QB Vince Young, DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson.
CB Stephon Gilmore, OT/G Cordy Glenn, WR T.J. Graham, OLB Nigel Bradham, CB Ron Brooks, OT Zebrie Sanders, ILB Tank Carder.
OT Demetress Bell, ILB Reggie Torbor, CB Drayton Florence.
2012 Buffalo Bills Offense:
The Bills had one of the most explosive offenses in the first half of 2011. It's hard to believe, but they averaged 30.1 points per game in the first eight weeks of the season. This included a 34-point output in a field-goal victory over the Patriots in late September.
Unfortunately, disaster struck. Fred Jackson, discussed as a second-place MVP candidate behind Aaron Rodgers, was knocked out for the year with a fractured right fibula. Ryan Fitzpatrick incurred a rib injury that hindered him throughout November and December. Wide receiver Steve Johnson dealt with a groin problem. Several members of the offensive line, including left tackle Demtress Bell (known as Demetrius Bell at the time) and stud center Eric Wood were also knocked out. All of these injuries severely limited Buffalo's offense; the unit scored just 17.9 points in their final nine contests, finishing 1-8 down the stretch.
Everyone is now healthy again, including Fitzpatrick. The Harvard alumnus isn't a great talent, but he's proven that he can be an effective signal-caller if he has a good supporting cast, which is the case in Buffalo. The only question is his durability; he has now been banged up late in each of the past two seasons. Keeping him upright will be paramount if the Bills want to avoid another collapse.
The aforementioned Bell is gone; he signed with the Eagles, but he was unreliable because he was always hurt. Chris Hairston is currently penciled in as Fitzpatrick's blind-side protector. Hairston wasn't bad in relief last year - he surrendered four sacks in seven starts - but he may eventually lose his job to second-round pick Cordy Glenn, who fell this past April, given that he was a projected late first-round prospect. Meanwhile, another rookie lineman, fifth-rounder Zebrie Sanders, may eventually take over at right tackle for Erik Pears, who was inconsistent last season.
The interior of the offensive front is really stout. Wood was already mentioned; he's one of the top centers in the NFL. Guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart were both terrific last season, with the former showing off his versatility and starting a handful of games at left tackle in Bell's absence. He won't have to do that in 2012, fortunately, because of the Glenn and Sanders selections.
Perhaps the injured player missed least last season was Jackson, but only because C.J. Spiller did a great job as a replacement. This is still Jackson's offense - he accumulated 1,376 total yards and maintained a 5.5 yards-per-carry average in nine-and-a-half contests - but Spiller will command a larger workload as the No. 2 back. Spiller's rushing average was a solid 5.2, and he managed to catch a whopping nine passes in a game versus the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, there's no doubt about who the top receiver is. The 26-year-old Johnson hopefully won't have groin issues again in 2012. If he and Fitzpatrick both stay healthy, he could have a career year. His main concern will be focusing on actually catching game-winning touchdowns instead of dropping them, which has been a problem for him the past two seasons.
Tight end Scott Chandler, and receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson will join Johnson as Fitzpatrick's targets. All three of those players are pretty mediocre talents. Third-round rookie T.J. Graham could see some action, but the N.C. State receiving product was considered a reach.
2012 Buffalo Bills Defense:
Think the Bills wanted to improve their awful pass rush this offseason? Only the Buccaneers and Titans finished with fewer sacks in 2011, so Buffalo went all out this spring, signing both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to big contracts.
The Williams deal was colossal. He signed a $96 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. He's one of the most talented defensive ends in all of football, and he'll provide a huge upgrade at left end. There is an issue though, and it's that Williams' top priority is money. He had to be coaxed into signing with Buffalo. He could have gone to a more competitive team - the Bills are the only NFL franchise not to make the playoffs this millennium - but he opted for a larger paycheck. Williams wasn't even missed by the Texans when he was knocked out for the year with a torn pectoral. He'll definitely boost Buffalo's pass rush, but there's no doubt that the front office overpaid.
