QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Dominic Rhodes, WR Terrell Owens, G Seth McKinney, C Geoff Hangartner, ILB Pat Thomas, CB Drayton Florence.
DE Aaron Maybin, C Eric Wood, CB/S Jairus Byrd, G Andy Levitre, TE Shawn Nelson, SS/OLB Nic Harris, CB Cary Harris, CB Ellis Lankster.
QB J.P. Zohan, TE Robert Royal, G Derrick Dockery, G Jason Whittle, C Duke Preston, C Melvin Fowler, OLB Angelo Crowell, OLB Blake Costanzo, ILB John DiGiorgio, ILB Teddy Lehman, CB Jabari Greer, CB Dustin Fox.
2009 Buffalo Bills Offense:
For the first time in years, it seems as though the national media is actually talking about the Bills. The reasoning for this is pretty simple - Terrell Owens.
Jerry Jones finally had enough of Owens and decided to cut him. Owens didn't have any suitors until Buffalo offered him a 1-year deal. Many members of the national media criticized the signing. I actually thought it was a good idea. It's a 1-year contract, so Owens will have to be on his best behavior if he's ever going to see another lucrative deal again. And if he acts up, the Bills can just cut him without any cap consequences.
As far as his on-the-field talents are concerned, Owens is a bit overrated. At 35, he's no longer the explosive receiver he once was. Owens has also struggled with drops the past few years. However, he's still an imposing red-zone threat and he's a huge upgrade over what the Bills had at split end last season.
More importantly, Owens will draw double teams away from Lee Evans, a speedy wideout who topped the 1,000-yard barrier for the second time in his career in 2008. Trent Edwards, entering his second season as a full-time starter, will love having Owens and Evans as downfield weapons. Edwards had 2,699 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 picks last year. He also maintained a 7.2 YPA and a 65.5 completion percentage. There's no doubt that those numbers (excluding possibly the latter) will improve with Owens in the mix.
Edwards will also benefit from an effective running game by his side. The Bills averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2008. Again, that's a figure that will increase, as defenders will be more focused on Owens.
Marshawn Lynch garnered 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns last season, but he'll miss the first three games of the year because he violated the league's personal conduct policy. But that's not too much of a concern because Fred Jackson might be the better all-around back anyhow. In addition to rushing for 571 yards on a 4.4 average, Jackson also caught 37 balls for 317 receiving yards. Jackson is a quicker, every-down runner, and he proved he could carry the load by compiling 136 rushing yards against the Patriots in a Week 17 contest.
My concern with Buffalo's offense - and it's a big one - is the offensive line. Aside from actually having a quarterback, protecting the quarterback is the most important thing in football, and I'm not convinced the Bills will be able to do that effectively.
Edwards is going to get beaten into the ground multiple times per week because left tackle Langston Walker is a sieve in pass protection; the last time he played left tackle, he surrendered 10.5 sacks with the Raiders. Walker is passable at right tackle, but he'll have to protect Edwards from the blind side unless Demetrius Bell proves he's capable of handling the job. Unfortunately, Bell, a second-year tackle out of Northwestern State, has never played a single down in the NFL.
In the interior of the line, I like center Geoff Hangartner, who handled himself well in relief of Ryan Kalil with the Panthers last season. However, the Bills will be starting two rookies at the guard positions. Andy Levitre and Eric Wood were both second-round prospects, but as with all rookies, it's unclear as to how well they're going to perform right away. Going up against Vince Wilfork, Kris Jenkins and Jason Ferguson is no easy task.
2009 Buffalo Bills Defense:
Just as the Bills are going to struggle to protect Trent Edwards, they're also going to have problems getting to the opposing quarterbacks. Not that it's going to be new to them; the team accumulated just 24 sacks in 2008, as no player generated more than four.
The good news here is that Aaron Schobel will be back in the lineup. Schobel is two years removed from a 15 sacks, but has since struggled. In 2007, Schobel generated just six sacks. Last year, he was ineffective because of a foot injury. He had just one sack in five games before being placed on the IR. Wishful thinking says Schobel will rebound and have another double-digit sack campaign, but he turns 32 on Sept. 1, and may never be the dominant defensive end he once was.
With Schobel's age in mind, the Bills selected Aaron Maybin with the 11th-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Maybin was a dominant defensive end at Penn State last season, garnering 20 TFL and 12 sacks. However, Maybin has just one year of starting experience and only just turned 21. Rookie defensive ends tend to struggle in the NFL, so a 21-year-old is going to be really ineffective. Maybin could very productive down the line, but I wasn't shocked at all to hear that he was having a terrible minicamp. Maybin figures to be the nickel rusher this season, while the pedestrian Chris Kelsay starts at left end.
