March 1, 4:17 p.m.
Crowell about to leave?
BFR's Pat Moran found out that free agent OLB Angelo Crowell is close to reaching an agreement with Tampa Bay.
Of course, the Buccaneers cleared house a few days ago to gear up for free agency. Even after trading for much-maligned tight end Kellen Winslow, the team has money to burn. The Bucs couldn't ink Albert Haynesworth, who signed a $100 million deal with Washington.
Check out the Buccaneer buzz on Crowell at the Pewter Report here.
March 1, 12:19 p.m.
Coles may sign today
...in Buffalo or Miami. As we suspected at the BFR, Laveranues Coles would narrow his choices down to these two teams. While playing with buddy Chad Pennington is a major draw for the Dolphins, report indicate that the Bills are offering more money.
The New York Daily News expects Coles to choose between the two teams today. Read Rich Cimini's blog here
Stay tuned. The Bills may be mere hours away from landing their keynote player of the free agency period. My bet's still on Miami. Coles really made his displeasure with Brett Favre public last offseason. Pennington recruited back to the Jets from the Redskins in the first place.
How much does money talk? We'll see. Because Buffalo has a lot of it to hand Coles.
March 1, 12:09p.m.
Greer could be gone today
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Jabari Greer could sign with the Lions today. He visited the team and reports indicate it went great.
The Lions have acquired two cornerbacks already. The team robbed Dallas by dealing Jon Kitna for the Cowboys' No. 1 CB, Anthony Henry. And Detroit also signed Eric King from Tennesse.
Greer, though, is probably better than both. With the Bills, he developed in a bonafide shutdown corner. Detroit's hapless secondary needs all the help it can get.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Greer leave. Buffalo has Yankee-like money to spend, but has much bigger needs than cornerback. Leodis McKelvin is expected to step in immediately after a banner rookie campaign.
Still, the Bills will need to jump at a wide receiver soon. The fact that Laveranues Coles left One Bills Drive without a contract isn't encouraging. If Buffalo is forced to settle with a Devery Henderson-type of weapon at receiver, you'll have to question its passiveness toward Greer.
We shall see. Keep it here all day for updates.
Feb. 28, 2:43 p.m.
Through the first two days of free agency, not many wide receivers have flown off the shelf. That may be changing, though.
Bryant Johnson, the free agent wideout that nearly signed with Buffalo last year, has signed with the Detroit Lions according to Pro Football Talk. The report says that Johnson signed for $9 million over three years.
That's a lot of money for someone who's been mediocre at best over his whole career. Still, it's a sign that the Bills may want to get on their high horse here. There's some solid wideouts available. It's time for the Bills to flex their muscles and use all that available cap space.
Feb. 27, 5:15 p.m.
Greer slipping away
It's going to be awfully difficult for Buffalo to retain starting cornerback Jabari Greer.
As one of the best remaining free agents on the open market, Greer's interest is soaring. Scout.com has learned that Greer has received interest from the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.
He is expected to visit the Lions this weekend --- with more to follow.
Buffalo has plenty of cap room but it doesn't look like Russ Brandon will use it on Greer. The Bills have four UFA visitors today (see post below). Leodis McKelvin's banner rookie season is certainly a big reason why the Bills may not push hard to keep Greer.
Feb. 27, 12:54 p.m.
Bills want Coles
Buffalo hasn't inked any marquee names quite yet in free agency. But that could change soon.
Laveranues Coles will visit Buffalo, the team announced today. Also slated to come in for visits are Cincinnati quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carolina center/guard Geoff Hangartner and Pittsburgh guard Kendall Simmons.
Coles instantly fills the Bills' No. 1 need this offseason. Lee Evans has been lacking a potent threat on the other side of him his entire career. Signing Coles could also pump some much-needed life into a dead fan base.
The Bills scored three points or less in three of their last four games last year. Coles instantly brings more legitimacy to the passing game. While the team would likely need to overpay for him, it's worth it. James Hardy hasn't developed. Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish are fringe No. 3 wideouts. And there's no guarantee that Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtee slips to the team in the draft.
We'll keep you posted...
Feb. 26, 7:50 p.m.
