Earlier this off-season, a lot was made of the fact that the Bills had the lowest number of players under contract. As of today (April 10th), the Bills sit at 71 players out of a 90 man maximum roster. This is good for 17th in the NFL, right about at the league average of 17.1 (all numbers via Spotrac.com).
For me, the issue is where the roster positions are needed – the quality rather than the quantity. The Jets lead the NFL with 81 players under contract – does anyone really want to switch rosters?
A lot of how I think about a roster is shaped by years of listening to former Jets GM Pat Kirwan, who equates this time of year, up until week one of the regular season as “rehearsals and not practice”. What Pat’s meant by that is, the off-season essentially is where you’re using these extra roster spots for competition, sure. But for the most part you can have your list for the cut to 53 ready in an hour, because you know 45-49 of them right now. The others can change a spot or two, but for the most part, their purpose on the roster is the keep the starting QB’s arm from cramping up and the other position players from being either over-worked or injured.
For me, there’s a happy medium. I don’t want the folks on the roster to be glorified stuntmen – just as much as I don’t want UDFAs to be sold as “can’t miss starters” because of necessity. Let the play on the field determine who gets cut, not draft pedigree.
With that said, with a Buffalo-centric lens, let’s look (as of today) at the spots I feel need a player of quality to start:
Back-up Quarterback: This was a bigger issue of concern prior to the signing of T.J. Yates. The Bills needed a vet that knew the scheme they’re running on offense and could be plug-and-play should Taylor go down. That to me prior to FA screamed Yates, who played for Dennison and Kubiak in Houston. That doesn’t exclude the Bills from also looking at his fellow Tarheel, Mitchell Trubisky as a long-term option however:
#2 Wide Receiver – Other than the contract of Andre Holmes, this group is a collection of potential slot receivers and third or fourth options at wideout. The Bills lack a truly complimentary player to start opposite Sammy Watkins. At this point in his career, Watkins’ ability to change a game is without question; what is in question has become the big ‘a’ – his availability. If Watkins were to go down with another injury this year, there isn’t a player on the roster to even supplement what Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin brought to the table last year. Until the Bills rectify that in the draft, this remains number one on the priority list. To their credit, the depth at the position could yield a starter into the early third round.
Will Linebacker – For this position, the Bills need a player that can go sideline to sideline and cover backs out of the backfield. While I appreciate the confidence Sean McDermott has extolled on Ramon Humber, I would say the Bills need to draft a guy that can do that regularly. The draft again has players available in the first 3 rounds that can go sideline to sideline and cover backs – and in the McDermott scheme what would be at times considered negatives (weighing sub 240, height, etc) can be mitigated if the player has the athletic chops to do his role.
Nickel Corner/Buffalo/Corner Depth – At present, Kevon Seymour is penciled in as a competitor for the starting gig, but bringing in a solid corner in the wake of Stephon Gilmore’s departure should be in the plans for the Bills. While some may say a cover-3 system would not entail investment fully at the cornerback slot, I disagree – pointing to the money spent by the Falcons recently as well as the Seahawks on corners:
Getting a player that can be versatile enough to play nickel corner or safety would be a nice get – particularly because of the depth at defensive back in the draft. I really would love a trade-down from 10 if Corey Davis, Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore or Jamal Adams are unavailable – if only to recoup enough picks to go hog-wild in the 2nd/3rd round on either linebackers or dbs. The more versatility the Bills have here, the more likely it is they can match up with nearly any offense (on paper) they face this season.
That’s it. So with the 6 picks at present the Bills have, filling the remaining 3 starter spots should not be a hard thing to do, especially in such a deep draft.
I am also not presuming they find that d word (depth) with this draft. That will come over time – Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will the Buffalo offense and defense.
Thoughts? Comments? Am I not looking at this from the right angle? Hit me up on Twitter and we can chat about it!