NFL DRAFT NEEDS: AFC EAST Dolphins | Patriots | Jets OVERVIEW
After finishing in the cellar of the AFC East for the second-straight season, the Bills fired Dick Jauron and hired Chan Gailey to take over as head coach. Gailey brings a history of potent rushing attacks and will likely rededicate the offense to effectively running the ball. Defensively, the Bills will become the final AFC East franchise to switch to a 3-4 scheme. Buffalo is in for a dramatic overhaul that the roster desperately needs.
The Bills will need a lot of top-notch talent if they are going to finish with a record of .500 or better for the first time since 2004. They have nine picks in the draft with top-10 selections in every round. They hold picks 9, 41, 72, 107, 140, 178, 192, 209 and 216.
A new coaching staff often means a new signal caller, and Buffalo should be in the market for one. Trent Edwards has been injury prone and inconsistent. He may be the starter next season, but his career is at a crossroads. Edwards played in just half of Buffalo's games in 2009. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm filled in, but neither is a legitimate starter in this league. With Washington trading for Donovan McNabb, the Bills should have a chance to land Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, one of two elite passers in this draft.
The Bills elected not to select an offensive tackle in the 2009 draft despite trading Jason Peters in the offseason. The result was an offensive line that gave up the league's fifth-most sacks. Starting right tackle Brad Butler played in just two games before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. He ended up retiring in the offseason and will be replaced by Cornell Green. That settles the right side, but big problems remain on the left. No matter who the quarterback is next season, he can't be expected to have much success without blindside protection (assuming it's a righty). A pass protecting left tackle is especially important considering the Bills play in a division where every team runs the 3-4 and they will be facing athletic edge rushers often. Buffalo should have a great opportunity to sure up the offensive line with one of the draft's premier left tackles with the ninth pick.
At receiver, Terrell Owens wasn't the player he used to be and was allowed to walk in free agency, as was Josh Reed. Lee Evans remains a solid starter but James Hardy, a second-round pick in 2008, has caught just 10 passes in his two-year career and missed all but two games last season recovering from knee surgery. The Bills could definitely use some help in their receiving corps.
Installing the 3-4 defense will require some major personal changes, especially up front. The Bills signed Dwan Edwards from Baltimore to take over one defensive end spot and Marcus Stroud is expected to play opposite of him, but Buffalo lacks the run-stuffing nose tackle that is vital to the success of a 30 front. This will be an important hole to fill come draft day.
Aaron Maybin, the team's first-round pick a year ago, should benefit the most from the scheme change. The rookie was exposed in his first year as being a bit of a one-trick pony, but his pass rushing talents will be best served at outside linebacker in the new scheme. Defensive end Aaron Schobel is also expected to move back, as is Chris Kelsay. Paul Posluszny and newly acquired Andra Davis are expected to fill the two inside spots.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Kendall Simmons, (was not re-signed), LB Bryan Scott (re-signed for two-years at over $3 million), TE Joe Klopfenstein (declared an unrestricted free agent after not being tendered as a restricted free agent, later re-signed), WR Josh Reed (was not re-signed), WR Terrell Owens (was not re-signed), G Seth McKinney (was not re-signed), LB Chris Draft (was not re-signed), DE Ryan Denney (was not re-signed), LB Josh Stamer (was not re-signed), S Todd Johnson (was not re-signed)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S George Wilson (received second-round tender at $1.759 million and signed offer sheet), TE Derek Schouman (received second-round tender at $1.684 million and signed offer sheet), CB Ashton Youboty (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), LB Keith Ellison (received original-round tender at $1.176 million and signed offer sheet), QB Gibran Hamdan (was not tendered), G Richie Incognito (was not tendered), TE Joe Klopfenstein (was not tendered, but re-signed after being declared an unrestricted free agent), T Jonathan Scott (was not tendered)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Cary Harris (received one-year tender and signed), TE Jonathan Stupar (received one-year tender and signed), LB Jon Corto (received one-year tender and signed), WR Felton Huggins (received one-year tender and signed), C Christian Gaddis (received one-year tender and signed), LB Marcus Buggs (was not tendered), RB Justise Hairston (was not tendered)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: LB Bryan Scott, TE Joe Klopfenstein, S George Wilson, TE Derek Schouman, CB Ashton Youboty, LB Keith Ellison, CB Cary Harris, TE Jonathan Stupar, LB Jon Corto, WR Felton Huggins, C Christian Gaddis
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DT Marlon Favorite, RB Walter Mendenhall, WR Chad Jackson, LB Andra Davis (signed for two-years at $4.4 million), DE Dwan Edwards (signed for four-years at $18 million), T Cornell Green (three-years at $9 million)
PLAYERS LOST: LB Ashlee Palmer, DE Marcus Smith, DE Jermaine McGhee, TE Derek Fine, S John Wendling, C Marvin Philip, WR Justin Jenkins, T Brad Butler (retired), G Kendall Simmons, WR Josh Reed, WR Terrell Owens, G Seth McKinney, LB Chris Draft, DE Ryan Denney, LB Josh Stamer, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, T Jonathan Scott, LB Marcus Buggs, RB Justise Hairston
LEFT TACKLE -- Buffalo elected not to select a left tackle in last year's draft and suffered the consequences, giving up 46 sacks and 103 quarterback hits. An athletic blindside protector will be imperative to the success of the quarterback. An upgrade at the position will also be required if the team is going to have better success running the ball in 2010.
QUARTERBACK -- Trent Edwards has missed significant time in his first three seasons and has been inconsistent when he has played. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no more than a solid backup and Brian Brohm hasn't proven himself in any capacity. The Bills have gone 54 games without a 300-yard passing performance in a league where quarterbacks are having more statistical success than ever. Buffalo's passing offense finished ranking 30th with an average of 157.2 aerial yards per game last season. It's time for an upgrade under center.
NOSE TACKLE -- A two-gap nose tackle is essential to the success of a 3-4 defense. No one on the Bills roster fits that mold. Buffalo finished 30th against the run in 2009 allowing 156.3 yards per game on the ground and that number will only get worse if they don't land a defensive tackle to anchor the middle. Finding a big, clogging interior presence should be the first place Buffalo looks on draft day when addressing defensive needs.
WIDE RECEIVER -- Buffalo didn't get the production they were expecting out of Terrell Owens and parted ways with him. James Hardy is still very young and hasn't seen the field much but has been a disappointment thus far. Lee Evans is the only capable receiver currently on the roster. An upgrade is needed.