Bills fans entered the offseason with low expectations. We knew a few things: cap money was tight, Mario was on his way out, and we were going to lose at least one of our three good free agents. What has happened between the end of the season and now, two weeks before the draft, has been relatively surprising, in both good and bad ways.
First, the cap situation. Doug Whaley has proven again that he’s actually a fairly competent GM. He maneuvered around enough pieces to free up the cap space to afford a franchise tag on Cordy Glenn and a new contract for Richie Incognito, securing our two most valuable free agents, while setting enough aside to sign some depth and special teams players. The downside to this is that Mario Williams, the sack master in Buffalo for the last four years, had to be released and Nigel Bradham, the best linebacker on the team, was allowed to wander to Philadelphia. Other good depth players were also cap casualties, namely Leodis McKelvin and Bacardi Rambo, making the defensive back situation rather bleak in Western New York.
On the whole, I’ll give the Bills a solid B for their handling of a sticky cap situation. They lose a couple players they probably would have preferred to keep, but they retained the biggest pieces to their puzzle by keeping the left side of the offensive line intact. Losing Mario is a pretty big loss, especially to a division rival, but, as talented as he is, he did not put in the effort last year due to his disagreements with Rex Ryan’s scheme. I can sympathize, but all the talent in the world doesn’t help if you don’t try on the field. The loss of Bradham will sting far more, but I like the signing of Zach Brown as a possible replacement on a cheap, one year deal. The additions of Robert Blanton, Sterling Moore, Corey White, and Colt Anderson will hopefully yield a serviceable replacement for McKelvin and Rambo on the cheap.
The coaching side of the Bills equation is another matter. Rex Ryan was a failure in year one, implementing a scheme for which his personnel were ill suited and refusing to adapt to his new situation. I’m surprised that the defense took such a major step back, but not at all surprised that the reason was basically due to Rex’s stubbornness and pride. The “solution”, unfortunately, has been to fire the old defensive line coach and replace him with a yes man who will do what Rex wants instead of what might actually work. Additionally, Rex decided that his brother Rob was the perfect remedy for an ailing defense, since he had done such spectacular work in Dallas and New Orleans.
I can’t wait to see how this turns out, personally. It’s either going to be an epic disaster of mismanagement and failure leading to the termination of Rex Ryan and Co., or Rex will get the people who will submit to his scheme and the defense will improve back to a level more like what he put on the field in New York/Jersey. Either situation is a win for me, because as far as I am concerned, this season’s success or failure hinges entirely on the development of Tyrod Taylor and his synergy with the very capable weapons the Bills have on offense. Another eight or nine win season with no playoffs would be a drag, but if it comes with a big step forward for T-Mobile and the demise of Rexy, I can deal with it.