With such a weak pass rush, it's a good thing Buffalo's secondary is pretty solid. Terrence McGee is an underrated cornerback and a huge reason as to why the Bills weren't any worse than 16th versus aerial attacks. Leodis McKelvin, chosen in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, will start across from McGee, while the second-year Reggie Corner and Ashton Youboty will compete for the nickel gig.
At safety, the Bills spent a second-round selection on Jairus Byrd, whom they believe can start at free safety. They're set with Donte Whitner at strong safety, though it should be noted that Whitner missed three games in 2008 and was arrested for disorderly conduct this offseason.
Buffalo was worse versus the run (19th) than it was against the pass last year, which had to be disappointing because the team traded for Marcus Stroud. Stroud was healthy for the first time since 2005, so if he goes down yet again, the Bills could have one of the worst rush defenses in the league. Stroud, who just turned 31, has missed 12 games the past three seasons.
Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell are both solid defenders, but the linebacking corps took a big hit with Angelo Crowell missing the 2008 campaign with a knee injury. Crowell signed with the Buccaneers, forcing the Bills to keep Keith Ellison in the starting lineup. Ellison would serve as a quality backup, but injuries have repeatedly forced him into the lineup, which has really hurt Buffalo's defense.
2009 Buffalo Bills Schedule and Intangibles:
No surprise that Buffalo's ownership is once again screwing the fans out of a home game. For the second year in a row, the Bills will play a "home game" in Toronto. They'll host the Jets on Dec. 3, and you'll be able to see all of the empty seats for yourself on the NFL Network.
If ESPN didn't kill its best show, the original NFL Primetime, Chris Berman would say, "Bills... special... teams. No, wait! Bills special teams!" Terrence McGee, Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin have returned a combined nine kickoffs or punt returns for touchdowns the previous five seasons. Buffalo didn't allow the opposition to score last year.
Rian Lindell is coming off his worst season since 2003. Lindell was 30-of-38 (78.9%), including 10-of-15 from 40-49 and just 1-of-3 from 50-plus. The 2008 campaign marked the first time since 2004 that Lindell didn't hit at least two 50-yarders.
Brian Moorman's punting average of 44.1 was pretty great when you consider that 23 of his 58 kicks went into the opposing 20.
The Bills have a pretty balanced schedule. They have to battle New England (twice), New Orleans, Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta and Indianapolis, but they also get Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas City.
Like the Dolphins and Jets, Buffalo may have a tough time avoiding a slow start. Three of its first four games are very difficult (at New England, vs. New Orleans and at Miami).
2009 Buffalo Bills Analysis: As I've said multiple times, to win in the NFL, you need to have a quarterback, you need to protect your quarterback and you need to get to the other quarterback.
Trent Edwards is not a proven commodity, but he certainly has potential. Unfortunately, Buffalo's offensive and defensive lines will likely be this team's downfall, and barring an unlikely postseason appearance, Dick Jauron will be fired.
Wishy-washy ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer seldom offers a strong opinion on anything, which is why I was shocked when he was so adamant that the Bills had a great draft. Todd McShay, wearing his radioactive skin suit, opined that Buffalo had an outstanding draft as well.
As Emmitt would say, "Gentleman, I could not disagree with you, even if I wanted to."
What is Buffalo going to do at left tackle in the wake of the Jason Peters trade? Who will start? Langston Walker? Kirk Chambers? Demetrius Bell? I hope Trent Edwards has a great health insurance policy.
By the way, it should be noted that the two tackles Buffalo passed up on, Michael Oher and William Beatty, were respectively drafted by the Ravens and Giants, two of the smartest organizations in the NFL.
Ignoring the second-most important position in the NFL was one thing. Another was drafting the ultra-raw Aaron Maybin over Brian Orakpo. I really disagree with Dilfer here; I find it highly doubtful Maybin will contribute as a rookie. He's raw; he has limited playing experience; and he's only 20. Defensive ends seldom have a big impact as rookies. Just look at Mario Williams as a prime example. Derrick Harvey didn't do anything in 2008. At least Orakpo is older and more refined.
Could Maybin be a star down the road? Absolutely. But for a coaching staff and front office that needs to win now (or they could be fired if they don't make the playoffs), the Maybin pick didn't make much sense. Long-term it does, but Dick Jauron doesn't have the best job security.
Excluding Jairus Byrd, I really liked some of Buffalo's mid- and late-round selections. But ignoring the left tackle position really brings down this overall grade.