Anderson also carries a risk. He was considered borderline rosterable prior to last season. Bill Belichick got the most out of him, as Anderson tallied 12.5 sacks. But was he just playing for a big contract? And how will he fare now that Belichick won't be coaching him up? These are serious concerns, though he's still an upgrade over what the Bills had last year.
If Anderson pans out and Williams plays to his potential, Buffalo will have one of the elite defensive fronts in the league. The team will be getting stud nose tackle Kyle Williams back from injury; he was knocked out in early October with a bone spur in his foot. Meanwhile, second-year Marcell Dareus will be even better than he was last year. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Dareus generated 5.5 sacks, a pretty good number for a rookie defensive tackle. He was also very good in run support.
The Bills were 25th versus the pass in 2011, maintaining a pedestrian 7.7 YPA. An improved pass rush will really help that figure, as will first-round cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The South Carolina product didn't always play up to potential, but he has major upside. He'll be penciled into the starting lineup across from Terrence McGee, provided the 31-year-old can make it back from a torn patella tendon. If not, it'll be up to 2011 second-rounder Aaron Williams, whom Tom Brady picked on relentlessly in two matchups.
Buffalo's safety play will make up for the possible struggles of McGee and/or Williams. Jairus Byrd is a ballhawking stud, while George Wilson is a serviceable veteran. Wilson is yet another Bill who missed some time last year; he was sidelined for a few weeks because of a neck injury.
The front office spent a couple of mid-round selections on the linebacking corps, choosing Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder. The latter was a Day 2 prospect heading into the 2011 college football season, but was hampered by an injury all year. He's a great leader, and it wouldn't be shocking if he breaks into the starting lineup soon. The one liability at linebacker is Kirk Morrison, who is stationed on the strong side. Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett proved to be really good starters last year, especially the former, who was merely a third-round rookie. Sheppard took over the starting middle linebacker gig in Week 8 and never looked back.
2012 Buffalo Bills Schedule and Intangibles:
No surprise that Buffalo's ownership is once again screwing the fans out of a home game. For the fifth year in a row, the Bills will play a "home game" in Toronto. They'll "host" the Seahawks in December at the Rogers Centre, where they are just 1-3.
The Bills scored one special-teams touchdown in 2011, but it wasn't C.J. Spiller who reached the end zone. Leodis McKelvin is the one who scored. Buffalo outgained its opponents on both punts and kickoffs, and it prevented the opposition from taking it back to the house.
Rian Lindell was a near-perfect 13-of-15 last season. He didn't attempt a kick from beyond 50, but he was 5-of-6 from 40-49. However, he played in only eight games because of a shoulder injury.
Brian Moorman had a terrific year, rebounding off a poor 2010 campaign. He maintained a great punting average of 48.2, with only 20-of-72 tries pinned inside the 20.
The Bills have a chance to get off to a great start again. They play at the Jets and Browns, two games sandwiched in between a home contest versus Kansas City. But check out how easy Buffalo's final stretch is, starting in Week 11: Dolphins (home), Colts (road), Jaguars (home), Rams (home), Seahawks (home), Dolphins (road) and Jets (home).
2012 Buffalo Bills Analysis: The Bills have to stay healthy. That's what it comes down to. They were 5-2 after seven games last year, but things fell apart because nearly half the roster went down with injuries.
Buffalo has the talent to make a run at the postseason; it just needs better luck. But given how relaxing the schedule is and how much talent there is on this roster, it'll be mildly shocking if the Bills aren't in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: Buffalo spent a ton of money this offseason revamping the defensive line. It also gave lots of cash to Ryan Fitzpatrick during the 2011 campaign. Upgrading Fitzpatrick's supporting cast is crucial at this point, especially considering that his left tackle recently signed with the Eagles. The cornerback position must also be addressed.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bills accomplished the goals listed above, but they did so in a really risky manner. They spent their first two picks on boom-or-bust players. Stephon Gilmore was a typical Al Davis "height-weight-speed" prospect. He did not play well in 2011, though there's no denying his potential. Buffalo wanted either Mark Barron or Luke Kuechly, but they were both plucked off the board at Nos. 7 and 9, respectively.