Bills have interest in top center
Scout.com's Adam Caplan is reporting that the Bills, Dolphins and Redskins have interest in Baltimore Ravens' center Jason Brown.
Click here for Caplan's report.
Brown could earn a contract in the ball park of Alan Faneca, who is making $8 million per year with the Jets. The Bills need to shore up the interior of their offensive line after getting eaten up by 3-4 defenses last season. Duke Preston struggled mightily against the likes of Vince Wilfork, Kris Jenkins and Jason Ferguson. Considering every other team in the division employs the 3-4 alignment, the Bills are being proactive in dealing with this problem.
Earlier today, they released top-paid lineman Derrick Dockery. Now it looks like more moves are on the way. Brown would be a keynote signing to the 2009 class. With the Ravens he helped anchor the NFL's fourth-best rushing attack in the league. Baltimore averaged 148.5 yards on the ground behind the strength of Le'Ron McClain (902 yards, 10 TD), Willis McGahee (671 yards, 7 TD) and Ray Rice (454 yards).
Every defense knew the Ravens were going to run and run and run last season, yet Baltimore continued having success. A lot of that has to do with Brown.
Feb. 26, 5:40 p.m.
Chambers to sign?
ESPN.com's Tim Graham is reporting that the Bills are close to reaching an agreement with versatile offensive lineman Kirk Chambers.
Kirk Chambers appears to be coming back to Buffalo.
Chambers was poised to enter free agency, but in lieu of Derrick Dockery's release, Chambers appears to be sticking around. He played in all 16 games, while starting at both tackle and guard at different junctures. Chambers started at right guard in Week 10 in Buffalo's 20-10 loss to New England. In that contest, the Bills only mustered 60 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
Still, Chambers could be a cost-efficient starter on the line. He outplayed Jason Peters at tackle at times. Whether his re-signing is a reflection of Dockery's release or Peters-related remains to be seen.
Also of note, Robert Royal has officially been released per Adam Schefter. Royal was a major disappointment at tight end for Buffalo, never showing consistent hands in the passing game. Philadelphia's L.J. Smith is the best tight end on the market. Smith's best season with the Eagles came in '05 when he caught 61 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Buffalo also may be looking to the draft where a rich tight end class awaits.
Feb. 26, 3:00 p.m.
Signing top TE would be costly
Rumors are swirling that the Bills are going release tight end Robert Royal. If so, replacing him with the best tight end on the market would come at a hefty price.
Houston Texans RFA Owen Daniels will receive a one-year tender from his team at $2.792, Scout.com has confirmed. If Buffalo signs Daniels and the Texans opt not to match, it'd cost the Bills first- and third-round picks.
Still, maybe it's worth it. Daniels is the fastest rising tight end in the NFL. He's big, athletic and sure-handed. Last season he caught 70 balls for 862 yards and made the Pro Bowl.
Here's a story I wrote more than a month ago, advocating the team pursue Daniels. He'd certainly open up the passing game --- albeit at a steep price.
Feb. 21, 12:32 a.m.
Schonert confident in EdwardsGood stuff here from offensive coordinator Turk Schonert in an interview with the Buffalo News. He's pleased with the progress Trent Edwards made last season and sheds some light on personnel.
While he's at the Combine, crunching the numbers of Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford, it'd be easy for Schonert to get second thoughts on his current starter. But by the sounds of it, he's encouraged that Edwards is on the right track.
---Schonert said the Bills must improve in pass protection. Jason Peters gave up the most sacks for a starting left tackle. You'd think this concept starts there.
---He also acknowledged to Mark Gaughan that Lee Evans needs help in the passing game. Double teams ate him up every game.
---The offense is under complete evaluation, Schonert said, in reference to the use of a fullback.
---Schonert wants to use the no-huddle more, like the Bills did late in the game to beat Oakland.
Feb. 19, 2:30 p.m.
DiGiorgio provides valuable depth
Good move by Buffalo to re-up John DiGiorgio's deal. Two years ago he stepped in at middle linebacker and was 2nd on the team in tackles (113). He isn't overly explosive but is fundamentally sound --- and can start in a pinch.
Of course, he'll need to recover from his season-ending knee injury --- just like Paul Posluszny did last year. But if DiGiorgio does bounce back in time, he'll add to a linebacker corps that's been depleted by injuries. Remember, Angelo Crowell and Alvin Bowen each suffered season-ending injuries last year too.
