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Gonzalez could fix Bills' ills

Tony Gonzalez is available? The future Hall of Fame tight end has requested a trade? This is too good to be true because what the Buffalo offense needs more than anything, save a healthy Trent Edwards, is another significant threat in its receiving corps. Add Gonzalez to the mix and the Bills go from a team that's evolving to one that's resolving. Install Gonzalez at tight end and for the first time in what seems like forever it's realistic to dream the big dream.
Hello, Ralph? Answer the door. Opportunity hasn't knocked this hard since Indianapolis was shopping Cornelius Bennett.

The Bills should be coveting Gonzalez as passionately as Barack Obama and John McCain covet Missouri. Wideout Josh Reed's a valuable resource, a solid possession receiver with a nose for the first-down marker. Slotman Roscoe Parrish, out another four weeks, provides situational game-breaking potential. Robert Royal, the incumbent tight end, offers a commendable functionality. None of them divert the defense's attention away from Lee Evans, who becomes all the more dynamic if opponents are forced to account for another premium performer.
The Bills are acutely aware they need to upgrade the receiving options available to their quarterback. That's the reason they selected wideout James Hardy in the second round of the April draft, and tight end Derek Fine in the fourth round. Hardy is a work in progress, and understandably so. Fine is a great unknown, having been sidelined by injury, but there's nothing in his background to suggest he's the next Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Todd Heap or Dallas Clark.
The time to move is now. The AFC hasn't been this wide-open in a decade. The New England Patriots were made vulnerable by the injury to Tom Brady. The Indianapolis Colts are getting by with mirrors and highly suspect on defense, especially with All-Pro safety Bob Sanders out of the mix. Complete this statement: Even if Gonzalez becomes a Buffalo Bill they still couldn't beat ________ to win the AFC and advance to the Super Bowl. Is there such a team?
What it will cost the Bills to make this deal depends on how much interest Gonzalez generates and how shrewdly Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson plays his cards. The New Orleans Saints acquired elite tight end Jeremy Shockey from the New York Giants for second- and fifth-round draft choices. That should be ballpark for Gonzalez, who at 32 is four years older than Shockey. But the Bills shouldn't be deterred if the price continues to climb, which it might, the Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers and Packers reportedly having joined the Bills in conducting exploratory talks as Tuesday's trade deadline nears.

No matter. Draft picks are about potential. Gonzalez, the all-time leader at the position in receptions and touchdowns, is the sure thing, the ideal addition to a team that's getting close but isn't yet quite close enough. Yes, there's usually a price to pay over the long term for parting with high draft picks but even that's not a certainty.

Besides, this isn't the time to worry about tomorrows. This is all about today, about fortifying the lineup with an elite player who last season caught 99 passes for 1,172 yards on a bad team.

The five-year, $35 million contract Gonzalez signed in January of 2007 is extremely salary cap friendly both this year and next. The games-for-cash deal with Toronto provided a major boost to the bottom line. A 4-1 start and one of the NFL's softer schedules has cultivated loftier expectations. And there's no dominant team in the AFC.
It all adds up to the perfect storm.
Just do it.

e-mail: bdicesare@buffnews.com

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