The Buffalo Bills are being built to win now — and later

Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown (34) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95) pursues during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chargers beat the Bills 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown (34) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95) pursues during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chargers beat the Bills 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buffalo Bills are making a lot of changes, but one thing is certain — they are clearly trying to win in 2017.

What would you think the team strategy is after firing a head coach, general manager, entire scouting staff and letting arguably your top defensive player walk in free agency? If you think that team would be rebuilding, normally you would be correct, but the Buffalo Bills are not rebuilding.

The Bills are setting the tables for a 1 year run at the Super Bowl. For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs for 17 years, this might sound insane. As a fan, the moves being made need a lot of thought to interpret. Stepping back from emotion for just one moment, the Bills don’t appear to be that crazy or dysfunctional at all.

Upon firing Rex Ryan during Week 17, the Buffalo Bills made the decision to go in a different direction. Most of us assumed that direction would be Anthony Lynn to infuse some discipline and hunger to a team that appeared desperate for it. Instead, the Bills threw a curveball and hired the external disciplinarian from Carolina, Sean McDermott.

In fact, I am not going to call McDermott a ‘disciplinarian’ anymore. Let’s invent the word ‘Detailnarian’ to describe him for now.

By hiring the outsider, the rebuild appeared to be on. Why else wouldn’t you hire the coach the players vouched for, and who engineered the top running team the past two seasons?

The Bills were strapped for cash and it became clear early on in the off-season that Buffalo wouldn’t be able to re-sign top cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Tyrod Taylor’s contract was up in mystery and we really just assumed that new regime meant full tear-down.

Then things started to change.

  • Kyle Williams who was contemplating retirement decided to announce he was coming back for at least another year.
  • Tyrod Taylor restructured his contract to stay a Bill, and keep the contract team friendly.
  • Lorenzo Alexander re-signed with the Bills, which given his age would be a shock for a rebuilding team.

With limited cap space the Bills signed multiple free agents who came from playoff teams. Micah Hyde (Green Bay), Mike Tolbert (Carolina), Andre Holmes (Raiders), Patrick DiMarco (Atlanta) and Steven Hauschka (Seattle) were all in the playoffs last season.

Those players may just have been at the right price, but in all not many are ‘young’ developing pieces to build a foundation.

What we all know is that championship teams aren’t made in free agency. They are made through the draft. These players can help install and fortify the roster, but they will not be the building blocks for the next 10 years.

MUST READ: Who did the AFC East select in this year’s NFL Draft?

So next came the 2017 NFL Draft and the Bills were sitting at #10. All Bills fans hopes could be answered with one pick. Who were you thinking as the Bills were on the clock?

  • Malik Hooker who could patrol the backfield for years to come?
  • The shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore?
  •  A future Quarterback in Patrick Mahomes II or Deshaun Watson?
  • A dynamic tight-end in OJ Howard?

Then something unexpected happened, the Bills traded back — and way back. So far back that they got a 2018 first round pick as compensation for their travels. That’s something a rebuilding team would do though, they would gather assets.

So the Bills are rebuilding, until it hit me that they weren’t. In the 2nd round of the NFL draft, they traded up, twice. In the draft they added an NFL ready Cornerback and the most experienced route runner at WR.

Then the draft ended and more big events happened.

  • They fired General Manager Doug Whaley (who probably knew that was happening since January)
  • Declined the 5th year option for Sammy Watkins
  • signed veteran CB Shareece Wright
  • signed veteran CB Charles James

The Buffalo Bills aren’t rebuilding. In 2017, all of their additions will help them win NOW. There are no developmental additions to the Bills roster this offseason. No draft picks that won’t be able to contribute on week 1 if necessary.

Even Quarterback Nathan Peterman could be an upgrade at the #2 QB position.

Sammy Watkins and Tyrod Taylor are essentially on 1 year ‘prove it’ seasons. This means the offense has every reason to excel this season. Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, and LeSean McCoy aren’t getting younger and they would prefer a win-now team.

Big numbers and big results from the Bills only helps Watkins/Taylor’s futures. There is already motivation for every player in the NFL, but there is something about knowing all off-season that you will be ‘All-In’ when week 1 rolls around.

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The defense lost Stephon Gilmore, that stinks. Yet maintained Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander, and potentially upgraded their safety position, while getting deeper at Cornerback. I do think Aaron Williams was better than Micah Hyde, but Williams isn’t healthy. He may be ‘cleared’ to play, but he probably shouldn’t.

The availability of Hyde this year means our safeties are upgraded from last season.

After this season ends, according to Sportrac, the Bills are looking at roughly $30 million in cap space (nearly doubled what they had this season to start with) and that’s before any cuts or trades of big assets (should they want to actually rebuild).

Sure, their are some pieces that they may choose to build upon. However, this team is going to be very veteran-based,with players that aren’t looking to build. They want to win.

If it all goes south, then the Buffalo Bills are in prime position to rebuild in 2018. They have two 1st round picks, 2 developmental Quarterbacks, Reggie Ragland, Shaq Lawson, Tre’Davious White, and Zay Jones. Cordy Glenn, Marcell Dareus and Micah Hyde are locked up for several more years.

If it goes great, we aren’t looking at a one and done either. Taylor is still on a friendly contract and Watkins can be franchised or signed long-term.

It’s easy to look at all the news out of One Bills Drive and assume the worst. The glass can still be half full and this team as it presently stands, is built to win in 2017.

If we learned anything this offseason, after 2017 anything can happen. So let’s enjoy the ride because it’s sure to be a roller coaster.

Next: Grading all 6 draft picks by the Buffalo Bills

What do you think of the Buffalo Bills‘ win-now mentality? Leave your thoughts below!