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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: Bills need to win soon, and think about future

It was a pretty ordinary week for the Mailbag. Surprisingly, there were no new questions about the Patriots, no one spewing hate and invective at Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the defending Super Bowl champions.

Maybe Bills fans are suffering from Deflategate fatigue (I know I am) and channeling all their emotional energy toward Sunday’s showdown. It should be a great game, and yes, I’m picking New England.

The more avid fans are already looking ahead to future seasons. People are fretting about the salary cap repercussions of the Marcell Dareus signing, and how Doug Whaley will be able to keep the band together. And they haven’t won anything yet.

It’s worth pondering, though. I imagine most fans would rather devise inventive ways to verbally abuse Brady on Sunday. Anyway, here’s this week’s mail:

@Tsauce88 asks: Do the Bills have the resources to extend Glenn, Bradham, Richie, and Gilmore? We need to keep this team together.

Sully: There’s certainly cause for concern. The Bills are already about $6.8 million over next year’s projected $150 million cap after wrapping up Dareus. Terry Pegula, welcome to the high roller room of the NFL, where showering huge bonuses eventually comes back to haunt you.

The Bills need to free up money to sign prospective free agents. No. 1 is keeping inside linebacker Nigel Bradham, a rising star who can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Bradham, an ideal fit for Rex Ryan’s defense, should command a deal in the $8 million-per-year range.

The obvious source of relief is Mario Williams’ deal. He’ll count $19.9 million against the cap next season. They can save a lot of money in the short term by extending Williams and pushing new bonuses into the future.

Charles Clay is set to count a whopping $13.5 million against the cap next year. The Bills threw Clay a big bonus to pry him away from Miami. They can tweak his original deal to create salary space for other guys.

Richie Incognito signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal, quite reasonable for his stature on the field. Incognito was rated as the Bills’ best offensive lineman in the opener. If he continues to play at a high level and avoids further boorish antics, he’ll command more money next season.

Gilmore is scheduled to make $11 million in 2016 after the Bills picked up his fifth-year option. As a rising shutdown corner, he’s a valuable piece of Ryan’s D. They’d like to extend him before he reaches free agency after 2016. The question is when they can afford it.

The most likely guy to leave is Cordy Glenn, whose four-year deal expires after this season. Glenn has been inconsistent at left tackle and isn’t worth top money at the position. He needs to play a lot better than he did in the opener to justify a big extension.

You have to cut somewhere. Ask the Seahawks how hard it is to keep a talented team together. They lost starting cornerback Byron Maxwell to free agency. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is holding out for a new contract. They need to extend the contract of star linebacker Bobby Wagner.

You can’t keep everybody. The Bills need to win soon, while they have a stacked roster with some top younger players in their first contracts. Eventually, the big contracts catch up with you.

@bcredmosquito asks: Seeing as how he will be 33 next year, do you think the Bills cut Kyle Williams in the offseason and bring in a younger player?

Sully: I seriously doubt it, though it’s a fair question. Williams, who turns 33 next June, has two years left on the extension he signed in March. The deal didn’t provide cap relief, either. He’s on the books for $8 million in 2016 and $8.3 million in 2017.

Williams has played at a Pro Bowl level the last two seasons, so he’s worth the money. He’s also the longest-tenured Bill now that Fred Jackson is gone. It would be an unpopular move if the Bills cut him to save money. But Whaley didn’t bow to sentiment when he cut Jackson.

Defensive tackles can have long careers. Ted Washington and Pat Williams come to mind. Kyle Williams has missed one game in three years. If he stays healthy and productive, he’s too valuable to let go. He was probably the Bills’ best defensive player in the opener against the Colts.

Mike Stetter asks: Is it possible Cassel’s “start” last Sunday was orchestrated to help him attain incentives on his redone contract? Was this a cunning (albeit failed) in-game tactic, or shrewd roster management to elude the salary cap?

Sully: Mike, I appreciate a good conspiracy theory, but you’re reaching here. Putting Cassel out for the first play was a trick play the Bills had worked out in practice, a dubious, failed attempt by Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to outsmart the Colts.

“I really thought that play looked great in practice,” Ryan said. “Man, we were hitting it for touchdowns every time! Hit it for a 6-yard loss. Not exactly the way I wanted to start out.”

Ryan is a free thinker, but I can’t fathom him playing tricks on the first offensive play of the season for salary cap reasons. And I don’t imagine Cassel had anything to gain from one technical start at quarterback.

@MeyersMusings asks: Enjoyed your review of Bill Pennington’s book on Billy Martin. Should Martin be in the Hall of Fame?

Sully: Absolutely. Martin was a great manager, one of the best ever. His career winning percentage of .553 is better than 13 of the 22 managers in the Hall of Fame. As the biography reminds us, virtually every team Billy took over got better, most of them dramatically.

Martin won just one World Series. But as Pennington points out, he managed before the wild-card era. If there had been a wild card in his day, he would have gone to six more postseasons and maybe won another World Series or two.

Tony LaRussa said Martin’s “genius is not properly understood.” Buck Showalter said the first time he spent time with Martin, he felt like he didn’t know baseball at all. It’s sad that Martin is remembered more as an alcoholic brawler than a baseball genius. But he deserves to be in the Hall.


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