What do you know? It looks as if Russ Brandon has finally decided to put his foot down and remind everyone he's in charge of the Bills' football operation.
Cutting Derrick Dockery and Robert Royal was a resounding move by the chief operating officer, an indication that inferior performance will no longer be tolerated. It's too bad Brandon didn't hold Dick Jauron to the same standard.
Still, it's an encouraging sign, a bold first step in a critical offseason at One Bills Drive. Dockery was the first big free-agent signing of the Jauron era, a $49 million guard who never came close to justifying the investment. By cutting him loose, Brandon showed that he's not wedded to past mistakes.
The cuts will save $6.2 million in real cash next season, only $1.75 million in cap space. This isn't so much about money as performance. It's an admission that the Bills blew it on Dockery and Royal. It's a slap at Marv Levy, whose attempt to rebuild the offensive line in his brief fling as a general manager was a colossal failure.
It's also an indictment of John Guy, the pro personnel director. Guy was brought here by Tom Donahoe in 2001 to identify top free agents. Guy is supposed to be the expert on NFL players, but he has rarely hit the jackpot. Aside from Takeo Spikes, I can't think of a single free agent who has been a difference-maker.
If Brandon is worthy of running an NFL operation, he can't continue to reward mediocre performance. He has to make it clear to Guy that he must do better -- beginning with the free agency period that begins today. Guy has to find upgrades at two or three positions, most likely center (Jason Brown?), outside linebacker and backup quarterback.
Brandon can't stop with Dockery and Royal. After the embarrassment in Toronto, he said everyone in the organization was under fire. That means Jauron is on the hot seat. So is Tom Modrak, who hasn't drafted an interior lineman of consequence since taking over the draft. It's enough to make you wonder how Guy and Modrak lasted this long.
What about Chris Kelsay? Levy's first big move as GM was giving Kelsay a four-year, $24 million deal. It was a panic signing. Kelsay has been the Dockery of the defensive line, a mediocrity being paid as a star.
Last week, Perry Fewell said the Bills needed a "different type" of defensive end, someone who could pressure the quarterback on third down. Well, what the heck are the Bills paying Kelsay $6 million for? To knock people over with locker room commentary?
Why not cut Kelsay, if this is about performance? Grab one of those defensive ends in the draft (Aaron Maybin, Brian Orakpo) and let him play. Move on from Kelsay and admit you need more of a dynamic presence at left end. Get a rush linebacker in the draft, too.
When you look at a list of the Bills' needs, it's a little overwhelming. Linebacker, defensive end, safety, cornerback, center, guard, receiver, backup quarterback. Is there any area where they don't have holes, besides punter?
Running back is now an issue, thanks to Marshawn Lynch's misbehavior. It was shrewd of Brandon to have Fred Taylor in for a visit, if only to send a message to Lynch that the Bills can tolerate only so much of his foolishness.
Left tackle is an issue, too. Jason Peters, a two-time Pro Bowler, will be looking to be paid as the top left tackle in the AFC. Cutting Dockery could be a sign they're determined to sign Peters. But the Bills can't afford another holdout. If Brandon can't find common ground with Peters, he should trade him.
There's a lot of work to be done. The Bills need to start getting things right. It's some comfort to see them acknowledge how badly they've done in the past.