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Bills brass can't fool their fans

Nick Barnett has been in town for three weeks. Barnett is a newcomer to the dysfunction. He played on a Super Bowl winner last year. So you have to respect the guy for telling fans not to throw away their season tickets. It's only preseason, after all, and way too early to give up on the team.

But who could blame a Bills fan for bailing, when the organization itself seems to have given up on this season?

The Bills have some of the most loyal fans in sports. Their need to believe is always greater than the reality. But they're not stupid. They know when management is sincere about winning, and when the guys in charge are whistling a happy tune for public consumption.

If they're serious about winning right now, why haven't they addressed that pathetic offensive line? Do they expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to take the next step as an NFL quarterback while running for his life? And why in the world did they trade Lee Evans?

The players were stunned when they heard that Evans had been shipped to the Ravens for a fourth-round pick. Drayton Florence asked on a tweet if they wanted to win now or later. Terrence McGee called it "a hard blow" and "all business." Imagine what the guys were saying in private.

The Bills saved $2.75 million in the deal. That's fine. Saving money always matters when Ralph Wilson is involved. If the new regime wanted to build for the future and continue stripping away old parts, so be it. But why not wait until some contender suffers a major injury at receiver? You're telling me they couldn't do better than a fourth for Evans?

Evans' production slipped over the years. He was a one-dimensional threat who rarely went over the middle and disappeared against the Pats. But Evans made a lot of big plays here. His presence allowed Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish to emerge last season. If you think they're better off without him, you're delusional. They're worse.

Buddy Nix said there was a "logjam of talent" at receiver. A lot of bodies isn't the same as being deep. Johnson has been a starter for one year. No one else, including Parrish, has done it for a full season. The potential is there, but show some respect for Evans, who was among the top deep threats in the league during his seven years in Buffalo.

We'll find out in the coming months how deep they really are. From what I saw Saturday night, this Bills team is dangerously thin at some key positions, and lacking in top-level talent all over the field. That's what happens when you cut corners on salary and fill out a roster with marginal NFL players.

Don't tell me it's only preseason. That meant something when the Bills had Super Bowl talent. But when you're a bad team, preseason tells you a lot. It certainly mattered in 2009, when the offense couldn't score and Turk Schonert got fired. It mattered last year, when it became clear that the Bills had the worst linebacking corps in the NFL.

It mattered in Denver, where the Bills were soundly outplayed by a mediocre Broncos team. Coach Chan Gailey admitted in a halftime interview that his offensive line had been manhandled. He looked like a man whose son had just backed the family car into a tree.

Demetrius Bell played like an EZ-Pass lane in Denver. He's the good offensive tackle. Andy Levitre, one of the successful draft picks, took reps at left tackle. Imagine how Fitzpatrick feels about all this. No new linemen, no Evans, no contract extension. That's some commitment.

Marcell Dareus looks like the real deal. The run defense will be better. But the secondary isn't as good as people think. McGee looks old. Leodis McKelvin looks lost at cornerback. It's McKelvin's fourth year. You'd think an 11th overall pick would be established by now.

Someday, maybe they'll be shopping him for a fourth-rounder, too.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com