Grade given on 4/27/09: C-
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
11. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
I don't understand this. The Bills need a left tackle, the second-highest position of value in the NFL. Michael Oher was a no-brainer. But even if Buffalo didn't want Oher, what about Brian Orakpo? Did the Bills forget he was on the board? Aaron Maybin had only one year of production at Penn State. He's way too unproven to be selected over solid prospects like Oher and Orakpo. (Pick Grade: D)
28. Eric Wood, C, Louisville
Only one center should have gone in the first round based on positional value. I can't figure out why the Bills aren't addressing the left tackle position. Then again, maybe that's why they haven't been to the Doggone Playoff in years. (Pick Grade: D)
42. Jairus Byrd, CB/S, Oregon
Horrible pick. Poor value. Doesn't fill a need. The Bills seemingly do not understand positional value or the concept of drafting well. (Pick Grade: F)
51. Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State
I like Andy Levitre and guard is a need. I had him in the third round, so I consider this a bit of a reach. It's still a solid pick though. I just don't know what the Bills are going to do at left tackle. (Pick Grade: B)
121. Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Miss
Nice job by the Bills here - they needed a tight end, and Shawn Nelson is outstanding value in the middle of Round 4. (Pick Grade: A)
147. Nic Harris, SS/OLB, Oklahoma
Nic Harris is a tweener, which is why he slipped down to Round 5. The Bills have a need at outside linebacker, so it'll be interesting to see if he can play that position in the NFL. (Pick Grade: B)
183. Cary Harris, CB, USC
Cornerbacking depth is key if you're trying to knock off the Patriots. I have no problem with this pick; Cary Harris belonged in the sixth-round range. (Pick Grade: B)
220. Ellis Lankster, CB, West Virginia
Another corner? I hate it when teams hedge their bets in the draft. It tells me that they weren't confident in the first pick they made. (Pick Grade: C)
The Bills began the year 5-1, knocking off three supposed playoff-caliber teams (Seattle, Jacksonville and San Diego). Unfortunately, injuries (Aaron Schobel, Angelo Crowell, Trent Edwards), poor coaching decisions and some bad luck (missed kick against the Browns, losing the opportunity to play a cold home game against Miami) all combined to capsize Buffalo's once-promising season. The Bills finished 7-9 and couldn't muster a single victory in divisional play.
Bills cut CB Dustin Fox
Cardinals sign C Melvin Fowler
Bills cut ILB John DiGiorgio
Browns sign OLB Blake Costanzo
Bills cut OLB Blake Costanzo
Eagles acquire OT Jason Peters from Bills for pick No. 28, fourth-round pick and conditional 2010 pick
Bills sign RB Dominic Rhodes
Bills sign G Seth McKinney
Bills re-sign S George Wilson
Packers sign C Duke Preston
Bills re-sign OLB Keith Ellison
Bills sign ILB Pat Thomas
Buccaneers sign OLB Angelo Crowell
Bills sign WR Terrell Owens
Browns sign TE Robert Royal
Saints sign CB Jabari Greer
Bills re-sign OT Kirk Chambers
Bills sign CB Drayton Florence
Bills sign C Geoff Hangartner
Redskins sign G Derrick Dockery
Bills sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Bills re-sign FB Corey McIntyre
Bills cut TE Robert Royal
Bills tender OLB Blake Costanzo
Bills tender TE Derek Schouman
Bills re-sign QB Gibran Hamdan
Bills re-sign CB Dustin Fox
Bills cut G Derrick Dockery
Bills tender RB Fred Jackson
Bills re-sign ILB John DiGiorgio
Bills re-sign WR Justin Jenkins
Left Tackle: Exhibit A as to why the Pro Bowl is a joke. How in the world did Jason Peters make the Pro Bowl? Despite playing just 13 games, he surrendered more sacks than any left tackle in the league (11.5) and he was also whistled for eight penalties! Peters was traded to the Eagles, so this position is now a priority.
Defensive End: Defensive end is an obvious need when your stop unit finishes the season with 24 sacks. No Buffalo player had more than four. Aaron Schobel will be back next year, but the Bills need another pass-rusher across from him. Brian Orakpo seems like the most logical choice at No. 11.
Center: Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler, both free agents, need to be upgraded. The Bills will take a center in Rounds 2 or 3. Signed Geoff Hangartner
Defensive Tackle: The oft-injured John McCargo is a bust. The Bills need to find another defensive tackle to go along with Marcus Stroud.
