Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills as they near the end of their final week of OTAs:
1. Suddenly, the Bills find themselves with more than one option as they go down the road -- which they would be well advised to travel cautiously -- to try to upgrade their depth at wide receiver.
As part of a purge to rid themselves of players at or above the age of 30, the New York Jets are soon expected to part ways with Eric Decker. The Jets plan to trade (unlikely) or release (more likely) the veteran wideout by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, the Bills spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting with another veteran free-agent receiver, Jeremy Maclin. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he left without a contract and was headed for a visit with the Baltimore Ravens.
The interest in Maclin makes sense on multiple fronts, beginning with the fact he might very well be as good a No. 2 receiver as a team could find in June. And the Bills don't know exactly who they have filling that role, assuming they're going to have Sammy Watkins back from foot surgery in time for him to begin his fourth season as the team's No. 1 receiver.
There's also the fact Bills coach Sean McDermott was an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles when they made Maclin a first-round draft pick from Missouri in 2009 … and Maclin spent the past two seasons playing for McDermott's mentor, Andy Reid, in Kansas City ... and Reid's decision to recently cut Maclin was largely forced by salary-cap mismanagement … and running back LeSean McCoy has been aggressive in his efforts to recruit his former Eagle teammate to the Bills.
Add it all up, and you have the reason many Bills fans were breathlessly awaiting an announcement that he had signed with the club.
However, if the Bills truly are taking a long-term approach to building their roster -- as McDermott and new general manager Brandon Beane have discussed publicly -- are they at risk of deviating from that plan for the sake of securing a player who, when healthy, has game-breaking ability? A heavy investment in a 29-year-old player whose production has waned because of injury isn't sound and hardly would be in line with a philosophy that puts greater emphasis on young talent that will evolve in the next two or three seasons.
Maclin pretty much can be termed a short-term fix and if the Bills do end up signing him, his contract should reflect as much.
But it's hard to imagine he'll be quick to accept any such a deal from the Bills or any other team when McCoy was touting in an Instagram video posted Wednesday morning during Maclin's visit that McCoy is "bringing some star power to Buffalo … Just looking at an easy 1,300-1,400 (yards in receptions), you know what I'm sayin? I mean, 90-100 catches. You know what I mean?"
Not really, LeSean. It's hard to envision Maclin or any newcomer piling up that many catches in a run-oriented offense whose primary target is Watkins.
The same would apply to Decker, who, besides being almost the same age as Maclin, also has had similar production. Actually, Decker's has been slightly better with three seasons of 80 or more receptions to Maclin's two, three seasons of 1,000-plus yards in catches to Maclin's two, and three seasons of 10 or more touchdown grabs to Maclin's two.
Decker is returning from a shoulder injury that cut short his 2016 season, so that is an additional reason for any new employer to proceed cautiously with him.
2. Sadly, Buffalo sports fans know a thing or two about tanking.
The reward for that strategy remains elusive to the Sabres, who since have given their tank architect (Tim Murray) the boot.
But neither that nor the pain their fan base is about to feel is enough to discourage the Jets from diving into the same rabbit hole.
On Tuesday, they unloaded a double-barrel blast of discouraging news with word of the imminent departure of Decker following the release of veteran linebacker David Harris, as steady and effective a player as any on their defense. Harris was the defensive signal-caller and the glue to the schemes of former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan and current Jets coach Todd Bowles.
Besides enhancing space under their cap, the Jets' full-throttled push toward youth also increases the likelihood of a poor enough record to have a shot at one of the projected top quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft: USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's John Rosen, and Wyoming's Josh Allen.
Consider this observation from veteran New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers: "Close your eyes: This could be worse than (former coach) Rich Kotite's 1-15 in 1996."
So should the Bills already be chalking up at least two wins for 2017?
3. Although he has said Bills fans will need to be patient (hey, what's another year or two when you've been going through 17 years of futility?), Bill Polian is effusive in his praise of McDermott and all that the team has been doing in its latest overhaul.
One way that the Bills' former GM believes the club has been especially smart in its efforts to maximize the production of quarterback Tyrod Taylor is hiring Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator.
"The offense is the right fit for the quarterback," Polian said while in Batavia earlier this week for Jim Kelly's Celebrity Golf Tournament. "If he's going to prosper and do really good, it'll be in this offense because it gives him an opportunity to play laterally. He doesn't have to play completely in the pocket.
"His one negative is that he's a little bit on the short side; he's not like Jim where he's 6-4. So the more you get him on the move, the more you get him opportunities to do things with the ball outside the pocket, the better off he'll be. And if you just envision the (Gary) Kubiak offense (of which Dennison has been a part as a coach in Houston and Denver), that's perfect for him. He should thrive in that offense and so should McCoy because it's one cut and go.
"It's not only a very good offense. It's a good offense for this climate and for the people that they have now. (Taylor) should be really good in it. I think people are going to like what they see."