Stockpiling bodies certaintly can't hurt. DiGiorgio showed tons of promise in '07. Maybe he has more in store.
Feb. 16, 11:20 p.m.
WR Updates, Johnson again?
Maybe T.J. Houshmandzadeh isn't the only Bungle receiver heading into the market. The free agent to-be told ESPN that Chad Johnson will be playing elsewhere too in '09.
Anybody else feel for Carson Palmer out there? Good grief. The poor guy will be flinging passes to Chris Henry and Antonio Chatman next year. One should be banned from football, the other is 5-foot-9 (probably more like 5-7). Yikes.
Anyways, this is great news for Buffalo. Not that having Ocho Cinco is a good thing. Hardly. Just the fact that Johnson may be available adds overall value to a meak wide receiver market. Plenty of big-hitters will be throwing their weight around in a couple weeks. But this news coupled with Plaxico Burress' recent desire to be traded adds more punch to an iffy crop of receivers. Because it's starting to look like the Bills will be staring at the same wide receiver they were last year at this time. Here's the latest on the bunch...
---Anquan Boldin wants out of Arizona -- though the Birds have shown no desire to move him quite yet.
Early indications hint that Antonio Bryant -- who may have been the best receiver in the NFL through December -- will be back with the Bucs.
---Look for New Orleans' RFA Lance Moore to be tendered. He was Drew Brees' go-to guy most of last season with 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns. Don't expect a pass-heavy team like the Saints to let him walk. If anything, the Saints will let Devery Henderson sign with another team. Henderson, a one-dimensional deep threat, would be a careless signing for Buffalo. The Bills need a big body to work the middle of the field.
---The guy who may benefit from Bryant and Moore sticking with the same clubs? Pittsburgh's Nate Washington. The deep threat was quiet through Pittsburgh's Super Bowl run but posted a career-high 631 yards in the regular season. Some team will feel obligated to give this guy more than he probably deserves (Think: Drew Bennett getting $30 million over 6 years with St. Louis two years ago).
---Bryant Johnson was the buzz name last year in these parts. But the Bills didn't offer Johnson the mega contract he was looking for and he signed a one-year trial with the 'Niners. With San Francisco, Johnson caught 45 passes for 546 yards and three scores. Beat writer Matt Barrows said he thinks there's a 65 percent chance the 49ers let Johnson leave in free agency.
Bryant Johnson could be in the mix again.
As of right now, via process of elimination, Johnson seems like he may be Buffalo's most realistic option right now. Unless the Bills draw up an unprecented deal for Houshmandzadeh or the team somehow swings a mega deal for Boldin, Johnson is the only plus-sized wideout out there worth chasing. He'd be cost efficient, a Ralph Wilson favorite. And as a big target, Johnson fits a void in the Bills' passing offense --- even if he's a B-rate option.
Yeah, I know. The idea of signing Bryant Johnson is about as much fun as that Statistics class you took back in college. Not exactly the cure-all medicine Buffalo's dull offense needs. But Johnson, who caught 40 balls in four straight seasons as Arizona's No. 3 receiver, was much better than his numbers indicated last year. Outside of San Francisco's dreadful quarterback play, Johnson battled leg injuries all season.Check out San Francisco Insider Craig Massei's story here. The SFI editor-in-chief provides an in-depth analysis of Johnson heading into free agency. Pretty detailed stuff here.
If the Bills can get Johnson at a reasonable multi-year contract and splurge elsewhere (on say, Chris Canty), it may all be worth it.
Should be a wild ride folks...
Feb. 9, 12:45 p.m.
Bills rank No. 1 on special teams
For the third time in the last five years, the Bills' special teams unit ranked first in the Dallas Morning News' annual report.
Read here for the full story.
No surprise here. While the Bills' offense and defense has toiled in the bottom half of the league all decade, the kicking and return games are always strong. Maybe Frank Wycheck triggered some reverse dynamic. Who knows. The Bills have managed to replenish talent yearly in the return games. Leodis McKelvin is arguably the most dynamic returner in the league and Roscoe Parrish is a threat to take it the distance on any punt.
