We're starting to sound like a broken record, here. 16 seasons, no playoffs, and plenty of approaches that still haven't gotten the Bills over the hump yet. Think you know what the Bills need to do to taste victory? This is your chance. That's right, it's time for the Buffalo Rumblings Offseason Plan (or as we call it, "BROP").
This is a competition for the fans, in which anyone who wishes can submit a FanPost writing up their plan for improving the Buffalo Bills for the future. Pretend you are the Pegulas' hand-picked assistant in charge of football, and it's the day after the last game of the season, an exciting but ultimately fruitless win that knocked the New York Jets out of playoff contention and improved the Bills to 8-8. There are rumors flying about that Terry and Kim may issue an ultimatum to the front office if conditions don't improve, something which only you, their football czar, know the answer to. Here are some decisions to make:
- How do you set up your coaching staff? The Bills saw some turnover in reality, with the hiring of Tim McDonald, Ed Reed, and Rob Ryan, the departure of Donnie Henderson, and Dennis Thurman's role change. Do you adopt those changes? Hire new coordinators? Blow up the Rex Ryan train and bring in Jim Schwartz to run things? It's your call, but keep in mind the effects that more staff turnover might have on the team's performance.
- Which free agents get retained? Can you make room for Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito? Does Bradham come back?
- How will you make cap space? Someone has to get the boot.
- Will there be any shakeups in the organization? Will Whaley or any of his staff be replaced, internally or externally, after a slight regression in win-loss record?
- How do you improve the roster? Are you going to target specific players in the draft? Do you have free agents or trade targets in mind?
The competition begins right now! You can start posting immediately. We will allow submissions up through 11:59 PM on Sunday, March 6th. Voting on finalists will occur a few days after that.
The winners of this competition will be chosen by you, the fans! Since the goal of this exercise is to prove that fans do often know what is best for this team, it's only fair that the best judges for the entrants are our peers.
That being said, we will be adjusting our procedure for selecting finalists this year. Since a common concern with the competition is that unrealistic plans tend to accumulate votes by over-promising, this year the finalists will be chosen with the help of the Buffalo Rumblings editorial staff. We'll take the fan votes into consideration, but do some pruning and voting on our end to narrow it down to a top five that we think represents the best of the best.
To do your part: Entries will be graded by members of the community by voting in a poll at the bottom of each FanPost. The grades will follow a GPA system, with possible choices of A,B,C,D, and F. The score will be weighted based on how many votes of each letter the entry receives.
After the grading process is over, we will publish one final article breaking down each one. There will be a poll at the bottom allowing the community to vote on their favorite finalist - whoever gets the most votes is the winner!
You must author a FanPost describing your plan for making the best team possible this offseason, and publish it before the competition deadline on March 2. You could define "best team" however you wish, whether it means a guaranteed year of playoffs or setting up for a bigger run a year or two down the road. Of course, ultimately you have to answer to the fans, and they will give you an approval rating that determines if you were successful or not.
- Your FanPost must include the acronym "BROP" somewhere in the title. This allows us to easily identify serious, valid entries to the competition.
- Only one entry per person. If you have multiple ideas, choose one for your official entry and make sure that your other possibilities are designated as invalid for judging. Otherwise, we'll just use your first post.
- Include a poll at the bottom of your FanPost with the following answer choices: [A,B,C,D,F]. This poll is used to determine the community's overall opinion of your plan, which decides the finalists.
- Your plan must fit within a salary cap of $155 million. The current salary cap is $143 million, but it is jumping by $12 million for the 2016 season.. Per Spotrac.com, the Bills have $151 million committed to the 2016 salary cap (in their top 51 contracts), after restructuring Charles Clay's contract to save $7.5 million. They are carrying over $4.5 million from 2015 to their 2016 cap space. That means that, starting from before the Clay maneuver, the Bills have $0.5 million in cap space. And you need $5 million to sign their rookies. That's right, in our scenario, you need to make room for $4.5 million in 2016, right off the bat. Have Jim Overdorf roll up his sleeves; you have work to do.
- Within your FanPost, please include the following sections outlined below. This is a suggestion, not a requirement, but it makes reading the plan and comparing it to other teams easier. I encourage you to be creative and include as many animated GIFs or MSPaint drawings as your heart desires, but do try to structure the plan as outlined below for everyone's benefit:
- Strategy summary. Break down the general strategy of this plan. What was your opinion of last season's results? Are you trying to make the playoffs? Clean house and prepare a new regime? Build up the team for a sustained future run of playoffs? What's your plan of attack?
- Front office and coaching staff. If you plan to make any changes to the staff, explain it here. That includes changes with scouts, coaches, assistant coaches, etc. I'll even let you fire Russ Brandon if you want, but only if you've cleared it with Mr. Pegula first.
- Bills personnel. For all the UFAs, RFAs, and ERFAs that Buffalo has, break down if you plan to re-sign them or let them walk - or, alternately, if you plan to tag and trade them. If you're re-signing them, keep in mind the set costs (RFAs and ERFAs) or the market value (for players like Glenn and Incognito). This is also where you could trade or cut other players currently under contract with Buffalo, for cap savings or maybe just because they aren't better than Chris Hogan. It's your plan!
- NFL personnel. If you plan to acquire players through free agency or trades with other teams, walk through it here. Detail any free agents you sign and their contracts, or any trades you might make to acquire new players.
- 2016 NFL Draft. Break down your draft strategy here! Mock each Buffalo pick in order, selecting the college player that best fits the team you want to build. If you plan to make trades during the draft, go over them as well. This can be as detailed as you want it to be, keeping in mind that this early in the offseason, and we have no real idea which players will be available in the second round.