Left Guard: With Derrick Dockery gone, the Bills will need to find yet another interior lineman. Signed Seth McKinney
Tight End: The Bills have needed a reliable pass-catching tight end for years. Luckily, there will be a number of them available in the second and third rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft. Drafted Shawn Nelson
Outside Linebacker: Free agent Angelo Crowell is talented, but has chronic knee problems. The Bills really can't depend on him anymore. Drafted Nic Harris
Fullback: Fullback is never a huge need, but the Bills could use an upgrade here. Re-signed Corey McIntyre
Backup Quarterback: The Bills need someone more reliable than the skittish J.P. Zohan as their backup quarterback. Signed Ryan Fitzpatrick
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys. Age: 35. Signed with Bills (1 year, $6.5 million)
How do you rate Terrell Owens? He's incredibly talented, but a headache in the locker room. Perhaps Owens will behave at his next stop because it'll be his last shot. What he needs most is a strict, authoritative coach like Bill Belichick; and definitely not an inept push-over like Wade Phillips.
Geoff Hangartner, C, Panthers. Age: 27. Signed with Bills
One of the top backup centers in the NFL. Geoff Hangartner played very well in relief of an injured Ryan Kalil this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bengals. Age: 26. Signed with Bills
After a rough start, Ryan Fitzpatrick played pretty well down the stretch, leading the Bengals to a 4-3-1 record in the final eight weeks of the year. Since Nov. 2, Fitzpatrick threw six touchdowns and four picks despite having no pass protection.
Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts. Age: 30. Signed with Bills (2 years)
The last year Dominic Rhodes averaged more than four yards per carry was 2004. He maintained a figure of 3.5 this season. He's an adequate backup, but he's clearly over the hill.
Pat Thomas, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 26. Signed with Bills (1 year)
Pat Thomas started nine games for the Chiefs. He could be brought back as a solid reserve, but Scott Pioli needs to find some new linebackers.
Seth McKinney, G. Age: 30. - Signed with Bills
Drayton Florence, CB, Jaguars. Age: 28. - Signed with Bills (2 years, $6.6 million)
Buffalo Bills Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 14): $27 million
Fred Jackson (ERFA), RB. Age: 28. Tendered by Bills
One of the best change-of-pace backs in the NFL, Fred Jackson will definitely be retained by the Bills for a minimal tender. It's worth noting that Jackson rushed for 136 yards on 27 carries against the Patriots in Week 17.
Derrick Dockery, G. Age: 28. Signed with Redskins (5 years, $26 million; $8.5 million guaranteed)
Derrick Dockery can stock run block pretty well, but he was completely lost in pass protection last year, giving up 8.25 sacks. He was also whistled for five penalties.
Angelo Crowell, OLB. Age: 28. Signed with Buccaneers
Angelo Crowell is a talented linebacker, who unfortunately may not be able to recover from his chronic knee injuries. If Crowell can get healthy, he'll be dominant for Buffalo once again. That's a huge if, however.
Jabari Greer, CB. Age: 27. Signed with Saints (4 years)
Kareem Abdul Jabari Greer is a decent corner who could compete for starting time elsewhere - but not in Buffalo. Leodis McKelvin will take over full time across from Terrence McGee.
Keith Ellison (RFA), OLB. Age: 25. Re-signed with Bills (1 year, $1.01 million)
A pretty marginal linebacker who has been thrust into the starting lineup the past few years because of injuries.
George Wilson (RFA), S. Age: 28. Re-signed with Bills (1 year, $1.01 million)
A quality reserve who has started 12 games the past two seasons. George Wilson will be retained.
Duke Preston, C. Age: 27. Signed with Packers
In addition to sucking royally, Duke Preston ruined Buffalo's chances of kicking a field goal in the last seconds of the first half of the season finale because he started a fight with some of the Patriots defenders.
Melvin Fowler, C. Age: 30. Signed with Cardinals
A poor center coming off shoulder surgery. The only positive Melvin Fowler brings to the table is starting experience (37 starts last three seasons). He'll be an OK backup somewhere.
J.P. Losman, QB. Age: 28.
J.P. Zohan is way too skittish and unreliable to ever become a solid starting quarterback in this league. That ship has sailed. I'm not even sure if he's a capable backup, but some team will give him a shot to compete as a No. 2 in camp.
Kirk Chambers, OT. Age: 30. - Re-signed with Bills
Jason Whittle, G. Age: 34.
Derek Schouman, TE. Age: 24. - Tendered by Bills
Robert Royal, TE. Age: 31. - Signed with Browns (4 years, $10 million)
Gibran Hamdan (RFA), QB. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Bills
Divisional Rival History: Miami Dolphins: One of the rare rivalries where the better team almost always wins. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Buffalo has claimed seven of the past 10 battles, but lost both 2008 contests. New England Patriots: Poor Bills. The Patriots have beaten them in 16 of the last 17 meetings. New York Jets: Traditionally a home-dominated series, but the Jets bucked that trend. They swept Buffalo in 2008.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)