As well, I have hopes for both Losman and McGahee, particularly Losman, but the current status of the offensive line, on par with the worst in the league, raises tremendous concerns for both players even coming close to achieving what they would otherwise be able to.
Thus far the Bills have signed two players in free agency. Unfortunately both players were backups relegating the free agency period thus far to a state of not good. Given that the Bills have lost Jonas Jennings, their best, albeit not premier lineman, along with downward spiraling Pat Williams who was immensely overcompensated by the Vikings, the Bills need to urgently fill spots on the offensive line. The Bills only had four reliable and viable starters on the line last season and with Jennings gone, the entire left side of the Bills' line is up-in-the-air.
But wait, the team signed Mike Gandy. Are fans to be reassured by this signing?
The positives: Gandy is 26 and has just entered his prime. He has played both LT and LG for the Bears.
The negatives: Gandy started in five games last season for the Bears that "led the way" for the NFL's 32nd (last) ranked yardage offense placing a reprehensible and abysmal 35-yards behind the 31st ranked team; the NFL's 32nd (last) ranked scoring offense; the NFL's 32nd (last) ranked passing offense putting up an abysmal 137 yards-per-game; 25th in rushing offense averaging barely over 100-yards-per-game. Boy howdy! The Bills sure know how to duplicate success!
The mitigating circumstance here for Gandy is that he only started five games before injuring his hamstring and being released. Then again, if he were "that good", then why didn't the team place him on IR or retain him otherwise? He started 14 games in 2003 missing two due to injury and helped lead the Bears to the 28th yardage, 23rd scoring, 30th passing, and 18th rushing rankings.
Gandy therefore also brings greater than Jonas Jennings' injury concerns as well having missed two-thirds of last season. Given that the Bills will indeed be fortunate to get average play out of him, combined with the injury concerns, this makes his signing extremely questionable if the Bills are expecting to rely on him as a starter. If not, then who cares. The Bills need line starters, not more below average depth, especially ones with injury dossiers. With aging Villarrial and aging and soon-to-be free agent Trey Teague representing two-thirds of the only linemen worth mentioning otherwise, the Bills had better have a heck-of-a plan B if they truly expect to match, let alone improve, last season's 9-7 mark.
As to Kelly Holcomb, he is a backup and adds absolutely nothing to the starting fabric of this team. The bigger question or concern that fans should have is how they will keep "hanging on by a thread" injury wise McGahee and seemingly fragile JP Losman protected! It makes one wonder whether the Bills front office has actually considered this. But if Losman goes down, the issue is not one of "who will start behind him." Rather, it is one of why was Losman injured and if the answer is poor line play, then the problems of this team extend FAR beyond ‘who the backup QB is!'
Meanwhile, some very excellent linemen just entering or on the front edge of their primes have already been signed to very reasonable contracts placing them in the value-signing category with nary a report of any interest from the Bills! Hello! McFly?!?!
Who knows what the Bills' free agency plan is. But they had better have one. This offseason resembles the last few where the line was once again neglected and incredibly so. If this coaching staff and front office truly believe that the Bills can succeed this season on the hodgepodge of aging average and backup linemen that they now have, then they are sorely mistaken. It makes absolutely no difference who the offensive line coach is.
At present, this Bills line is absolutely no different than the one inherited by the Bills when Commander Tom first came on board. Neither Teague nor Villarrial can be counted on for average, let alone above average play henceforth, and neither may even be with the team in '06 heightening concerns even further looking down the road. The Bills' luck with injuries on the offensive line is also bound to change one of these seasons, yet, the Bills do not even possess four decent starters let alone depth capable of stepping in for extended periods.
Free Agency Report Card to date: F
This team is significantly worse off than it was last season simply due to Jennings' departure as well as another year added to the average talents of Villarrial and Teague who are both on the wrong side of 30 now!
Note to Bills' front office: TALENT MATTERS!!!
For the most up-to-date Free Agency statuses and updates, visit: <A HREF="http://scout.scout.com/a.z?s=24&p=9&c=12&nid=83&lnid=83">Scout.com
2005 Free Agency Tracker</A>