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Jay Skurski's 3 Bills thoughts: On the team's regression this offseason, the trade for Reggie Ragland, the case for No. 61 to be retired

1. The general feeling I get from Bills fans is that the team succeeded in finding players in the draft who will contribute immediately. In particular, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland should step right into the starting lineup from Day One. But overall, does that mean the Bills have improved? ESPN's John Clayton does not see it that way. In fact, Clayton ranks the Bills fifth on a list of teams that have regressed this offseason, pointing to the departures of Mario Williams, Nigel Bradham, Leodis McKelvin and Percy Harvin from the defense as the main reason. "This year's Bills team isn't as talented, and the schedule is tougher," Clayton writes. It's hard to argue either of those points at the moment. While it's ok to be excited about the potential of the team's rookie class, it's important to remember that none of those players have proven themselves in the NFL just yet. As for Clayton's second point about the schedule, it's tough to project that, but playing the NFC West and AFC North this year as opposed to the NFC East and AFC South a season ago does shape up to be harder on paper.

2. Speaking of Ragland, did the Bills pay too much in the trade up to get him? ESPN's Bill Barnwell thinks so. In his AFC East report card, he knocks the Bills for their trade with Chicago – which sent the 49th (second round) and 117th (fourth round) overall draft choices to the Bears, as well as Buffalo's 2017 fourth-round choice – in exchange for the No. 41 pick, which was used on Ragland.

"That's a lot of draft capital to give away -- according to the Chase Stuart draft chart, the Bills essentially used the 13th overall pick on Ragland, given the amount they sent to Chicago," Barnwell writes. "By that same chart, they paid $1.68 on the dollar for the trade. The issue isn't wanting Ragland; it's the cost of giving away the opportunity to acquire more cheap talent at below-market prices."

In recent years, the Bills have acquired players like Bradham, Marcus Easley and Da'Norris Searcy in the fourth round. All of them have made meaningful contributions, so it's a fair point to consider when evaluating the trade. The key for the Bills is that Ragland follows in the footsteps of 2015 second-round pick Ronald Darby, and not 2014 second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio.

3. The short list of Bills numbers that should be retired looks like this: No. 12, No. 78. No. 34. No. 83. No. 61. That's it. Retiring a number should be the highest honor given by the organization – a step above the Wall of Fame. Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed deserve that distinction for their on-field accomplishment. They are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and some of the best-ever players at their positions. But what about No. 61? That's the number of Bob Kalsu. The Bills' offensive guard started all 14 games in his rookie year of 1968, but joined the U.S. Army the following year. He became the only NFL player to be killed during the Vietnam War, when on July 21, 1970 his camp came under a mortar attack. There would not be a more perfect way for the Bills to honor Kalsu's legacy and memorialize his service to our country than by retiring No. 61.

 

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