Bobby April could be one of the most underrated assistant coaches in the league. He's manifested mistake-free coverage units year after year that gel well with McKelvin, Parrish, Terrence McGee and others.
The key stat that stood out to me in this report is that the Bills averaged the best starting field position. Just goes to show how bland the offense was. Despite the best starting field position, Buffalo only posted 31 offensive touhchdowns in 2008.
Feb. 5, 1:45 p.m.
No surgery. The Bills caught a break this week when Aaron Schobel discovered his Lisfranc foot injury will not require surgery. Such a setback would have been a big blow to the defensive end's recovery. Instead, a 15-minute workout with trainer Bud Carpenter provided enough substantial evidence that Schobel will not need surgery.
"I worked out on it and did pretty good," Schobel said on the team's website. "I did some running and checked it. (Bud) was basically watching my stride because the last time I worked on it my stride was shorter and I wasn't putting as much pressure on it. But my stride was pretty much back to normal."
The major question mark was whether Schobel could push off of the foot, which is obviously paramount for a pass rusher off the edge. All signs point toward a speedy recovery now. Surgery would have been a big hit to a pass rush that already is thirsting for game-changers.
Avoiding grueling rehab gave Schobel a big reason to exhale...and joke around a bit.
"It's a big relief," he said on the site. "Who the hell wants to sit around in the offseason in a cast and a boot for 12 weeks? I can do stuff around the house and other things I like to do. I would have been a nuisance to my wife and kids if I had to sit around because I'm already pretty lazy around the house. Imagine if I had an excuse."
Feb. 3, 12:55 a.m.
Who is Ralph Wilson to you
To local televison reporter, Ed Kilgore, quite a lot. Kilgore's countless years covering the team has given him the context to write this insightful piece of the Buffalo Bills owner.
Wilson is completely deserving of his Hall of Fame induction. His behind-the-scenes role in the AFL-NFL merger and ability to keep the Buffalo Bills franchise alive for half a century. As Kilgore notes, Wilson easily could have chosen a different city as a landing spot way back then.
The bust in Canton is deserving. But it hardly is a mask for what has happened to the Bills franchise this decade.
The organization has taken ten steps backwards, futility to Detroit Lions proportions. The last time the Bills were in the playoffs, Bill Clinton was president and your daughter was demanding beanie bags every night you came from work. It's been a while, folks. Someone has to take the fall.
Since Tom Donahoe's exit, Wilson hasn't given a personnel general manager to make full-reign decisions. Whereas teams like Kansas City pounce on Scott Pioli faster than Jack Bauer, Wilson's content with his hodgepodge staff. Whereas Tampa Bay and Denver fire two proven, Super-Bowl coaches, the Bills retain lamest of ducks.
Any possible notion that it isn't about money to Ralph Wilson was squashed with his surreal decision to keep Jauron.
He says he sympathizes with fans...and then he laughs after an embarrasing performance in Toronto. Seemingly every year after the owner's meeting, Wilson warns that the small-market Bills will have trouble surviving...and he slaps his name on the stadium instead of taking millions of dollars from a sponsor.
Don't mean to rain on Wilson's parade or anything. The 91-year-old is the only owner this team has ever known. Context is important. But in the here and now, Wilson isn't exactly loved by his own fan base.
Go to The Rockpile to say what Ralph Wilson means to you.
Jan. 29, 12:36 a.m.
Sanders' unit responsible for Pack's demise
Buffalo added Bob Sanders to its defensive coaching staff Wednesday --- no question, a shot of Febreeze to a stale front four. The Bills will need to change personnel at one of the defensive end spots and have a healthy Aaron Schobel to boast a strong pass rush. But Sanders could be a start. Schematically, the approach to rushing quarterbacks should change.
Still, it doesn't change the fact that the Bills are inheriting a coach that struggled mightily last season. Injuries hit Green Bay's defense hard, but players were often out of place. Here's what Packer Report Publisher Bill Huber had to say about Sanders:
"While there was plenty of blame to go around for the Packers' fall from 13-3 to 6-10, Sanders' defense was the biggest culprit.
The defense's problems were especially evident late in games. The Packers yielded a whopping 135 points in the fourth quarter, with many of those coming in key junctures of the Packers' seven losses by four points or less.
