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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: Big-money deals have Bills up against it

For my money, this is the best time of the sports year. Baseball season is in full swing. The Stanley Cup playoffs got under way on Wednesday. Saturday, the NBA playoffs begin. And it finally looks like golf weather out there.

Bills fans can see football over the far horizon. The NFL schedule came out Thursday. The draft is in two weeks. On Sunday, we’ll be exactly halfway from last year’s season finale to the opening of training camp on July 31.

Let’s get through the mail quickly. I hear the 18-hole course at Audubon is open Saturday:

@ZBIV42 asks: Based on the Bills $ cap, doesn’t it seem like we will peak this year? We aren’t going to be able to keep Tyrod, Stephon & Cordy.

Sully: You’re right. It’ll be difficult for the Bills to pay all three of those guys long-term. They franchised Glenn for a year at $13.7 million. Gilmore is on the books for $11 million this season, but would get at least $12 million per year in a long-term extension.

Taylor will command in the $20 million range if he plays like a true franchise quarterback in the final year of his contract. That’s a lot of money for a cash-strapped team. You can’t afford to keep everybody.

The Bills have the sort of cap issues you would expect from a team that’s coming off a deep playoff run and has to settle up with the piper. They’ve thrown around a lot of cash for a franchise that hasn’t won anything lately.

There are a lot of well-paid guys on the roster who have never been in the playoffs, plus a coach (Rex Ryan) and general manager (Doug Whaley) who are desperate to get to the postseason and ensure their continued employment.

If you’re suggesting that their window is closing, you’re probably right. Actually, I felt they peaked two years ago, when they went 9-7 in Doug Marrone’s last year with Jim Schwartz getting the most out of a dynamic defense.

That defense has eroded, partly due to Whaley’s overspending on offense. In roughly one year, he has transformed the Bills from a defense-first team to one that is counting on Taylor and the offense to carry the day in 2016.

The ESPN beat writers from teams on this year’s schedule predicted the Bills would go 6-10 when the schedule came out. Sounds about right to me.

klawbuffalo@gmail.com asks: The long wait between Summer Olympiads is almost over. What are your thoughts on golf in the Games, and will you be representing the USA with your scintillating short game?

Sully: My wedges are generally sharp in August, but I’ll be covering the event, not playing. I’m excited about the return of Olympic golf after a 108-year break. The sport is growing internationally and it’ll be a good chance to showcase the less-celebrated talents from other nations.

There will be golfers from 34 to 36 countries in the men’s and women’s field of 60. Critics say the golf calendar is saturated as it is; they argue that competition will be watered down, with some highly rated players missing out because talent is so deep in their countries.

So what? Most of the sprinters would be from Jamaica or the USA if they didn’t limit the entries from a given country. That’s part of the Olympics’ charm, that it brings together athletes from all over the globe in a democratic spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Imagine if Anirban Lahiri wins the men’s golf for India, a nation of 1.25 billion people with just nine golds in its Olympics history, eight in field hockey? It’s those kind of stories that make the Games special.

I can’t believe it’s been four years since London, and I’m getting excited for Rio. Next Wednesday, the United States Olympic Committee will host a 100 Day Countdown to Rio celebration in Times Square in New York City.

@Bump_Miller asks: Stamkos, Matthews & Vesey - How many of these guys will Sabres get? Which one would you say is best odds?

Sully: The Sabres have a shot at all three, but if we’re ranking the likelihood of them coming to Buffalo, I’d go with 1. Jimmy Vesey; 2. Steven Stamkos; 3. Auston Matthews.

Vesey, the Hobey Baker winner from Harvard, will be a free agent in August. He was drafted by Nashville in 2012, but didn’t sign with the Predators. There are reports that Vesey would like to play with Jack Eichel, his teammate on the U.S. team that won bronze at the 2015 World Championships.

Sabres GM Tim Murray said in his postseason presser that if he were a scorer with a choice, he would consider going to Buffalo to play with Jack Eichel. Hmmm. Do you suppose he had Vesey and Steven Stamkos in mind?

Stamkos will be a free agent, too. The Tampa Bay sniper is 26 and smack in his prime. The Maple Leafs would love to sign the Markham native. So would the Sabres, who need a veteran star to help their young core take the next step. He’ll be pricy, but Terry Pegula doesn’t shy away from paying stars.

Auston Matthews is the clear No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Toronto has a 20 percent chance of getting the top pick in the lottery. The Sabres have a 6 percent chance. Imagine the Leafs getting Matthews and Stamkos. I’m sure Sabres fans would rather not contemplate the thought.

@frankpro asks: In your opinion, if the Warriors played the 1995-96 Bulls in a game today, who would win? I like Warriors.

Sully: If they played today, the Bulls wouldn’t have a chance. After all, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are in their 50s.

Seriously, it’s a great question. This Warriors team would hold its own. But I agree with Mark Gaughan that the Bulls were better. It’s hard to judge teams from different eras, but that Chicago team had the sort of versatile mid-sized athletes who could somewhat contain the Warriors’ brilliant offense.

Jordan and Pippen were perhaps the greatest defensive backcourt ever. The Bulls also had a stable of veteran big men who would create matchup problems. The Warriors won by going small against the Cavs in last year’s Finals, but the Bulls had the skill and depth to compensate.

Maybe I’m underestimating Steph Curry. Every time I watch him, I’m more amazed by his offensive genius. But the old-time NBA fan in me believes the great teams of the past, which put more of an emphasis on the half-court game, would play on their terms often enough to prevail.

Robert Goodwin asks: What is your preference of events to see live: NCAA final, Super Bowl, World Series game 7, Stanley Cup game 7, NBA game 7, Olympic opening ceremony, Masters final day?

Sully: That’s easy: Olympic opening ceremony.

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