The Buffalo Bills are working on a multi-year contract extension with general manager Doug Whaley, a high-ranking source confirmed to The Buffalo News on Tuesday.
Details have not been presented to ownership yet but the two sides are expecting to get a deal done.
There have not been any official meetings between owners Terry and Kim Pegula and the team since the Bills defeated the New York Jets, 22-17, on Sunday to finish the season at 8-8. The owners, Whaley and rest of the Bills brass were planning on meeting this coming weekend to recap the 2015 season and set a plan for 2016.
At which point, Whaley’s future with the club would be ironed out.
Until then, the Bills’ plan was for Ryan to conduct exit interviews with his players and then meet with his coaching staff to make any possible changes.
The theme internally is the theme broadcast externally — the Pegulas are aiming to maintain continuity and patience. The belief within is that this team has enough talent to compete. And that was reflected in Whaley saying at his season-ending news conference that the team would be looking to re-sign its own players.
"I think the focus on the off-season would probably be on retaining most of everything that we have," Whaley said. "We have some guys coming up that we think will be core to what we need to go forward, so I think that’s going to be the focus. I’ve said before, when it comes to free agency, you guys might as well take that week off. Our free agency is going to be signing our own guys and that’s again a complement to our scouting staff. We’ve drafted well enough that these guys are coming up and we want to retain them."
So the source also said that there was no one-year ultimatum given to Whaley and Ryan to perform in 2016 or be fired. Those close to Pegula also say it's not in his nature to do such a thing. Earlier Tuesday, a team source told The News' Vic Carucci that such a meeting occurred between Whaley, Ryan and Pegula about a week ago.
Whaley has one year left on his contract, while Ryan has four years left on a deal that guarantees him $27.5 million. The Pegulas, team president Russ Brandon and Whaley still need to meet to discuss the parameters of the contract. There's a chance the length of their deals parallel each other, similar to what the Indianapolis Colts announced on Monday night. Colts owner Jim Irsay gave head coach Chuck Pagano a four-year contract and said G.M. Ryan Grigson would be “contractually tied to Chuck.”
WGR 550 first reported that an extension to Whaley here in Buffalo was in the works.
On Monday, Whaley appeared confident when asked about his future with the club.
"That stuff, I’ll leave to Russ and the ownership. I just know that every day I’ve come in here I’ve got positive feedback from the Pegula’s," Whaley said. "I love working with Rex, I love working with this whole staff, I think our personnel staff has done a very good job in acquiring players. Look at the roster we put out there this last game. A lot of those guys that were playing and producing weren’t even on the team three or four weeks ago so I’m excited with what we bring to the table and just keep doing my job and the first thing I was taught in this business is keep your nose down, work hard, and do whatever it takes to help your team win. Everything else takes care of itself."
Of course, anything could happen if the Bills regress in 2016 and the owners believe structural change is needed. Terry Pegula gave Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier a contract extension in January 2013 before the lockout-delayed season, and then fired him 20 games into the following season.
Right now, this is a Bills organization staying the course, one that does not want front-office upheaval. The Bills have cycled through eight different head coaches since Marv Levy retired after the 1997 season and five different general managers since John Butler was fired in 2000. Whaley served as the Bills' assistant general manager from 2010- '13 before being elevated to GM in May 2013.
Tuesday’s news falls in line which what owner Terry Pegula said in a statement last week.
“As our first full season as owners of the Buffalo Bills draws to a close, management, coaches, players, and fans all feel that our expectations were not met,” Pegula wrote.
“Kim, Russ, and I look forward to working and collaborating with Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan in forming a winning future for the organization. Our management team and coaching staff are very capable and work well together. This stable foundation is necessary to achieve long-term success in the NFL.”