Spending money has not been a problem in the past decade for the Buffalo Bills.
Founding owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. had a reputation among some fans for being a penny-pincher, but over the last seven years of his tenure he loosened the purse strings. Since taking over, the Pegula family has also been willing to hand out big money.
The problem is, far too often the return hasn’t equaled the investment. That is true for players signed from outside the organization, and those with the team who have inked extensions.
Under current General Manager Doug Whaley, the Bills’ philosophy has been to draft and develop, then re-sign their own. In theory, it’s a sound strategy. But it’s not foolproof, as several of the following examples show.
In light of the recent contract extensions signed by defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and left tackle Cordy Glenn, it’s fair to question whether that will be money well spent.
That’s particularly true with Dareus, who is coming off a two-sack season, will serve a four-game NFL suspension to start the year, and is currently in a rehabilitation facility. While it’s too early to say definitely he won’t come back and live up to his contract, it’s hard to imagine a worse start to a big deal.
Through a combination of bad decisions and bad luck, this is what the opposite of the Midas Touch looks like the last 10 years:
10. Chris Kelsay.
Contract: Four-year, $24 million extension on Sept. 28, 2010.
Aftermath: Kelsay played just two more full seasons in Buffalo, retiring after being limited to nine games (and just four starts) in 2012 because of a neck injury. He had seven sacks over his final two seasons.
9. Mario Williams.
Contract: Six-year, $100 million free-agent deal signed March 15, 2012.
Aftermath: Former GM Buddy Nix admitted the team overpaid when they introduced Williams, saying that’s a necessity in free agency. Williams actually gave the Bills pretty good return on investment the first three seasons, with 38 sacks over that time, which is why he’s not higher on this list. Things torpedoed in the fourth year, however. Williams’ production dipped to five sacks in 2015 as he publicly griped about his role in Rex Ryan’s defense and teammates privately accused him of quitting on them. Williams is counting $7 million against the team’s 2016 salary cap after he was released March 1.
8. Stevie Johnson.
Contract: Five-year, $36.25 million extension signed March 5, 2012.
Aftermath: Had his third straight 1,000-yard season after signing his extension, becoming the first player in franchise history to do that. The run coincided with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stint at quarterback. After Fitzpatrick was released, Johnson saw his numbers drop considerably in 2013 – when the Bills played EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis at quarterback. He had 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 before being traded to San Francisco on May 9, 2014 for a draft pick shortly after the Bills traded up to draft Sammy Watkins.
7. Lee Evans.
Contract: Four-year, $37.25 million extension signed Oct. 2, 2008.
Aftermath: Evans’ extension made him the third-highest paid receiver in the NFL. He finished the 2008 season by cracking the 1,000-yard milestone for the second and final time of his career, then had two more pedestrian seasons in Buffalo (a combined 81 catches for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns from 2009-10) before being traded to Baltimore on Aug. 12, 2011.
6. Dick Jauron.
Contract: Three-year, $9 million extension signed on or around Oct. 26, 2008.
Aftermath: The master at going 7-9, Jauron actually got the Bills off to a 5-1 start in 2008. On the day the extension was reported, the Bills lost to Miami. They won just twice more the rest of the season on the way to finishing … you guessed it … 7-9. Jauron was finally fired after a 3-6 start in 2009. While the financial commitment to him wasn’t overwhelming, the extension served as a colossal miscalculation on the part of the front office.
5. Langston Walker.
Contract: Five-year, $25 million free-agent deal signed March 2, 2007.
Aftermath: Walker, a massive 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, started all 32 games in 2007 and ’08 after joining the Bills, but clearly didn’t make much of a positive impression. The team cut him just a week before the start of the 2009 regular season, even though he was scheduled to start at left tackle. Walker ended up going back to Oakland, playing two more seasons.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Contract: Six-year, $60 million extension signed Oct. 28, 2011.
Aftermath: Two days after signing his new deal, Fitzpatrick led the Bills to a 23-0 win over Washington in Toronto. The Bills then promptly lost seven games in a row and went from a 5-2 start to a 6-10 record. Another 6-10 season followed in 2012, and it became apparent Fitzpatrick was not the franchise quarterback the team paid him to be. He was cut prior to the 2013 season.
3. Mark Anderson.
Contract: Four-year, $19.5 million free-agent deal signed March 21, 2012.
Aftermath: Although it did not represent an overwhelming financial commitment, Anderson comes in this high on the list for the minuscule return on investment he provided. He played just five games in 2012 with one sack before missing the rest of the year with a knee injury. He was released in July 2013, and never played in the NFL again.
2. Aaron Schobel.
Contract: Seven-year, $50.5 million extension signed Aug. 24, 2007.
Aftermath: Schobel had 60.5 sacks in six years before signing his extension, then 17.5 in the three years that followed it. He didn’t show up for training camp before the 2010 season, basically forcing the Bills to cut him. He announced his retirement less than two weeks later, saying he had lost his passion for the game.
1. Derrick Dockery.
Contract: Seven-year, $49 million free-agent deal signed March 2, 2007
Aftermath: Signed the same day as Walker, Dockery had a similar career path. He started 32 games in two seasons, but the offense was terrible and Dockery never came close to living up to the contract that at the time made him the highest-paid player in team history. He remains the Bills’ gold standard for free-agent blunders.