We are jumping headfirst into the NFL Combine this week, and Chan Gailey & Co. is no doubt neck deep scouting each and every player to see who will be one of the Bills’ 9 picks at this year’s draft.
We are starting Year Three of the Nix regime, and I am anxious to see what it is the Bills come up with at this year’s draft. Will it be the horrid 2010 draft, literally one of the worst drafts in Bills history, or will it be a welcome repeat of last year’s, when five picks from that draft were on the starting lineup in the last three games of the season? Buffalohas some obvious holes to fill, and when you have a chance to protect your team from free agents leaving, thus creating more holes, you must do it.
Remember about this time last year, the big free agent on the Bills was Paul Posluszny. He was one of the only bright spots on a truly wretched defense, the quarterback on the field we all had confidence in. Poz made his tackles, looked good on billboards, sold a lot of jerseys, and was a legitimate upper tier inside linebacker. It was a real shock when I saw that he left. He said all the right things during negotiations, but Jacksonvillegave him eighty million reasons to leave town. It seems he was never comfortable in the 3-4 defense playing alongside another ILB. As it turns out, the sky never fell, and Nick Barnett, another former high round pick (1st round in by the Packers in ‘03) signed for 3 years and 12M. Barnett came from a traditionally strong organization coming off of a Super Bowl win, and played very well all year. He led the team in tackles, and was one of the most dependent players I saw on the team last year. So which would you rather have, Barnett for 4M a year, or Poz for 12.5M? Even with money being equal, I would probably rather have Barnett, but the point of this is, is that unless it’s a quarterback, free agents leaving are generally quite replaceable.
I bring all of this up because of one Mr. Stevie Johnson and his contract negotiations. He wants $10M a year, Buffalowants to give him about 7M. What is he worth? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of that number. I will not go into the pros and cons, because that horse has been thoroughly beaten as it is. Wide receiver is probably the shallowest position on the Bills (you could talk me into defensive end) and the last thing Buffaloneeds is to have their second most skilled offensive player leave town. I hope Johnson stays. I hope that he signs for 6 years around $50M. I want him to get his money, (he has definitely earned it) to be happy and to be productive. He is a great story coming from a small school in the 7th round, and the city loves him. He is a likeable player, even if he has a few screws lose. He always gets his game up against elite corners, (one of his best games was against Darrelle Revis) and he and Fitzpatrick seem like legitimate friends. He is not in the same class as Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, and as long as he does not get too delusional about his personal value, Nix and Stevie need to play nice and make this happen. If Johnson leaves town, it will be a LOT more difficult to replace him in free agency, andBuffalo is likely forced to use the #10 pick on a wide receiver, instead of a defensive playmaker which management and the fans both want.
My guess is that eventually Stevie signs withBuffalo, but I would have said no way does Poz leave town either. Buffaloneeds to do it if for no other reason that they cannot afford another hole. If he leaves for greener pastures though, we can only hope for another Nick Barnett.