In the final tally, the Packers' defense ranked 22nd in the league in points allowed and 20th in yards. In 2007, the Packers tied for sixth in points allowed and were 11th in yards.
Injuries were a major issue, though, with four stalwarts — Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnett, Atari Bigby and cornerback Al Harris — missing a combined 32 starts. Plus, speed-rushing defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila never recovered from offseason knee injury and was released at midseason because he wasn't providing any pass rush.
Sanders never found an answer to the lack of a pass rush. More damning, though, were the so-called communication breakdowns. As a third-year coordinator with mostly the same personnel, those breakdowns should have been practically nonexistent."
Jan. 21, 1:20 p.m.
Peters will sit out Pro Bowl
When Jason Peters and Bills execs sit down to iron out a new contract, the team's left tackle will certainly laud his two Pro Bowl bids.
Funny thing is, he will have never have played in either of the two games. For the second straight season, Peters will sit out of the Pro Bowl, numerous news outlets have reported. No word yet why Peters is missing this year's Hawaii festivities, but the bum knee that sidelined him in Buffalo's final two games may be the issue. Miami Dolphins' '08 first overall pick Jake Long will supplant Peters in the game, which is set for Feb. 8.
Now, the Bills have zero players participating in the Pro Bowl.
Jan. 19, 3:38 p.m.
Taxin' gone wild
Even as the Buffalo Bills creep closer toward Toronto, the taxes for Erie County citizens is increasing.
Erie County taxpayers will subsidize the Bills $817,000 for each game at The Ralph next season, the Buffalo News reported yesterday (as part of a lease deal). Despite the organization playing games in Toronto, the cost for locals in WNY is not decreasing.
The trend isn't expected to reverse, either.
The News reported that in 2010, when Buffalo plays a preseason game and a home game in Toronto, the Erie Country subsidy will top more than $900,000 for each game played at Orchard Park.
The Bills claim the extra money is needed for "operating expenses" and "game-day expenses." County Executive Chris Collins said the Bills central role in the community is worth it all.
"When it comes to quality of life, we have parks, we have culturals, and the Bills fit into what I will call that quality of life," Collins said in The News. "Given the total size of our county budget, and what we do, I could put together an argument that the one cultural institution that we support that has all but 100 percent impact throughout the community is the Bills...Not everyone goes to the zoo. Not everybody goes to Chestnut Ridge Park, and so forth. Pretty much the whole community supports the Bills."
This isn't complicated. The Bills remain propped onto its legs behind county money. As a private business the team should find a way to fund itself. Upping the ante when you haven't made the playoffs since 1999 makes no sense. It's an insult to the fan base. Sooner or later locals --- the ones selling games out at The Ralph through the losing seasons --- are going to snap. Rather than tax his core fan base for a new scoreboard and security, Ralph Wilson needs to take accountability.
Yes, the Bills are the No. 1 attraction for this region...which is all the more reason it shouldn't operate at the expense of locals. Before even thinking about charging the taxpayers another penny, Wilson needs to take his name off the stadium once and for all. It's time for Buffalo's owner to --- once and for all --- sell the naming rights to the stadium. For comparison, the Philadelphia Eagles sold the naming rights of their stadium to Lincoln Financial in 2002 for $139.6 million over 21 years. The Seattle Seahawks are making $75 million over 15 years from Qwest Communications.
Rather than complain about the Bills being a small-market team in a dog-eat-dog economy, Wilson should face the obvious. Embrace a sponsor and stop taxing.
Jan. 18, 11:50 p.m.
Great news for Edwards
A season to forget was touched off with a surprising dose of good news this weekend when The Buffalo News reported Trent Edwards will not need shoulder surgery. The News reported that Edwards consulted with several doctors after the season. The tests confirmed that his shoulder is not a serious ailment.
Painful salt in the wound is averted here.
Surgery would have considerably set Edwards back and probably forced Buffalo to test the free agent market more vigorously for a veteran quarterback. Now Edwards can build on the progress he made in the weight room last off-season. After packing on upper-body strength last year, Edwards' arm appeared stronger. Another off-season of similar training should show bigger gains. Sports trainers often say that you don't see considerable weight-room gains for a full calendar year. If that's the case, Edwards will make major strides this spring.
