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Bills Mailbag: Paying Cousins big money doesn't sound like the way McDermott, Beane like to operate

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci.

I have answers:

Vic Carucci: I can't say I necessarily hate the idea. Paying Kirk Cousins top-end quarterback money, easily above $25 million per season, would be a substantial risk. But it could be argued that it entails less uncertainty than giving up multiple first-round picks to move up high enough to select a quarterback at or near the top of the draft.

Assuming the Washington Redskins don't keep Cousins, he would represent the consummate "win-now" move by the Bills. It would reflect a belief that being a playoff team last season convinced coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane they're closer to being a contender than they're willing to let on with their public comments or that other observers (such as this one) believe.

As you point out, Joe, there are other "major needs." There are actually a lot of them, and I don't believe that they can all be sufficiently addressed via the draft. If you tie up a whole lot of cap space at quarterback, it ultimately will limit your ability to build/rebuild elsewhere in free agency.

That doesn't sound like the way McDermott and Beane want to do business. I think they'd prefer to draft their long-term answer at quarterback and develop him from scratch. I believe they believe that ownership will give them adequate time to do so.

Vic, my friend wants to know whatever happened to the rule that says blockers can't push running backs forwards in order to help them get yardage. Any clue?

VC: My understanding is that, while the rule still exists, it's rarely enforced. If you look up the NFL's playing rules for 2017, you'll see a diagram of how an official indicates such a call, with a pushing movement of his hands with his arms down.

VC: I don't see the Indianapolis Colts making him available. If he is, it would be because they have run out of patience with his inability to stay healthy. And if that's the case, I wouldn't see it as a risk the Bills should take, on the assumption the Colts would seek a fairly healthy batch of picks for a former top overall choice.

VC: I was a little surprised, yes, that Tyrod Taylor wasn't removed from last Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Jacksonville at that point, especially given the heightened awareness the NFL shows when it comes to head injuries.

That is, generally shows. There have, of course, been high-profile instances where the league has dropped the ball on this issue. One resulted in the Seattle Seahawks being fined for their mishandling of a severe blow to the head of Russell Wilson. The one to which you referred might have been another. The NFL clearly needs to develop greater consistency in enforcing its protection of players suffering actual or potential concussions.

VC: All of the above.

It's hardly a secret that the Bills have a sub-par group of receivers. Kelvin Benjamin was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers to change that, but his chronic knee trouble limited his impact. He also doesn't have the speed or elusiveness to gain separation. Benjamin's game is based on being bigger and stronger than most of the defensive backs he faces, and winning the battle for 50-50, contested balls. For the most part, having a willingness to throw those isn't a part of Taylor's quarterbacking DNA.

Rookie Zay Jones usually had problems getting open. He isn't exceptionally fast or an elite route-runner. Jones mainly relies on his smarts and instincts to get open, but his hands proved to be less than reliable. Deonte Thompson is plenty fast, but hardly spectacular.

Taylor doesn't do a good enough job of making reads and finding the right spot to deliver throws. He tends to be too slow with his decisions and continually waits for targets to be wide open ... which is almost always too late, given the ability of most NFL defensive backs to close those windows in a hurry.

Taylor's pass protection tended to leave plenty to be desired. The Jaguars, who have the best defensive line in the league, overwhelmed the Bills' O-linemen last Sunday. The Carolina Panthers and other teams also had far too much success generating pressure.

VC: It's hard to offer a definitive list of possible free agents, especially those of the under-the-radar variety, that might interest the Bills because there's no true way of telling whether they're actually going to be available.

I'd say cornerback E.J. Gaines is the player headed for UFA the Bills would consider their top priority to keep. Gaines went well beyond his initial label as a throw-in after the second-round draft pick the Bills received from the Los Angeles Rams in return for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He established himself as a solid starter, opposite standout rookie Tre'Davious White.

With safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, the Bills had as formidable a secondary as any in the league. And Gaines' addition was a significant part of that.

VC: I think they use the picks for a quarterback. I firmly believe they were gathered with that position pretty much exclusively in mind.

I like Bridgewater. I just don't know how effective he'll be if and when he gets to play a full season after suffering that devastating knee injury. My sense is that the Bills want more a traditional pocket passer.

VC: I'm not big on helmet fashion, so I'll leave that to the designers.

As for bringing in more edge-rush competition, I'm all for it. The Bills desperately need all of the help they can get in that area.

VC: Calling the defense a strength in 2017 is a bit of a stretch. The unit slipped in terms of yards allowed, although it did a decent job of keeping scoring in check and its secondary does rank among the NFL's best.

But, you're right. There will be plenty of turnover, especially in the linebacking corps and likely within the defensive line. A decline wouldn't be shocking, although it's more likely that it might not show dramatic improvement.

VC: It would be hard to believe the Bills wouldn't see some sort of bump in season-ticket sales after two years of decline that is believed to have brought the record total of 60,000 in 2015 down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 54,000.

The end of the drought created a feel-good story unlike any the Bills have seen since, well, the 2014 purchase of the team by Terry and Kim Pegula. That, combined with the hiring of Rex Ryan, did the most to push the total to 60,000, a level it hadn't even seen during its Super Bowl run of the 1990s.

Given the excitement over the playoff appearance and general sense of confidence fans seem to have that the team is headed in the right direction under McDermott and Beane, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bills make up at least half of the ground they've lost since '15. What they do about acquiring a new quarterback could also have a major impact on ticket sales.


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