Bills Off-Season Needs

By PFC Bills Writer Jay Kommuru

Going into this off-season there is no question that the Bills are in complete re-building mode. Sure they might not be willing to admit it, but with a new GM, a new head coach, and a new defensive scheme, a complete rebuild is inevitable. Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have their work cut out for them. The Bills have needed a franchise signal-caller for a decade, and Jason Peters left a gaping hole on the blind side when he got traded to Philadelphia. Add in the fact that the Bills will be changing from a 4-3, which they ran for the last 9 years, to a 3-4 it is clear that this team has a lot of needs this off-season. Nix might be a rookie GM but he will need to hit on most of his draft picks and free agents this off-season for the Bills to have a shot at fielding a respectable team in 2010. Lets take a closer look at the positions the Bills must address this off-season.

1.    Left-Tackle: Quite possibly the 2nd most important position on the football field, the Bills traded away their only franchise LT in the last decade to the Eagles for draft picks (used to pick G Eric Wood and TE Shawn Nelson in last year’s draft and a 6th round selection in this year’s draft). Some may argue that the Bills need a QB more, but as Nix has said “you can’t throw if you’re on your back”. QB might be the most important position on the field, but having a franchise LT is a close second. The free agent class doesn’t exactly scream talent, but this year’s draft class is actually relatively strong and chances are that is where the Bills will look for their guy.

2.    Quarterback: This is probably the most obvious need this team has. We haven’t had a true franchise QB since Drew Bledsoe. In the meantime we’ve tried J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at the position to end up in the same place – out of the win column and the playoffs. I’m willing to bet that our starting QB is not on our roster right now. Trent regressed in 2009, and Fitzpatrick simply doesn’t have the physical tools to become a long-term solution. Brian Brohm may actually play into the equation a little bit since he is young, talented, and may be just distant enough from the Dick Jauron regime to escape the roster cuts. Either way, expect the Bills to add a signal-caller this off season whether it be through free agency, trade, or the draft.

3.    Nose Tackle: Making the transition to a 3-4 won’t be easy as the Bills simply don’t have the requisite personnel on the roster. The 4-3 cover-2 scheme employed under Jauron was predicated on small, fast players. The 3-4, on the other hand, requires size and strength and most importantly it needs a nose tackle that can employ two blockers on most plays to free up the linebackers to make plays. There is simply no one on the roster right now that can fill this role. The closest 2-gap lineman would be Kyle Williams. Marcus Stroud may have the size but his best fit in this scheme would be to play defensive end. About the only guy who intrigues me on the roster for this position besides Williams is Lonnie Harvey, a rookie undrafted free agent who spent time on the practice squad last year. Other than that I know nothing about Harvey. Simply stated, the Bills need to find themselves a nose tackle this off-season almost as badly as a franchise LT or QB.

4.    Rush LB: Besides the NT, the rush LB is really what makes the 3-4 a headache for offensive coordinators. As of now, Aaron Schobel and Aaron Maybin are the only two players that fit this role. Schobel is still undecided about retirement, but the Bills could really use his production. He has mentioned in the past that a 3-4 might be a better fit for him. Hopefully he decides to come back in 2010. No one is better suited on this defensive roster for a 3-4 than Aaron Maybin and he will certainly be counted on in 2010. But Schobel’s uncertain status and Maybin’s inexperience makes this an important position to acquire some depth for this off season.  Chris Ellis is another player to keep an eye on as he has ideal height and weight to play the position and might be a better fit.

5.    Wide Receiver: Terrell Owens is as good as gone and Lee Evans might be triple-teamed in 2010 if the Bills are not able to provide our QB with a decent #2 option. Josh Reed is likely gone as well. James Hardy is coming off a major injury and barely saw the field last year. Steve Johnson is also inexperienced, and may be better suited for the slot. Parrish will likely be a bright-spot next year as long as Gailey is able to use his strengths out of slot. No matter which way you cut it, there simply aren’t any receivers I can feel comfortable about starting opposite Evans. Unless, by some miracle, Owens returns in 2010, the Bills will need to get a physical #2 WR.

6.   Guard: The only reason I am putting this on the list is because of the uncertainty of Eric Wood’s status for next year. If Wood returns 100% healthy, this is a non-issue. But given the gruesome way in which he got injured, he is bound to miss at least some time due to recovery. The Bills need to make it a priority to re-sign Richie Incognito just in case Wood doesn’t make it back in time for training camp.

7.  Defensive End: This position ranks lower on the list simply because the Bills have a few 4-3 DT’s who should be able to transition to a 3-4 DE with relative ease. Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson, Cory Mace, and Ryan Denney (if re-signed) should all be able to contribute at defensive end. However the position lacks any long-term prospects to take over in the future.

That’s all for now folks. In the coming weeks I will identify some players the Bills should target in free agency and the draft.

Some important dates to keep in mind:
NFL Combine: Feb 24 – Mar 2
Free Agency begins: March 5
NFL Draft: April 22-24