Cordy Glenn was an amazing value pick in Round 2, but can he play left tackle? Most analysts think he could be used at right tackle and both guard positions, but Buffalo apparently envisions him as Fitzpatrick's blind-side protector. I suppose he can't be worse than what the Bills have there already.
I really loved how the rest of Buffalo's draft played out, save for a puzzling third-round pick on T.J. Graham. The Bills would have drafted Ron Brooks in Round 2 if they hadn't selected Gilmore at No. 10 overall, so he was a steal in Round 4. Zebrie Sanders and Tank Carder were both great fifth-round selections. Sanders has starting potential, while Carder would have been a second-day choice if he had been healthy in 2011.
I like what the Bills did overall, but there's no denying that their first two selections can completely bust just as easily as they can become reliable starters. However, considering that both Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey will be fired if they don't make the playoffs in the next couple of years, it's easy to understand why they took such big risks.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: C+
Stephon Gilmore didn't play very well this past year, but he was pushed up because of his height-weight-speed. Players like this usually don't succeed in the NFL, though Gilmore's upside can't be ignored. The Bills needed a cornerback, so this made sense from a positional standpoint. Still though, I have to wonder how they're going to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick. I guess we'll see what happens in the next two days.
41. Cordy Glenn, G/OT, Georgia: A+
Wow, this is amazing value. The Cardinals were interested in Cordy Glenn and even considered him at No. 13. The Bengals were linked to him at No. 21. I don't know how he fell to No. 41. Glenn has positional versatility and should be able to really bolster a very weak offensive front that lost Demetress Bell. Perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick won't have to release the ball after taking three-step drops all the time going forward.
69. T.J. Graham, WR, N.C. State: Matt Millen First Kielbasa Kiss Grade
In back-to-back picks, we've had a first kielbasa date and a first kielbasa kiss grade. T.J. Graham was No. 185 on the consensus board. Todd McShay, who praised the pick, had Graham in the 130s. This is a major reach.
105. Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State: A Grade
Nigel Bradham could have easily been drafted in Round 3, so this is nice value for him. The Bills needed a third linebacker - they were considering Luke Kuechly before he was chosen a pick earlier in Round 1 - so Bradham fills a need.
124. Ron Brooks, CB, LSU: A+ Grade
The Bills would have selected Ron Brooks in the second round (why I mocked him there) if they hadn't obtained Stephon Gilmore in Round 1. They have to be shocked that he lasted this long. I am too. He was ranked in the 80s on most big boards. This is a steal.
144. Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: A+ Grade
The Bills are killing it on Day 3. Zebrie Sanders was No. 84 on the consensus big board, so he provides tremendous value. Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey talked about bringing in multiple tackles this weekend, so Sanders makes sense in that regard. Let's just hope he doesn't fall asleep on the football field again.
147. Tank Carder, LB, TCU: A+ Grade
Wow. Buffalo has really improved its roster this weekend. Tank Carder would have been a second-round pick if he hadn't played hurt this past season. He's a really talented linebacker with a great work ethic. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he made it into the starting lineup in a year or two.
178. Mark Asper, G, Oregon: C- Grade
Blegh, finally a Bills' pick that I dislike. Mark Asper wasn't expected to even be a priority UDFA, so I'm shocked he was drafted. He doesn't fill a need either.
251. John Potter, K, Western Michigan: C Grade
I don't think John Potter will be able to beat out Rian Lindell. This pick was probably made just in case Lindell can't come back from his shoulder injury. You wouldn't think a shoulder would affect a kicker, but whatever.
When the Bills upset the Patriots in Week 3, everyone thought they were finally going to get over the hump and reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999. And they would have if half their roster hadn't landed on injured reserve. I'd wish the Bills better luck in 2012, but this franchise hasn't had the best fortune over the years.
