It has been a rough go for Bills fans over the last 13 seasons. The team has floundered in mediocrity, draft picks have busted and it would appear that free agents would rather go anywhere else.
However, Buddy Nix appears to be making strides to change the culture of this team. After a torrid start, the Bills came crashing down last year and ended up closer to Suck for Luck rather than a wild card berth. The hot start led to an extension for Ryan Fitzpatrick and this week’s contract for Stevie Johnson. The organization is obviously taking strides to build a winner, now it is time to take the next one.
Signing Johnson was necessary. He is the most consistent (drops or not) receiver on the roster and is becoming a viable star talent for the Bills. If the Bills were to have let him walk would have been nothing short of a resignation that the organization was there to make money, not to win games. But they signed him, he is here for the foreseeable future, as is his quarterback.
Fitzpatrick and Johnson now become the cornerstones of the offense with Fred Jackson being the next player who needs to get paid. Beyond that, the Bills are in a situation where they need to show a proper commitment to building a successful franchise. While their recent drafts have produced some serviceable talent, it seems clear that there needs to be time taken to buy talent through free agency.
I don’t necessarily think Vincent Jackson or Mario Williams are the players the Bills need to chase – although that would be nice – they just need to find impact players in places other than the draft.
For the record, Jackson and Williams would be major additions to Buffalo’s roster. I’m hoping to see Melvin Ingram picked in the first round, but adding veteran talent via free agency will push the Buffalo defense to a higher level than they’ve previously been. The same can be said for Jackson and how he would bring benefits to the offense.
It is a long shot for the Bills to grab either Jackson or Williams. But the players they end up with aren’t necessarily the most important part of this season’s free agency. What will be important for the Bills is to fill some of the positions they have typically wasted draft picks on (WR, CB, S) and make room to use their draft picks on the valuable interior players that have been ignored in recent years.
For example, players like Justin Blackmon are atop the draft this season and the Bills are in need of another impact receiver. However, rather than use a pick on yet another skill position (ex. C.J. Spiller), the Bills should be focusing on the defensive front seven and shoring up their offensive line.
I’m aware that Buddy Nix wants to take the best player available in the first round. His approach should be the best player for Buffalo’s immediate needs. Finding a wide receiver to work in tandem with Stevie Johnson is a serious need this offseason. I have little doubt that a formidable replacement can be found via free agency. There is no reason to use the tenth pick on a wide receiver when elite talents on the offensive line and defensive end are waiting to be plucked. The draft will act is a perfect tool to build the on the foundation of the current roster. The main goal should be strengthening that foundation in free agency.
The rest of this week has been ripe with re-signings for the Bills. They locked up some complimentary pieces and players who will likely play key roles on both sides of the ball this season. Obviously the front office is attempting to show their commitment to winning, now they need to continue the trend in free agency next week.