By: Paul Wanecski
With all this recent talk of the Buffalo Bills attempting to sign guard Evan Mathis – and the inherent risks of resigning other pending free agents if the Bills were to sign Mathis – we thought it would be best to look at the Bills current roster with a fresh perspective. We are going to throw away the concept of who we need to resign, instead reviewing the roster as if we had to start players who were signed for the 2016 year and beyond. The idea is that this will show us what our options are at each position for next year and beyond to highlight what players would be important to resign or look to sign in free agency. In this first installment of a two-part article, we will review the offense.
EJ Manuel/Tyrod Taylor
-Matt Cassel’s contract is only for 2015 at this time and Matt Simms has only one-year remaining on his current deal. Needless to say, 2015 is a make-or-break year for every single player under center. The team has a 2017 option that would need to be exercised by the start of May 2016 on Manuel, which would pay him in the area of around $13-14 million for 2017 season. Taylor on the other hand has contract stipulations around playing time in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons which would allow him to test free agency if he were to become the starter for an extended period of time.
LeSean McCoy, Anthony Dixon, Karlos Williams
-Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown are only signed through 2015. It is anticipated that Karlos Williams will fill the 3rd back role this season, as releasing him to go to the practice squad would risk losing him. While he may be taking Bryce Brown’s job this season, he may also replace Dixon depending on the health of Fred Jackson in what appears to be his final season.
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Marquise Goodwin, Dezmin Lewis, Caleb Holley, Tobias Palmer, Andre Davis
-Things get a little sloppy here. Lewis, Holley, Davis and Palmer are all on multi-year deals but have yet to make the team. Most will ask; where is Chris Hogan? He signed a one-year tender this offseason. Marcus Easley is listed as a WR but his last two receptions were in 2013.Harvin’s deal can void which would make him a free agent. Watkins was targeted 128 times last season but hauled in about half of those. Expect the team to be throwing less this season. In 2014, the Bills ranked 11th in the league in pass attempts.
Charles Clay, Nick O’Leary, Chris Gragg, Clay Burton, Chris Manhertz
-Every year we stumble upon our favorite last name and Chris Manhertz could be this year’s winner. The signing last season of MarQueis Gray was a pleasant surprise for the Bills in 2014; 2015 is his contract year. Of course his future will depend on the play of O’Leary and if Gragg can survive the coaching change.
Cyrus Kouandijo, Seantrel Henderson, Tyson Chandler
-Your eyes do not fool you. Yes, the team has only one tackle on the roster signed for 2016 who has seen snaps in a regular season NFL game. Debate has circled about Kouandijo’s future as a tackle since he was drafted. Tyson Chandler was signed as an undrafted free-agent, which had a base three-year contract. Hashtag Nation has long said that watching Seantrel Henderson at left tackle in the preseason may indicate if the Bills are truly interested in committing long term to Cordy Glenn, who enters his contract year in 2015.
Kraig Urbik, Chris Williams, John Miller, Cyril Richardson, William Campbell, Alex Kupper, DJ Morrell
-Richie Incognito is currently only signed for 2015, same with guard Darrell Johnson who is also on the current roster. Cyril Richardson, who played poorly when he was the starter, has no practice squad eligibility, Chris Williams, who ranked through ProFootballFocus as one of the worst guards in the league in his starts, is likely to be cut unless be plays at a career best level. Kraig Urbik had to take a pay cut just to stay with the team, but without a back-up center, his job appears pretty secure.
With all things being considered equal, the Bills currently appear weak at tackle, guard, and quarterback. Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito are the two major players entering contract years in 2015. It seems like the same old story at QB for the Bills, where they have an incumbent that the city isn’t in love with. This season will determine if Manuel’s 5th year option is exercised; even with a strong season, it may not be a promise that it would picked up. So, now that we have looked down the road, who on offense is your biggest priority to sign or resign?