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Jay Skurski's three Bills thoughts: Lack of faith in Robert Woods, Charles Clay's contract and new stadium talk

1. It's one thing for the Bills to be down on Robert Woods. It's quite another for them to be so public about it. General Manager Doug Whaley recently even grouped Woods with Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Greg Little and Leonard Hankerson – whose not even under contract for next year.

Woods has proven himself the past three seasons in Buffalo way more than any of those players, so for him to be mentioned with them by Whaley is a surprise. Sure, Woods did have a down season in 2015, but he also showed toughness in trying to play through a torn groin before ultimately being shut down late in December. His numbers dipped to 47 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games, but those aren't terrible given that the team ran the ball so much.

Woods' frustration was evident during the season when he referred to himself as a "blocking receiver," but even in a down year, his numbers were comparable to his first two seasons in the league. It's understandable that the Bills would want more out of their No. 2 receiver opposite Sammy Watkins, but as it stands, Woods is their best option in that role. Until they find a better one, it doesn't make much sense why they're so public about their desire to do so.

2. Restructuring Charles Clay's contract seems like an easy decision, but it would sacrifice future flexibility in regards to the salary cap. Clay is due a $10 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2016 NFL league year in March. By turning that into a roster bonus, the Bills could spread that out over the final four years of his contract, reducing his 2016 salary cap number from $13.5 million to $6 million. That extra $7.5 million should be enough to, say, re-sign Richie Incognito.

However, by doing so, Clay's cap number for 2017-19 would then raise to $9 million for each season, up from $6.5 million. The "dead money" that would go on the Bills' salary cap if Clay were cut before any of the four remaining seasons on his contract would go like this: $19.5 million, $13.5 million, $9 million, $4.5 million.

On the other hand, if the Bills somehow bit the bullet and dealt with Clay's $10 million roster bonus on their 2016 salary cap as part of his $13.5 million cap hit (adding in his $2 million prorated signing bonus and $1.5 million base salary), his cap hit from 2017-19 would be $6.5 million in each season. The dead money in the final three years of the deal would go like this: $6 million, $4 million, $2 million.

If the Bills are absolutely confident that Clay can be a contributor for at least the next three years, they should restructure his deal. But if they're not, it's a tougher call. They could try to find a middle ground, where they convert some of the bonus, to lower the cap hit. Or they could just pay the $10 million knowing the cap space in future seasons will be needed for players like Stephon Gilmore, Watkins or, possibly a franchise quarterback.

3. Most of the Bills fans I speak with haven't expressed much of a desire for a new stadium. Despite that, it feels like an inevitability that when the current lease between Erie County and the Bills for the team to play in Ralph Wilson Stadium expires in 2022, a new stadium will be built.

Since taking over ownership of the team in 2014, Terry and Kim Pegula have made it clear that they are in no rush to build a new stadium. Rightfully so. The Ralph has gone through $130 million in renovations in the past couple years. If the team were in a rush to move into a new home, that would be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. Even with their billions of dollars, it's completely understandable that the Pegulas wouldn't be in a rush to sink hundreds of millions more into a new stadium.

Even though the Ralph is one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL and may not have all the bells and whistles that others have, very few fans I've encountered have any problem with the game-day experience. Tickets are affordable, and the tailgating scene in Orchard Park is a huge part of the appeal of rooting for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 16 straight years. While there are a few select bozos who treat those tailgates as an opportunity to try out for the WWE by slamming themselves through flaming tables, they are a very small minority of the team's fanbase.

So why does a new stadium feel like an inevitability? Because in the NFL, the pressure is there to always raise revenue. That would come with a new stadium, which would likely bring higher ticket prices and more luxury suites. A downtown stadium that someone ties into the amazing progress that has been made near the Canalside and HarborCenter projects would seem like a logical next step in Buffalo's rebirth, but the Pegulas are right: There's no rush to make that happen.

 

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