Don't expect Edwards to emerge from the weight room like Big Ben, but a tad more zing on his already-accurate ball will help big time.
Jan. 15, 2:40 p.m.
Bills ink 7, watch Hawthorne
Buffalo signed seven reserve future free agents Thursday. Some names may sounds familiar --- all seven were on the practice squad last season. The list includes offensive linemen Chris Denman and Brandon Rodd, linebacker Vince Hall, receivers C.J. Hawthorne, Felton Huggins and Mike Jefferson, and defensive lineman Marcus Smith.Reserve future players do not count toward a team's offseason roster until March. Still, they are contractually tied to the club which means no other team can snatch them up.
Who knows? With another full minicamp and training camp, maybe one of these guys steps up into the 53-man roster. The opportunity sure will be there. The Bills will almost certainly some type of personnel overhaul after last season's embarrasing demise...and Ralph Wilson's immortalized sound bite that the team lacks talent.
Keep your peripheral vision on Hawthorne.
The former receiver in Hawaii's juggernaut offense is versatile and has blazing, 4.4 speed. He was moved to wide receiver in his final season at Hawaii and made 61 catches for 859 yards and six touchdowns. He's just getting used to this whole catching the ball thing at an elite level. Maybe his raw talent molds into something special.
And if nothing else, you can't help but notice someone who names his son after Kobe Bryant and Tayshaun Prince (seriously).
See for yourself on this link.
Hawthorne also put a picture of the Geico caveman on his helmet at practice. Don't worry. I'll refrain from tying the "So easy a caveman could do it" phrase to the Buffalo's receiving corps...
Jan. 10, 8:31 p.m.
Building with Defense
Just got done watching a very entertaining AFC Divisional clash between Tennessee and Baltimore and it got me thinking about how NFL teams are built. Here are the Ravens --- with an offense about as explosive as a 10-year old water gun --- advancing to the AFC Championship. Why? Baltimore's front office replenishes and nurtures talent on defense every single year.
The Ravens seek the perfect fits for Rex Ryan's blitz-heavy, 46 defense year-in and year-out. The investments are made on the defense. Offensively, they simply fill in the gaps with pedestrian players --- never seeming too enthused at cashing in on big-money receivers and backs. Whereas most GM's frantically seek franchise quarterbacks, the Ravens have been consistent contenders with a bland Trent Dilfer, a brutal Kyle Boller, an over-the-hill Steve McNair and now, a rookie Joe Flacco.
Baltimore seeks blood-thirsty, ball-hawkers to lead the 'D' --- from Chris McAlister, Rod Woodson, Peter Boulware back on the 2000 Super Bowl team to Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Bart Scott on this team. Throw in a ginormous nose guard (Tony Siragusa then, Haloti Ngata now) and the closest a player will ever come to an actual pit bull (Ray Lewis) and you have an everlasting defense that is always among the league's elite.
Why not follow this blueprint? Obviously, the Bills need a wealth of riches on offense but the defense has a foundation set. Marcus Stroud, Paul Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Kawika Mitchell are guys you can build around. The 'D' finished last year strong, an encouraging sign. With two or three more playmakers and a fierce pass rusher off the edge, the Bills can take a step in the Ravens' direction.
Who knows. Maybe Buffalo's problem this decade has been an overkill on the offense. Constant attention to the offense through the Donahoe Era hurt this team bad.
The '08 free agent market is suited for the defense-first formula. Suggs, Lewis, Scott Julius Peppers, Albert Haynesworth, Nnamdi Asomugha, Karlos Dansby and Rocky Bernard highlight a stacked crop of defensive free agents. Don't be surprised if the Bills buck conventional wisdom and snare one of this FA's as their first priority. Baltimore has proven that a 24/7 focus on defense yields continued success.
Jan. 8, 10:45 p.m.
As I sit here, wondering how Tim Tebow could fit into the Buffalo Bills' offense, let's take a step back and look at last year's draft. Remember, after New England drafted linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Bills suddenly had a choice at cornerback: Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Leading up to the draft, wide receiver was considered the odd's on position of need for the Bills. But due to a dry talent pool and the overall risk of drafting a wideout in the first round, Buffalo turned to CB. I thought the Pats would snatch up McKelvin --- a player they coveted. And therefore, DRC appeared to be the best choice for Buffalo. The cousin of San Diego's Antonio Cromartie was the DI-AA wonder boy everyone fell in love with at the Combine.
