by Mario "Game" Granata
Although many fans in the Western New York area might be upset with the departure of Jairus Byrd, there are many other positions that need to be filled on the Bills roster. Check out how far the Bills have stretched their salary cap and filled some needs on the team
In trying to choose the right words for Buffalo Bills fans over the recent unrest that has occurred over the Flight of the Byrd, I have been doing some digging (and a little tongue biting) and have come up with a way to put Buffalo fans' worries at ease, and hopefully after you read the following blog, you will sleep better tonight.
This is a classic case of Needs vs Wants. The Buffalo Bills, as many of you know, are in a rebuilding phase (and have been for quite some time) but truth is, they need bodies in certain positions. When one examines the players that they were able to sign, there are certainly some positives to take away from them.
Chris Williams – People like to throw the ‘bust’ word around too frequently in the NFL. A bust is someone who doesn’t meet the expectations that were set for them, when their career is over. Chris Williams’ career is far from over, and when one takes a look at what he brings to the table, Bills fans should start to be excited. In his professional career, Williams started 54 games, and had more success at left guard then he has had at tackle. In 2010, he started 13 of 13 games, and also played in the Conference Championship against the Green Bay Packers. In 2011, while starting 9 games, was a member of an offensive unit that posted over 2,000 yards rushing during the regular season. After playing in spot duty for the 2012 campaign, he completed his first full season, starting all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams, that had to play with a backup quarterback at the helm, and playing in, arguably, the toughest division in the NFL (NFC West). Six times during the regular season, the Rams faced teams within their division that amassed a 25-13 record and a Super Bowl winner. Add in the fact that the NFC West had defenses that were ranked at the top of the league, Williams has seen the best of the best, and is very much battle tested going into 2014. Some Bills fans are still upset at the loss of Andy Levitre, but with Williams’ 6’6” 326 pound frame, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are going to have some opportunities to make plays in the running game.
Keith Rivers – Rivers, is also considered a bust for not meeting the standards of a 1st round draft pick, but when you examine the contributions that he has had to the teams that he has played on, you can see why he will be a nice fit in Buffalo. In 2009, he started 13 games on a defense that was ranked 9th in the league, and only allowed 1 300-yard passer during the regular season. In 2010, he was second on the team in tackles, going through a tough season where the Bengals posted a record of 4-12, with the freak sideshow of Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens always getting their popcorn ready each and every week, one thing is for certain, he knows how to prepare each week with a locker room distraction…even two. Focusing on the players that he played with during that season will tell you more about why he is a very good fit in Buffalo, than the 4-12 record could tell you. He played alongside Ray Maualuga, and with Roy Williams and Leon Hall. A linebacker (Maualuga) who flies all around the field, a strong safety who loves to come up and hit people, and a 1st round #1 corner for the team: traits that could easily describe Kiko Alonso, Aaron Williams, and Stephon Gilmore, wouldn’t you say?
Corey Graham – A hometown boy, who brings championship pedigree to the Buffalo Bills, although many are talking about Graham being a special teams player, it seems that when the lights are brightest is when Graham shines. Playing both right and left corner, the Bills, it appears, will use Graham as the slot cover corner, an upgrade over Nickell Robey. During a three year span from 2011-2013, Graham started only 13 of 48 games, and posted 10 interceptions and 23 pass break-ups during that time, which speaks to the mental toughness of the player, to always be ready, despite not being in a ‘starting’ role. During the playoffs, Graham posted 8 tackles and 2 interceptions on Peyton Manning, 11 tackles in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, and 6 tackles in the Super Bowl. More importantly he brings something to Buffalo that has yet to be seen, a championship ring.
While some of the doubters will harp on the fact that Jairus Byrd is no longer a Bill, the money that Bills fans find out what it would have cost to keep him here, is far more, and hopefully in the long run, not worth the players that they brought in at a cheaper price. If these players do not work out, and the Bills have to cut ties with them, they will still be able to save some cap room in the upcoming years to sign some other players. The Buffalo Bills needed a guard, a linebacker, and a cornerback. That is the message that sometimes gets lost in the mix, is that they are filling needs on the team, and while many Bills fans might have ‘wanted’ Byrd, getting players who are hungry to prove their worth and bring a winning attitude to Buffalo is what they ultimately ‘needed’.