At the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills had the ninth-oldest starting lineup in the league. Kyle Williams, the heart and soul of the Bills, is 34 years old, as is veteran linebacker and all-around great guy Lorenzo Alexander. In NFL years, 34 is ancient, and the thought throughout this season was that 2017 would be the last in the league for Williams.
With the end of the season coming one week later than it has in 17 years (but still a few weeks earlier than we all wanted it), the focus on offseason roster changes once again leads us to wondering about the status of some of Buffalo’s older players. Williams is an unrestricted free agent, and he has not yet decided on whether or not he will play a 13th season.
“I don’t have one,” Williams said when he was asked about a timetable for deciding his future. “We’ll meet with the people who need to be met with, and discuss it and we’ll see where we go.”
Clearly, Williams must meet with general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott regarding his future. For their part, they sounded as if they were excited about the possibility of bringing Williams back for another year.
“Who doesn’t love Kyle Williams? We would definitely love to have Kyle back,” Beane said at his season-ending press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
With such a ringing endorsement from management, one would assume that the only people who need to be met with are the most important ones to Williams—his family. Once he takes the time to reflect on what has been a long, solid career, he will meet with Beane and McDermott to determine their plans.
As for Alexander, the interest on the part of the player was stronger, but the organization gave a less-effusive endorsement of his fit with the organization. Alexander said that he wants to remain in Buffalo for 2018.
“I mean, that’s the plan for me. Obviously, the organization has to make a decision on whether or not they want to keep me,” Alexander said Monday. He is under contract for next season, set to earn a salary of $2.45 million, with an additional $400,000 roster bonus.
When asked about Alexander and fellow linebacker Preston Brown, who is a free agent, Beane was not in any rush to roll out the red carpet to commit to retaining either player.
“Yeah, those guys played in every game and they did a very good job. Again, we have a lot of parts to evaluate with obviously, those being one of them. Again, until we sit back and talk through it – it’s a layered approach to our evaluation,” Beane said. “Those guys are definitely big questions we have to answer.”
Beane also acknowledged that the team needed to become younger overall, even going so far as to say that a youth movement would have been necessary even if the team had won the Super Bowl.
Gazing into the crystal ball, it appears that the early months of 2018 could be filled with a purge of veteran contracts. Leadership like that which Williams and Alexander provide, however, is paramount to the successful culture McDermott and Beane are trying to implement (and have been able to implement successfully in a very short period of time). Sustaining that culture while putting a young, talented team together is the most difficult part of building a roster. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Buffalo’s two most respected veterans in Year 2 of “The Process”.