Rather than risk the possibilites of the pogo-stick elusive DRC, Buffalo drafted McKelvin. After he went on to rank third in the league in kick return average and give the Bills better average field position than any team in the lead, it seems Buffalo made the right choice.
Still, Rodgers-Cromartie had a solid year in Arizona. Scout.com's Chris Steuber recently ranked the best rookies still playing in the playoffs. He makes some great points in the piece, ranking DRC as the 5th best rookie still alive in the postseason.
To me, DRC seemed to good to pass up at the time. His freakish combination of size, speed, playmaking and pedigree oozed with every highlight. He may develop into a top-flight cornerback, but McKelvin is something more, something truly special. The Troy prospect is by far the fastest, straight-line player the Bills have had this decade --- perfect for kickoffs. McKelvin anticipates lanes before they develop and weaves through the coverage with uncanny instincts. If he can translate his gifts to cornerback, which he proves he can do at times in '08, than Buffalo may have a Deion-ish talent in the secondary.Bang it here to say who you think will grow into the better long-term pro.
And man, Tebow is the real deal. No other quarterback is willing to slam his body into linebackers again, again and again. I think he'd be a major breath of fresh air to any bad team picking in the Top 10. If Tebow and Sam Bradford declare, the '09 Draft Class suddenly becomes another Year of the Quarterback (Matthew Stafford included).
Can Buffalo really afford sit idly back yet again if that's the case? No Jay Cutler. No Brady Quinn. No...Tebow? We'll see. There sure will be some intrigue this draft for the Bills.
Jan. 8, 2:25 p.m.
Kemp battling cancer
Jack Kemp has faced different kinds of challenges his whole life, from blood-thirsty defensive ends to blood-thirsty politicians. He once joked that he's a "recovering politician."
But now Kemp, 73, is facing the biggest challenge of his life. This week his office announced that the former Bills quarterback has been diagnosed with cancer.
The type of cancer was not disclosed. The brief statement said that Kemp is undergoing tests to find the origin of the disease. Already showing his resolve, Kemp said he will continue to work as the chairman of Kemp Partners consulting firm and will also keep up his charity and political work.
Kemp was one of the best quarterbacks in Buffalo Bills history. After his football career, Kemp became a leading figure of the Republican Party --- culminating in 1996 when he ran as Bob Dole's running mate in the presidential race. On Wednesday Dole said that Kemp is "a tough guy of deep faith, and his multitudes of friends are praying for the best." We continue deepest prayers here at the Buffalo Football Report and ask everybody to do the same. Through his football and political career, Kemp was a man of true character and integrity.
Jan. 7, 3:55 p.m.
Thoughts on H.O.F. finalists
Kind of ironic that Ralph Wilson makes the list of finalists at the exact moment his fans are infuriated at him. While he is rightfully under a ton of heat right now, his overall legacy in the league will eventually net him a bust in Canton. Wilson and Lamar Hunt were AFL pioneers.
All three of the Bills finalists will get into the Hall sooner of later. It'll be tough this year for Buffalo to go 3-for-3 though. Expect Bruce Smith to be a first ballot, slam-dunk choice. The league's all-time sacks leader will be an obvious shoe-in for the selection committee.
It's a difficult year for Reed to get in, though. People may choose between Reed and Cris Carter --- in which case, Carter gets the nod this time around. You just hope Reed doesn't have to wait around as long as Art Monk did. Reed was as gritty as they come, from catching clutch touchdowns (The Comeback) to popping a dislocated finger back into place.
Wilson? Just a tough sell for him to get in right now. Not many owners in the history of the NFL would even think about retaining a coach that lost eight of his last 10 games.
All this buzz about the 90s Bills teams should energize the fan base a little bit. To turn that frown upside down, click here for the greatest comeback in NFL history. Cris Carter may be two slots ahead of Andre Reed on the all-time receiving list but this single game puts Reed in a class of his own.
