Let's make a deal

Multiple running backs have been visiting Buffalo lately. It's time to read between the lines. If the Bills decide to sign DeShaun Foster or another veteran back, it could only be scratch the surface of a larger shake-up at running back. BFR's Tyler Dunne explains...

Now we know there's something brewing at One Bills Drive.

Bringing in Fred Taylor for a visit hinted at it. Rumors of Kevin Jones' pending visit gave the it a head of steam. And DeShaun Foster's meet-and-greet confirmed it. Yes, there's reason to believe that the Bills are looking to trade one of their top two running backs – Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson. Since when does a team so fervently pursue a No. 3 back? While Lynch's second brush with the law was a curve ball the franchise never expected, he'll be suspended two maybe four games tops.

That's hardly a reason to sift through the running back market like its a clearance rack.

Two possibilities. The Bills are a.) trying to make a team-wide statement by trading Lynch amid his off-field melodrama or b.) looking to deal Jackson before he hits the market as a free agent next year. Buffalo gave Jackson the lowball, $460,000 exclusive rights tender though Jackson has expressed his desire to sign a long-term deal with the club.

Taylor signed a two-year, $5 million contract with New England last week – most likely similar to the sum Buffalo offered. It makes no sense for the Bills to sign a back to such a deal to simply vulture four carries a game as No. 3 on the totem pole. Since when do teams openly recruit that oh-so elusive No. 3 back? While they're at it, why doesn't Buffalo lock up a backup punter, fourth-string placeholder and sixth-string towel boy. You know, the essentials.

Forget about it. There's a hidden message here.

Granted, Foster would come at a cheaper price. He hasn't developed into the explosive back he masqueraded as at times in Carolina. With San Francisco last season, Foster only averaged 3.1 yards per carry.

But a lesser talent and a slightly cheaper contract doesn't distract from the overriding theme. The Bills have been hell-bent on adding a veteran to an already overcrowed backfield. No way dynamo Xavier Omon is released – he's Buffalo's long-term Sproles-ish project. And no way the Bills consider paying a player $5 million to simply fill in as the No. 2 man during a starter's suspension (Jackson would start).

After Lynch's two messy incidents, Ko Simpson's childish rant to the cops and the alleged gun James Hardy pulled on his dad, the Bills are veering down the Bengals path to self-destruction. Ridding themselves of Lynch and his two year's worth of baggage would be a titantic statement to the team that hooliganism is strictly prohibited. Once and for all, kaboshed.

Signing Foster, trading Lynch and giving Jackson the long-term contract he's asking for (and deserves) is a brilliant tic-tac-toe scenario. Not only does Jackson vault into the role he has rightfully earned the past two seasons but, who knows, the Bills may be able to cure its receiver woes in the process. With Laveranues Coles gone to Cincinnati, there's nothing but a bargain-bin of receivers left to choose from. Trading Lynch with a pick for one of the many disgruntled receivers in the NFL isn't out of the realm of possivbility.

Beast Mode's value remains high. On the field, he's a fireball. Treating every carry like it's his last, he is football's equivalent to Allen Iverson. Extrapolate the Marshawn Lynch that tore up the New York Jets' vaunted front seven in Week 15 over a full season and he's a top five back. Hands down.

Between his two 1,000-yard seasons, one Pro Bowl and that appealing mean streak on the field, Lynch would draw a ton of interest. And we all know how general managers love giving those gentle second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances to players these days.

A shot-in-the-dark fantasy? Sure sounds like some fantasy football pipe dream. But one insider told me that such a scenario isn't that bizarre, rather a logical possibility. A full-court press of visits is how it starts – after all, visits are a window into the inner-workings of a front office.

The Bills haven't peeped a word about Lynch. But the free agent running backs strolling into Orchard Park, N.Y. sure echo one loud message that a major change could be on the way.

thdunne@gmail.com

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