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Bills have 'a lot of work to do' beyond finding a quarterback

It's easy to get hung up on the quarterback position, to make it the be-all, end-all of whatever the Buffalo Bills do during the coming months.

The Bills, themselves, have done plenty to help create such thinking, even though their public stance is that they're still "evaluating" what to do about Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the roster.

Make no mistake, however. The Bills have made a clear effort to position themselves to package some of the extra early draft picks they have as part of a trade that would allow them to move up high enough to select a QB they covet.

Decision on Taylor looms for Bills GM Beane, coach McDermott

Nevertheless, as critical as it is for them to put the right guy behind center, once and for all, they have other needs. Significant ones. Last Sunday's playoff appearance notwithstanding, the Bills face plenty of building/rebuilding elsewhere in order to have any chance of reaching the postseason again at some point in the near or even distant future.

"We have a long way to go, we really do," General Manager Brandon Beane said in Tuesday's season-ending news conference with coach Sean McDermott. "We have a lot of work to do."

That actually might be an understatement.

Finding a long-term replacement for Taylor is a massive undertaking. First, Beane, McDermott, others within the coaching and player-personnel staffs, along with owners Terry and Kim Pegula, must build an organizational consensus on that quarterback's identity. Then, they must structure a trade offer that will likely target a pick at or near the top of the draft.

Whether the Bills — whose eight total choices are in the first five rounds and who have five in the first three — can present an offer that the Cleveland Browns, who own the No. 1 pick, or one of the other teams near the top will accept is a huge question mark.

Beane acknowledges Bills have ammo to move up in draft with 8 picks in first 5 rounds

"The good thing is we have a lot of draft capital and we can stay (with the 21st and 22nd overall choices) and pick, we can move up, we can move back, we can do a lot of different things," Beane said. "It’s so early in the process. I mean, we’ve seen these college guys on the field, but we’ve yet to meet any of them and to know who they are. You rank these guys (from) what you see on the film, but until you know them and know how they know the game and all of that, talking about the quarterback position, there’s so many layers of what it takes to play quarterback in this league – and we’ve talked about them – that we’re still a long way to go.

"It’s too early for me to answer what we would do, whether we’d do it or not, but yes, we will go where we need to go to get the right players."

But there are plenty of questions beyond quarterback, such as:

*Who, besides standout rookie Matt Milano, will comprise the linebacking corps? Starting middle linebacker Preston Brown is due to hit free agency, and there is a better than even chance the Bills won't retain him, even though he led the NFL in tackles. McDermott likely wants a faster and more athletic player in the middle. Lorenzo Alexander's future with the Bills is in doubt, considering he just completed his 11th NFL season. He played well in the wild-card playoff loss against Jacksonville, but it would be a surprise if the Bills didn't make a concerted effort to go with a younger replacement.

*Who is going to enable the Bills to boost their anemic pass rush? Jerry Hughes didn't give them a ton of production at one defensive end spot, and hasn't been all that effective since his back-to-back 10-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014 with only 15 in the last three years. And 2016 first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson, whose season ended prematurely due to injury, wasn't all that impressive in his second season. Eddie Yarbrough and Ryan Davis did their best to try to pick up the slack, but the Bills need to find a stud who can consistently draw extra attention from opponents.

*Who, besides Kelvin Benjamin, is going to make game-changing catches? And that presumes Benjamin, who was bothered by knee trouble since arriving earlier in the season from the Carolina Panthers via a trade, is able to get and stay healthy. He's hardly a speed threat. When functioning at his best, he's able to dominate defenders in or near the end zone. Rookie Zay Jones was mostly disappointing as a second-round pick. At times, he did a solid job of gaining separation, but had persistent issues with hanging onto the ball.

*Who is going to be the primary force at defensive tackle? This is a question regardless of whether Kyle Williams returns for a 13th season. The Bills say they want him back, but Williams says he is going to contemplate his future while taking some time to relax with his family at their offseason home in Louisiana. It would be a surprise if the Bills didn't ask him to take a pay cut and avoided offering any guarantees that he would be on the team. Under such conditions, Williams just might choose to hang it up. The Bills still need to address the hole created by the trade that sent Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville. Adolphus Washington, the team's third-round pick in '16, is nothing special and could very well have a tough time sticking around.

*Who, besides LeSean McCoy, is going to play running back? Is it a given that McCoy will be back at age 30, when players at his position tend to decline, while accounting for a cap hit of nearly $9 million? The Bills just might conclude that parting ways with McCoy perhaps a year too soon is smarter than doing so a year too late. As the Bills' lone difference-maker on offense, McCoy takes a beating, and the ankle injury with which he played against the Jaguars last Sunday was the most recent example. If nothing else, the Bills need to upgrade their depth here, even if they end up retaining Travaris Cadet, whose season was cut short by a broken ankle.

*Who, besides rookie Dion Dawkins, is going to be part of the mix at offensive tackle? Dawkins did a more than credible job of replacing Cordy Glenn, who wasn't healthy all last season, at left tackle. But Glenn could very well be gone, given his chronic foot/ankle issues and $14-million-plus cap hit. The Bills might be looking for an upgrade at right tackle. Jordan Mills did a respectable job, but the team no doubt could seek improvement. Backup Seantrel Henderson is due to become a free agent.

"We are far from a finished product," Beane said. "I don’t know if you’re ever going to hear us say we’re a finished product but we have a lot of work to do and we know that and that’s going to get started pretty quickly after this press conference."

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