According to multiple reports, negotiations between the players and owners went very well today. So well, in fact, that the NFL Players Association is eyeing Monday as the day that its “Executive Committee” will meet in Washington, D.C. and recommend that the players both ratify a new collective bargaining agreement and recertify as a union.
That’s a bit of a mouthful, but basically what this means is that we should know by Monday night if we’re going to have a semi-normal football schedule this season. If the executive committee gives the go-ahead, players will report to their team facilities sometime between Wednesday and Friday to vote to recertify as a union. If the union recertifies (just need a simple majority of the players to approve), the union will then vote on the new CBA. But let’s be real: if the executive committee approves this there’s no way 50.1% of the players aren’t going to approve it. They want to play and get paid.
So this lockout is going to end some point soon most likely…and then we’ll finally get to talk some actual football! What’s going to be very unique about this situation is that the Bills and every other NFL team will have a very limited window to put a roster together before training camp starts. It’s going to be an insane period, as the teams will have to sign their drafted rookies to contracts, sign undrafted rookies, re-sign their own free agents, and scour the free agent market. All at once. In about a week. Yeah…no one’s in an NFL front office is sleeping much this pre-season.
In this crazy period, teams are going to have to prioritize and make sure the team’s most important needs are not lost in the insane shuffle. This got me to thinking: what are Buffalo’s major priorities this pre-season?
Here’s what I came up with (in order of importance):
1) Re-sign Paul Posluszny and Drayton Florence (and Donte Whitner if possible): Posluszny and Florence aren’t superstars, but both are among the better players on the Buffalo defense and both would leave gaping holes in the lineup if not re-signed. The inside linebacker depth behind Poz is terrifying, and Florence was Buffalo’s best corner last season. If the Bills have any hope of contending for a playoff berth this year, it’d be tough without these two.
Whitner is a more interesting case, simply because he’s going to demand a ton of money…more money than he’s probably worth to the Bills. He’s a pretty decent player and not as bad of a guy as he’s been made out to be - but he’s simply not as important as Poz and Florence. However, if he can be brought back at the right price, the Bills should go for it.
2) Make sure Marcell Dareus gets to camp on time: Reports indicate that the new CBA would give rookies little incentive to do the obnoxious hold out thing that has plagued the league in recent seasons. However, I’m still scarred enough by past holdouts to automatically worry the Bills won’t get their top pick in camp on time. Dareus is going to be a HUGE part of the defense this season. He needs to be in camp from day one.
3) Get a decent backup quarterback: As of this moment, the Bills have exactly two quarterbacks on the roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, a career backup who had his best season last year and still wasn’t exactly elite; and Levi Brown, a seventh-round draft pick who was cut in camp last year and held a clipboard 99.9% of the time when he was brought back. Not the most confidence-inspiring depth chart at the most important position in the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Fitz and I’m all about him getting the chance to be the “the man,” this season, but the team could really use a backup who has some success in the league should Fitz struggle or get hurt. There’s quite a few veterans out there (Billy Volek, Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson, Marc Bulger, and others), so Buffalo should manage to bring one in.
4) Get some help at linebacker and offensive tackle: I lumped these two positions together because I view them as equally important. It wouldn’t be a total disaster if the Bills entered the season with just their current linebackers and offensive tackles…but man, would an upgrade be nice. Reggie Torbor shouldn’t be starting at linebacker in the NFL anymore, and right tackle could be a complete mess if Erik Pears isn’t the find the coaching staff thinks he might be.
5) Scour for bargains: With all the insanity that this free agent period will bring, it’s inevitable that some guys are either a) going to slip through the cracks and not get offered as much money as they are worth or b) panic and take an offer that is not the best they could get because they’re worried about slipping through the cracks. A team like the Bills could maybe steal a quality player or two for cheap,
6) A tight end would be nice: This is on the list this low because tight end is a relatively unimportant position in Buffalo, but the Bills probably have the worst tight end situation in the league. If there’s a upgrade out there for the right price, the Bills need to jump on it.