

Round 6: Devante Davis, WR, UNLV

The Bills are always searching for that elusive "big" WR who can box out defenders for catches. Davis is built more like Terrell Owens than Mike Evans at 6'3" 220 pounds, but I think he's a serious sleeper as a physical wideout. He missed four games this season with a wrist injury, and had to pull out of the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury, but has otherwise been completely healthy in his college career. That has kept him low key, even after a 87/1290/14 receiving slash his junior year.

Round 7: Zach Wagenmann, DE/OLB, Montana

Is Wagenmann athletic enough to succeed in the NFL? That's what teams are hoping to find out at the Combine. The Montana Grizzly was ultra-productive in his college career, but coming from a small school and only playing football since his junior year of high school, he's probably not high on most team's draft boards. He could be a good addition as a backup pass rusher for the Rex Ryan defense.

6. Conclusion/Outlook

I started the offseason with a four part plan to get this team to the playoffs. Let's review how we did:

6.1 Hire an experienced coach

We went with Rex Ryan, Greg Roman, and Dennis Thurman here, to keep a coaching staff that has familiarity with going deep into the playoffs.

6.2 Fix the quarterback situation

It's no secret, I think EJ Manuel is never going to be a successful NFL quarterback. It's a bit of a gamble, but we added Brock Osweiler, a talented second round pick who has spent three seasons on the bench behind Peyton Manning. If he succeeds, we got a starting quarterback in an offseason when we thought none were available. If he fails, the team still has a first and second round pick in 2016 available for drafting a better option, and the team will only be out the $10 million guaranteed in his contract.

6.3 Keep the important pieces in Buffalo

Jerry Hughes and (more importantly) Marcell Dareus have been re-signed to lucrative contract extensions. The cap space is a little tight this year, but the only significant contract coming up in 2016 is Cordy Glenn. Da'Norris Searcy, Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, and other bench pieces were also re-signed. CJ Spiller wasn't kept, because the team already had three other players and added a late round rookie, all for a cheaper cost than Spiller's contract would require.

6.4 Fill the holes with veterans or rookies who are ready to start now

For the most part, the Bills roster is in good shape. Holes at OG (Incognito and Carpenter), DL (Ellis), and TE (Walford) were addressed in the offseason Here's the full depth chart:

QB: Osweiler, Manuel
RB: Jackson, Dixon, Brown, Robinson
TE: Walford, Chandler, Gragg, Grey
WR: Watkins, Woods, Hogan, Goodwin, Davis, Easley
OT: Glenn, Henderson, Hairston, Kouandjio
OG: Incognito, Carpenter, Richardson, Urbik
OC: Wood
DT: Dareus, Ellis, Charles
DE: K. Williams, Bryant, Lott
OLB: M. Williams, Hughes, Lawson, Wagenmann
ILB: Alonso, Bradham, Brown
CB: Gilmore, McKelvin, Graham, Robey, Brooks
S: A. Williams, Searcy, D. Williams, Meeks, Rambo
LS: Sanborn
KR: Thigpen
K: Carpenter
P: Schmidt, Gay

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of