My prediction for the '09 Hall? Bruce Smith, Cris Carter, Bob Hayes, Derrick Thomas and Paul Tagliabue.
Head to the BFR Rockpile forum to get your prediction out there...
Jan. 6, 11:02 p.m.
Edwards has injured shoulder
The bad news continues to pour out of One Bills Drive. Merely days after Ko Simpson's infamous rant, it was reported by multiple news outlets Monday night that Trent Edwards has an injured right shoulder.
According to the reports, he is seeking advice on what he should do to treat the damage. Salsports.com went as far to say that Edwards may need surgery to repair the shoulder. He injured his throwing shoulder at Stanford in his final collegiate game. This current injury could possibly be rooted in that 38-31 loss to Notre Dame.
Nothing seems concrete quite yet. The team has not commented on the situation. We'll keep a close eye on it and let you know when something breaks. If he needs surgery, the Bills may be more aggressive in free agency at acquiring a veteran.
Jan. 5, 12:36 a.m.
Buffalo defensive end Aaron Schobel will report back to the team on Feb. 1 and have his foot re-evaluated, the team web site said. Upon his return, Schobel will undergo three days of hard football-related activity by the Bills' training staff. After this, a circuit of MRIs and x-rays will be conducted to gauge whether his foot has made progress. If not, he'll need surgery.
"It felt better than it did three weeks ago," he said on the site. "It's getting better. I think a lot of my pain is coming from the bone bruises and not the ligament, which is good."
Of course, surgery would be another major step backward for Schobel. Six months of rehab could be a major blow for the Buffalo defensive end that has seen his production decline since signing a seven-year, $50.5 million deal in August of 2007. In his last two years, the Bills' lone viable pass-rushing option has seven sacks in 21 games.
To his credit, Schobel's hopes are high. He sounds bound and determined to rediscover himself this off-season and return to his Pro Bowl form. Considering Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay were ballooned into no-man's land all season (six combined sacks all season), the Bills will probably pursue a speed rusher this off-season. Last year, veteran James Hall made a visit but never signed. There isn't much available in this market as far as one-dimensional pass rushers, but if the team really wants to attack this problem head-on two dynamite free agents are out there: Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs. Sure, they'd cost a lot. But if Schobel needs surgery, the Bills shouldn't think twice. They can't afford another season with a zapless pass rush. With just 24 sacks in 16 games (28th in NFL), Buffalo gave opposing offense all day to throw --- forcing a talented secondary to cover receivers far too long.
Schobel said he sees improvement in his foot in just the past few weeks. More encouraging, he believes any pain he does feel is from bruises, not the ligament itself. The next few weeks will be crucial. We'll keep you updated on Schobel and all free agency grumblings.
Jan. 4, 2:35 p.m.
Teammate: "I Don't Ever Count Jim Leonhard Out"
Maybe it's that "woe me" attitude Buffalo fans have become accustomed to over the years, but you could make a whole team of Bills castoffs in the playoffs right now.
Moments ago, Jim Leonhard picked off Chad Pennington in the AFC Wild Card. He's perfect for the Ravens defense. Leonhard might never be John Lynch, but in the Ravens' aggressive, cutthroat defense, he's an ideal playmaker at safety. This season he finished with 69 tackles. With the Bills last year, Leonhard stepped in for Ko Simpson and played half the season with a calf injury. Unfortunately, he was forgotten as just part of a failed unit and the Bills didn't re-sign him. Instead, Buffalo picked up Will James, drafted a pair of corners and re-signed underused Bryan Scott.
All Leonhard did was go to the best defense of this decade and start, while Buffalo bumbled with secondary problems all season. Injuries forced Donte Whitner to play nickel, among weekly reshuffling. Sure would've been handy to have Leonhard in the mix --- especially as a certain Simpson acts like Homer outside of a club.
I highly doubt Leonhard even thinks about pulling such a stunt. Click here for a very interesting piece on Leonhard in The Baltimore Sun. The guy is doing everything to contribute to the Ravens. One quote from Leonhard's teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo should particularly stand out.
Speaking of this Miami-Baltimore game, I don't think Ed Hochuli could possibly wear a tighter shirt. My gosh. You'd think he was Zak from Ghost Adventures (which is a great show by the way).