Should the Bills rebuild now to prepare for a future playoff run?
For years now, (17 to be exact), the Buffalo Bills have been the poster child of mediocrity in the NFL having not had a playoff appearance since 1999. A year where The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Sixpence None the Richer (“Kiss Me”), all had hits on the Billboard Top 100.
Over that span, the Buffalo Bills have been quite frankly, a bit of a joke. A laughing stock if you will. For every single year, Bills’ fans begin every season wide-eyed and hopeful that everything is going to go right and that this will finally be the year they make it to the playoffs, only to be let down by a typical, 7-9 or 8-8, season that ends in another AFC East title for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Entering into this season, the attitude appears to be the same, with many questions surrounding the team before the start of training camp.
But instead of the same ol’ wishful thinking, is it time for the Bills organization to look to the future, treat the 2017-2018 season as a rebuilding year, “trust the process,” and create better — playoff contending teams — for the future?
Sammy Watkins faired quite well in his first two seasons for the Bills, recording 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his rookie campaign to an upswing in 2015, increasing his receiving numbers to 1,047 yards with nine touchdowns.
However, that progress halted last season, when a foot injury sidelined Watkins for half of the season. After the team declined his fifth-year option, Watkins now enters into a contract year and the team may be signaling that it’s time to move on from Mr. Watkins.
Plenty of teams (other than the Patriots) would be interested in Watkins’ talent, and many teams most likely won’t have to rely solely on him being their top receiver, unlike the Bills. Their 30th ranked passing attack from last season, now currently relies on a hindered Watkins as their No. 1 option, and that is not a good leg to stand on going into this season.
The Bills already have recruited a base of young talent through this year’s draft, while also acquiring a 2018 first-round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs. If Watkins can be traded, Buffalo could acquire much needed depth from him on the offensive line, defensive secondary or gain more future draft picks. Any way you split it, the Bills will not only have insurance, but more investments parting ways with Watkins. In the unfortunate scenario where he can’t remain healthy, at least they will have gotten something out of him while he’s still there.
Center Eric Wood, who is talented, but is 31 years old and has been plagued by injury throughout his career, coming off his worst year playing only nine games last season. The logical thing to do, is to try and deal him, replace him with guard Ryan Groy, save over $3 million in cap space and stockpile more ammunition for a future run, rather than spending $8 million and hoping he plays 16 games this year.
What’s the foundation?
The Bills do have a bright spot going into the season in new head coach Sean McDermott. For one, McDermott actually wants to be there (unlike Doug Marrone), he doesn’t insist on writing checks his mouth can’t cash (unlike Rex Ryan) and McDermott is utilizing his defense in the 4-3 as they were designed (unlike Rex Ryan — again).
Here lies a framework of their new foundation: keep your head coach!
The Bills need to make sure that McDermott feels secure in his position so he may build a team with a real vision for the future of the franchise. The head coaching carousel must cease and desist.
As far as players, the Bills could unload veteran players through trades, as well as cut three to four more players to gain compensatory draft picks. With that, they can reinvest in their offensive line, bolstering LeSean McCoy, who is now essentially carrying the backfield by himself.
The Dallas Cowboys did that building through the draft — and look — they’re in the playoffs.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Bills’ offensive line was ranked 10th last year amongst the entire NFL last season. Not too shabby, but why not make trades, fill holes in the roster and acquire players or picks that can turn a good O-line into a formidable, almost “electric” offensive unit? Entering age 30, I’m sure Shady wouldn’t mind.
The Bills commiting to their coach and building a beast anchored by Richie Incognito, Cordy Glenn and McCoy is most secure foundation for Buffalo now, in the future and certainly if they ever hope to make the playoffs.
Toying with Tyrod
Tyrod Taylor is now entering his third season as the Bills’ starting quarterback, and just like last year, there is hardly a consensus of confidence amongst a guy who plays the most important position on the football field.
He undoubtably will be the starter, but why keep stringing Taylor along, contract after contract, when demand for a quaterback in the NFL is so high that Mike Glennon is making $15 million a year ($18.5 million guaranteed over three years).
Taylor has proven he is capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL, and there is tremendous value in his contract which is only for two years with $15.5 million in guaranteed money.
Taylor could attract great attention on an open market. His contract could pair nicely for a Larry Fitzgerald trade with an Arizona Cardinals team who need to prepare for Carson Palmer’s eventual departure. Jets’ defensive end, Sheldon Richardson, is headed into free agency (2018), while the Jets are desperate for a quarterback. There are dozens of possibilities, but the question remains: If Taylor isn’t getting you to the playoffs, why are you continuing on with him?
At this point, if Taylor can’t deliver, it’s best just to cut ties and scout for a legitimate franchise-calibur quarterback in the draft.
The main reason for a fresh start is acceptance, Bills’ fans.
Accept that: the Buffalo Bills have the fourth toughest strength of schedule this upcoming season. Accept that: the Patriots are kings of the AFC East right now, but they can be overthrown in the future — Tom Brady won’t be around forever. Accept that: wishful thinking has led to your demise for over 17 years. Accept that: the Buffalo Bills are not a playoff contender this year and the playoff drought will likely have its 18th birthday next season. But it doesn’t have to reach 19 or 20.
Be done with wishful thinking now so that you may feel confident about your team in the future — let’s go Buffalo.