Bills sign QB Vince Young
Broncos sign CB Drayton Florence
Bills cut CB Drayton Florence
Eagles sign OT Demetress Bell
Chargers sign WR/KR Roscoe Parrish
Bills re-sign RB Tashard Choice
Bills sign DE Mark Anderson
Bills re-sign S Bryan Scott
Bills re-sign WR Derek Hagan
Bills sign DE Mario Williams
Bills re-sign G Chad Rinehart
Bills re-sign G Kraig Urbik
Bills re-sign TE Scott Chandler
Bills re-sign WR Ruvell Martin
Bills re-sign WR Steve Johnson
Bills cut S Jon Corto
Two Defensive Ends: No one on this team had 5.5 sacks last year, so I expect Buffalo to use the No. 10 overall pick on someone like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram. Signed Mario Williams and Mark Anderson
Wide Receiver: Make it two wideouts in the event that Steve Johnson signs elsewhere. If Johnson stays on, a new No. 2 receiver will be needed because David Nelson is too inconsistent. Re-signed Steve Johnson and Derek Hagan; drafted T.J. Graham
Left Tackle: Demetrius Bell played well when healthy last year, surrendering just one sack in six starts. He's a free agent, however, so Buffalo will have to retain him. Drafted Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders
Cornerback: Drayton Florence was awful in 2011, getting torched on a regular basis. Aaron Williams is expected to step into the starting lineup, but Buffalo will need to find depth at this position, especially with Terrence McGee turning 32 in October. Drafted Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks
Outside Linebacker: The Bills will need a third linebacker to go along with Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard. Drafted Tank Carder and Nigel Bradham
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick is capable of leading a team to the playoffs if he has a great supporting cast around him, but he's far too limited to win consistently with mediocre talent by his side. The Bills are stuck with him after signing him to a big contract, so they'll have to look into the middle rounds for a quarterback. Signed Vince Young
Defensive Tackle Depth: The Bills may release Dwan Edwards, so they'll need depth behind Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.
Tight End: Scott Chandler is a free agent, but he can be upgraded anyway. Re-signed Scott Chandler
Kicker: Rian Lindell is still getting the job done; he was 13-of-15 last year. However, he's a free agent. Buffalo should re-sign him. Re-signed Rian Lindell
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Mario Williams, DE, Texans. Age: 27. Signed with Bills (6 years, $100 million; $50 million guaranteed)
One of the top pass-rushers in the NFL will be allowed to hit the market because the Texans have other great rush linebackers. I'm not big on building through free agency, but teams should be selling their souls to get Williams on their roster.
Mark Anderson, DE, Patriots. Age: 29. Signed with Bills (4 years)
Bill Belichick helped revive Mark Anderson's career. The former Bear went from being an afterthought to a double-digit sacker. It's hard to trust him outside of New England's system though.
Vince Young, QB, Eagles. Age: 29. -- Signed with Bills (1 year, $2 million)
Buffalo Bills Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills. Age: 26. Re-signed with Bills (5 years, $36.25 million; $19.5 million guaranteed)
If Steve Johnson were as strong mentally as he is physically, he would be one of the top receivers in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has way too many drops in key moments and acts like a clown on the field.
Rian Lindell, K, Bills. Age: 35. Re-signed with Bills
Rian Lindell went 13-of-15 in 2011 before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder issue. He's still reliable as ever.
Demetress Bell, OT, Bills. Age: 28. Signed with Eagles (5 years, $35 million)
Demetress (formerly Demetrius) Bell, base-born in Philadelphia, surrendered just one sack in six starts last year. Bell has had knee issues throughout his career, so while the Bills should re-sign him, they should also be careful.
Ruvell Martin, WR, Bills. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Bills
Jon Corto, S, Bills. Age: 27.
Dave Rayner, K, Bills. Age: 29.
Divisional Rival History: Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are 6-2 against the pathetic Bills since 2008. New England Patriots: Poor Bills. The Patriots have beaten them in 22 of the last 23 meetings, including the previous 17. New York Jets: The Jets have defeated Buffalo in seven of the past eight battles.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)