- Conclusion/Outlook. Finally, break down your plan. Walk us through the moves you made, the overall cost, and what the depth chart looks like. Give us a prediction for next season, or a couple years down the line. Make your case for why this is the best Bills team one could build in one offseason.
From here on out, anyone who is a veteran of this competition knows what to do to put a plan together. But if you're looking for guidance, read below to get some information on the different components of an offseason plan.
General salary cap and contract information
There are several sites that keep useful numbers for anyone who needs to fit some salaries together for a projected roster. Spotrac, Rotoworld, and OverTheCap all do a good job breaking down salaries and cap space for teams.
Bills contract projections
With the help of Buffalo Rumblings contract specialist Tom Mitchell, we have created several hypothetical contracts for pending free agents (in 2016 or otherwise) who might be re-signed by Buffalo. Use these to inform the contract projections in your BROP:
Bills free agents
Here is a list of Buffalo's free agents, along with their compensation for the just-completed 2014 season.
|Name||Position||Free agent status||Round drafted (for RFA's)||2015 compensation|
The Bills have four exclusive rights free agents and seven restricted free agents this year. An exclusive-rights free agent may only negotiate with his current team, and can be retained by being offered the three-year veteran minimum salary (approximately $510,000), otherwise he becomes an unrestricted free agent eligible to negotiate with any team.
A restricted free agent may be tendered an offer in a tier based on the team's estimated value of the player, with a higher tier representing draft pick compensation and a higher salary. If Ty Powell were to be offered the baseline RFA tender, the team would receive a seventh round pick as compensation if the player left for a different team's contract, due to his original draft status. The cost for the baseline RFA tender, estimated based on the increase from 2013 to 2014, would be $1.6 million for one year. If you really valued Powell, you could tender him a second round tender for $2.4 million, or a first round tender for $3.4 million, which would ensure that no one else would try to sign him, because no sane GM would give up more than $2 million and a high draft pick for a backup linebacker coming off a torn ACL.
NFL free agents
Spotrac has a running list of 2016 free agents and their 2015 compensation, which should be a helpful reference as you build your plan.
Potential cap savings
There are a few players who, if they remain on the Bills in 2015, will carry a pretty significant salary cap hit that could be offset through creative roster moves. Here are the biggest names to think about, with some thanks to daveo2324's recent fanpost about the subject:
- Mario Williams - $12.9 million savings if cut
- Leodis McKelvin - $3.0 million savings if cut
- Corey Graham - $2.675 million savings if cut
- Kyle Williams - $5 million savings if cut
- Manny Lawson - $2.65 million savings if cut
- Dan Carpenter - $1.8 million savings if cut
- Kraig Urbik - $1.415 million savings if cut
- Boobie Dixon - $1.2 million savings if cut
Bills draft picks
While the draft order isn't finalized until compensatory picks have been handed out, we have this list of picks available to Buffalo:
- Round 1, 19 overall (No. 19 in round)
- Round 2, No. 49 overall (No. 18 in round)
- Round 3, No. 80 overall (No. 17 in round)
- Round 4, No. 114 overall (No. 19 in round)
- Round 5, No. 144 overall (No. 18 in round)
- Round 6, No. 173 overall (No. 17 in round)
For this exercise, we'll be operating under the assumption that the Bills don't receive a compensatory pick from last year's free agency. They signed Alex Carrington late in free agency, which may end up negating any possible compensation from the other deals. The Bills also find themselves without their original seventh round pick, having traded that to Dallas as part of the deal that gave away Matt Cassel.
Draft pick values
Looking to trade your picks for other picks? This table, provided by DraftBreakdown.com, gives us a guideline for how teams estimate the values of picks when making a trade. When trading up, the package of picks being offered should be about equal in value to the picks being requested, or exceed the value by up to five percent. For example, if a team wished to trade up from No. 5 overall to No. 4 overall, adding in the No. 101 overall pick (worth 96 points) and the No. 133 pick (worth 39.5 points) would result in a total value of 1,835.5 against 1,800 for the value of the fourth overall pick.
If you want to include future picks into the equation, it helps to give them a "future discount" of one round to represent the uncertainty and delay before the compensation is received. Take the Watkins trade: the move up from No. 9 to No. 4 began with a pick worth 1,350 points. The No. 19 overall pick Buffalo surrendered in 2015 had a value of 875, which would normally be an overpay, but discounted by one round, the value of 390 (and the discounted value of Buffalo's fourth-round pick of 34) makes the values much closer - the total sum Buffalo gave up was 1,774 points, which is right in the neighborhood of the 1,800 that Cleveland's pick was valued at.
There are a multitude of sites available to investigate draft prospects, and I encourage you to put some thought into at least one of the players the Bills should draft this year. It's always more fun to read about specific names than generic positions, and it's easier than ever to find information about the draft. Sites I recommend investigating are listed below:
Draft Breakdown - Puts out cutups from college game broadcasts showing every meaningful snap for an individual player. Invaluable for evaluating draft prospects.
Mocking the Draft - SB Nation's own draft hub. Dan Kadar puts out new content every week and is available on Twitter at @MockingTheDraft. Bills beat reporter Matthew Fairburn also used to write for it.
NFL Draft Scout - Looking for a general draft hub to get you started? CBS has a decent scouting team that puts out free content, including a very in-depth list of prospect rankings, to help you figure out this year's rookie class.
NFL Combine - This is the headquarters for NFL.com's draft analysis and the official numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine.
Fanspeak On The Clock - This NFL draft game is an easy way to simulate an entire draft in under five minutes. It walks through every team in the draft and allows you to pick for the team of your choice. If you pay for a premium membership, you can also trade picks.