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Bills Mailbag: Who will be the odd man out on contract extensions?

You’ve got Bills questions/comments that you submit to me via Twitter, @viccarucci, and e-mail, at vcarucci@buffnews.com, and I have answers.

Here’s what I have to say about what you have to say:

@racedogg2 says: “Who do you think will be the odd man out in contract extensions? Cordy Glenn? Stephon Gilmore? Nigel Bradham? Marcell Dareus? Can’t sign ’em all.”

I say: No, you can’t. Hard decisions will have to be made, and my early read is that Glenn is the most likely to fall into the odd-man-out category.

The primary reason is his position, left tackle. A top-level player there will command massive dollars when he hits the open market. But the Bills can’t say with any certainty they have such a talent in Glenn … certainly, not based on his inconsistent performance in 2014.

The Bills had Glenn and Seantrel Henderson, last year’s starter at right tackle, alternate spots during offseason workouts. The three primary reasons for doing that were, first, to see if Glenn was, in fact, the best candidate to play left tackle (and that appears to be the case, according to Rex Ryan); second, to see what options they have if something, such as injury, were to take Glenn out of the lineup, and third, to see what the line might look like in the event they don’t re-sign Glenn.

The other part of this equation is Cyrus Kouandjio, last year’s second-round pick. During the mandatory minicamp that ran from last Tuesday through Thursday, he moved ahead of Henderson to become the starting right tackle. Some of that was because Henderson missed the start of the minicamp after missing a flight, but it behooves the Bills to see exactly what they have in Kouandjio, who didn’t play as a lineman as a rookie, and weigh that opinion into the decision of what to do with Glenn.

As it stands, the Bills, according to the most up-to-date numbers, are somewhere between $4 and $5 million under the salary cap. That’s more than $1 million less than a previous estimate I reported last week.

The team will have to do some reworking of contracts and perhaps make a roster move or two to accommodate their plans of extending Dareus’ deal before the season. It would also make sense, given the fact they are built to win with defense, that they would make Bradham, arguably their best inside linebacker, and Gilmore, their most talented cornerback, priorities ahead of Glenn.

@MDermody88 says: “How likely is it that Kouandjio overtakes Henderson as starting RT?”

I say: For the time being, Kouandjio already has overtaken Henderson, as Ryan said at the end of minicamp. The question is, how permanent is Kouandjio’s promotion?

Ryan left that open, saying the real proof of whether he belongs in the starting lineup will come during training camp when the pads are on and contact begins. Ryan, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer should be able to get a much better idea of their true pecking order at tackle – as well as on the rest of the line – once they see players, who for the past three months were limited to showing how they move, finally get to demonstrate how they hit.

Henderson clearly has put himself on the wrong side of Ryan and especially the stern, no-nonsense Kromer. His failure to take the necessary precautions to make certain he arrived on time for the start of minicamp sent the wrong kind of message about his level of commitment to learning a new offense and being fully prepared to give his best in a highly competitive situation. Kromer could be heard yelling and swearing at him for mistakes he made in Thursday’s practice. The coaches clearly want to remind him that, although he started 16 games in 2014 as a seventh-round draft pick that carried plenty of off-the-field baggage from the University of Miami, he has new decision-makers to impress.

But Henderson has ample time to rally and figures to get plenty of opportunities to do so between now and the start of the season. Roman, for one, is a fan of his freakish combination of size (6-foot-7, 331 pounds) and athleticism. Plus, there is the unknown of Glenn’s future with the team beyond this season.

@JoeJoepg says: “Is it possible the Bills bring in one more QB before they put on the pads?”

I say: Yes, but not likely.

Some of that is because Ryan said Thursday there was “99.9 percent chance” that the starter for the Sept. 13 season opener against the Colts is on the roster. Although he left at least a tiny bit of room for someone other than the top three current candidates – Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, or Tyrod Taylor – to win the job, all indications are that Ryan, Roman and quarterbacks coach David Lee believe a No. 1 will emerge from among the trio.

Still, through most of the offseason practices the media has been allowed to watch, all have performed poorly enough to at least prompt the question of whether fourth-stringer Matt Simms or someone from the outside could end up being the answer. Ryan even went to the extreme of resting his starting defensive front on Thursday to help allow the quarterbacks to rebound from a terrible collective showing on Wednesday that resulted in part because of pass-protection problems.

Manuel seemed to benefit the most while working with the starting offense. Cassel, who also worked with the starters, didn’t do nearly as well. In working with the backups, Taylor and Simms had their struggles as well, and there is no reason to think at this point that either will step forward strongly enough to make this anything other than a two-man race between Manuel and Cassel.

It also seems highly unlikely that a quarterback who is still available or would become available at some point between now and the start of the season would be any better than what the Bills already have.

Richard Feldstein says: “Gary Myers of the N.Y. Daily News said in a recent column that Matt Simms will start some time this season. I agree with Myers. My friends think I am crazy, but I think Simms will show that he is the best QB on the roster. He has a cannon for an arm. Do you think Simms will make the roster and if so, do you see any chance that he will start or earn second string this season?”

I say: I respect Gary’s opinions and I agree that Simms does have an exceptionally strong arm.

My biggest question, though, is will he have enough of a chance to show his worthiness as a starter or even as a backup in his current fourth-string capacity? So far, his opportunities have been extremely limited.

Nevertheless, as wide open as the competition appears it will be entering training camp, anything seems possible.

@stungone7 says: “How’s Ronald Darby doing?”

I say: I thought he did a nice job through offseason workouts, maintaining tight coverage while minimizing illegal contact. In fact, I believe he has performed well enough to convince the coaches that he should be a leading contender to take over as the nickel defensive back.

The coaches clearly demonstrated their faith in Darby by moving Corey Graham from that spot to safety, where he is competing with Duke Williams among others to fill the starting spot vacated by the free-agency departure of Da’Norris Searcy.

@McC_3T says: “Who might be a pre-camp hidden gem?”

I say: Keep an eye on wide receiver Justin Brown, whom the Bills claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in February.

The Bills have a huge crowd at this position, which is ironic given their intention to utilize a run-first offense, so it will be hard to separate from the pack of players not named Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, or Percy Harvin.

But I wouldn’t be stunned if Brown emerged as a keeper. In practice, he shows good speed and athleticism, making the most of his 6-3, 209-pound frame to out-jump defenders, and does a good job of tracking the ball in the air.

Brown just might be ready to catch on as an NFL player. After joining the Steelers in 2013 as a sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma, he spent his rookie season on the practice squad and played in eight games last year, catching 12 passes for 94 yards.

email: vcarucci@buffnews.com

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