Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said Thursday the team is "working diligently" to re-sign guard Richie Incognito before he becomes a free agent on March 9.
“The negotiation process is always nothing that can be clear cut and defined with a certain time table, even though we do have an ending date coming soon with him being able to hit the market," Whaley said during an appearance on WGR 550. "But (Bills senior vice president of football operations) Jim Overdorf and (agent) David Dunn have had continuous conversations for a while now, so we hope something positive comes from that.”
Earlier in the week, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that, according to a league source, the Bills are "getting frustrated" with Incognito's refusal to accept what they are offering him. The report also said the Bills feel he should be willing to take less than what he might receive in the open market because of their willingness to give him a second chance last year after his season-plus exile from football after his suspension due to a bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins.
Whaley said retaining Incognito was "up there" on the Bills' list of offseason priorities.
"You look at it from the standpoint of we have the No. 1 rushing offense and to keep that line together would be a very good stepping stone for us to continue to get better," Whaley said.
With regard to the Bills not signing Incognito to a multi-year deal last year, the GM said it was a matter of "coming to a mutual agreement of a contract that both parties felt comfortable with, and it just happened to be that way where he hit a voidable (clause, likely based on being a starter for more than half of the season) and it came to a one-year deal. But it wasn't specifically, 'Hey, this is a one-year trial basis.'"
How much does the fact Incognito would be 33 by the start of training camp in the summer factor into the Bills' approach to the negotiations?
"Well, you look at it this way, I mean, him having that year off obviously helped his body to get better and to heal and, hopefully, it gives him a couple of more years at the back end of his career," Whaley said. "But you do have to be cognizant of the fact, because you want to make sure the value is right for the longevity that you'll get out of the player."
Whaley touched on other topics:
On the plan to replace defensive end Mario Williams, who was released Tuesday: "It's going to be an interesting plan, because the defense is going to look a little different than last year and there's a couple of possibilities with Manny Lawson and Jarius Wynn and a guy we added late in the year, Max Valles (a rookie) out of Virginia. And then any possible additions we get through free agency, the draft or trade."
On how the defense will be different: "It's going to be more traditional 3-4, but you say that but then I have to go back and say, when you go back and look at the play time of how our defense went throughout the year, over 60 percent of the time we were in nickel or dime. So I'm going to say it's going to look different, but people are going to look out there and say, 'It doesn't look any different,' because of our division. New England, three-wide-receiver sets. The Jets, three-wide-receiver sets. You look at (Adam) Gase (the new coach in Miami), he does a lot of three-wide-receiver sets. The majority of time when we're playing divisional opponents, we're going to be in what we call 'Sub,' which is nickel and dime. So it's not going to look any different."
On the potential of signing quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a contract extension: "I did not personally get a chance to meet with Tyrod's agent (at last week's NFL Scouting Combine). I'll have to talk to (Overdorf, who was expected to meet with him). But I've said all along if a deal comes to us, or we meet with his representation and we can come to a common ground where they feel it's good for them and we feel it's good for us, we would definitely do a deal. What that will be, that's still in the negotiation process. But, again, we would not be averse to it. ...It would be nice for us to get it done, but at this time, because we have him under contract (for one year), it would be a luxury. But everybody loves luxuries, correct?"
On the health of right tackle Seantrel Henderson, who missed the final three games of last season after being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease: "We got some positive news about his health, so we believe he may be able to be in that competition for the right tackle position starting with camp, so we'd have three bodies (including Cyrus Kouandjio and Jordan Mills, presuming he is retained as a restricted free agent). And I've always said, since Day One, competition raises everybody's level of play, so when you have three people fighting for the same position, that's a good thing for the Buffalo Bills at the right tackle position."
On whether the Bills need to add a safety with Aaron Williams returning from a neck injury that caused him to miss most of last season: "We lean heavily on our medical staff and they've cleared him completely to play. If we would have made the playoffs, he would have been out there. Now, when he takes a hit, once we gets out there, he's just like any other player, there's a possibility of injury. But this injury he had, there's not a propensity for him to him to have it again, so we're not worried about that. But, again, that goes with what I said before: if there's a safety out there we think can help us, we'll take him. But it won't be only because of the thought of Aaron Williams uncertainty because he is cleared to play and would have played if we would have made the playoffs."
On the possibility of drafting a quarterback: "Like I've said, we have two quarterbacks (Taylor and EJ Manuel), both going into the last year of their contracts, so we're going to have to add a quarterback, be it the draft, trade or free agency. We definitely will. We've got to explore every option and we're hard at work getting all of the background information and doing all the work on every quarterback that's out there that would be available to us."
On whether Manuel is definitely back next season: "I always say never say never, but he is in our plans for next year."