Bills fans find themselves in a tough spot Sunday.
Rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars or New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game is like choosing between watching a Sabres game or assembling furniture: both options are unpleasant.
The Doug Marrone redemption angle this week has been exhausting: Marrone was a bullying micromanager when he was here who quit on his team. Never forget that. And the Patriots ... well, they're the Patriots. But enough about teams that aren't the Bills. Let's get to this week's mailbag:
Tim Toth asks: Your opinion on the possibility that Shady gets traded prior to or on draft day? He’ll be 30 when camp opens, but still has some value. The Bills may use picks to move up for their QB, but can recoup them with a trade & then draft his replacement.
Jay: I mentioned on our season-ending BN Blitz podcast that I can’t shake the idea of moving on from a player a season too early as opposed to a season too late. That said, McCoy has more value to the Bills than he would any other team. He was by far Buffalo’s best offensive player in 2017, and projects to be that again next year. As Tim mentions, he’ll be 30 next season, and the market for running backs of that age isn’t going to be big. My plan for McCoy would be to bring him back for 2018, then draft a player to groom behind him this year, similar to how the Colts used Marlon Mack behind Frank Gore this year.
Tony Chimera asks: Who should the Bills re-sign from their free agent class this year?
Jay: May I direct you to this week’s Inside the Bills? In my column, I prioritize all 18 pending unrestricted free agents. My top priority is re-signing E.J. Gaines. Of the 18, he’s the only one who would be difficult to replace. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams has to decide if he wants to keep playing. If he does, I’d be interested in a one-year deal with a reduced role, particularly because depth at defensive tackle is such an issue.
“Bills Fan in AZ” asks: Any scenario that we make a push for Kirk Cousins?
Jay: For sure there’s a scenario. Would Cousins want to come here? That’s going to be a tough sell for Brandon Beane and Co. The Bills’ current collection of receivers is less than inspiring, and he’s going to get paid huge money anywhere he goes. Buffalo being at the top of his list seems unlikely.
The Bills have the money to do it, though, and Beane has mentioned free agency as a possible avenue for finding a quarterback.
Robert Goodwin asks: Which current receivers won't be here at the start of camp?
Jay: There are two receivers on the team’s 53-man roster at the end of the season who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March. They are Deonte Thompson and Brandon Tate. I’d make Thompson a modest offer to return and let Tate walk in an effort to get younger. Three receivers ended the year on injured reserve: Jordan Matthews, Andre Holmes and Jeremy Butler. Both Matthews and Butler will be unrestricted free agents, and neither of them would be priorities for me to re-sign. Matthews could net the Bills a decent compensatory draft pick in 2019 if he signs elsewhere. Holmes will be back primarily to play special teams, but his roster spot isn’t guaranteed by any means.
Thomas Pullano asks: With Brian Daboll most likely bringing in a new running scheme, do you think there's any chance John Miller gains new life at the right guard position? Thought he was developing well before he was unseated by Ducasse in Dennison's system. Thanks for the great coverage this season.
Jay: Thanks for the kind words. I do think Miller will get another chance to get on the field under Daboll, but it’s important to remember that Vlad Ducasse is a favorite of offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who remains on staff. My guess is that we see another competition between those two at training camp. Another factor is what happens at left guard with Richie Incognito. If the Bills move on from him for cap space or because of the situation involving the accused racial slur Incognito made against the Jaguars, that would open a spot in the starting lineup that has to be filled. Perhaps Miller gets a chance at that job.
“The Drought is Over” asks: Why wasn’t Marcus Murphy used at running back at all in the Jacksonville game? He looked very good the prior week against Miami.
Jay: Because McCoy was healthy enough to play. Simple as that.
Greg Tompsett asks: If it will cost 2 yrs $15M to bring back E.J. Gaines, so we pay it?
Jay: I’d sign up for that, but why would Gaines? At 25, he’s coming off a year in which he established himself as a solid starting cornerback in the NFL. Those guys get paid, and on contracts longer than two years. It would be best for Gaines and the Bills to try and work out a longer deal. That could lessen the annual cap hit for Buffalo, and potentially give Gaines more money upfront. We’re entering the Greg Tompsett portion of the mailbag …
Greg asks: Since Cordy Glenn has already been paid at a LT level and stands nothing financial to lose, will he put up a fight if asked to move to RT?
Jay: That question is best for Cordy Glenn’s mailbag. It’s not a bad idea, though. I’d rather attempt to trade Glenn, but the Bills’ ability to do that will depend on if he is healthy after foot surgery. If he does have a clean bill of health, there are plenty of teams with needs along the offensive line who might be willing to part with a draft asset. Perhaps Glenn could be the sweetener in a deal to move up for a quarterback. If a trade doesn’t materialize, trying Glenn on the right side could work. I wouldn’t be all that concerned about his willingness to do it. If it comes down to having a job or not, I trust he’d make the right decision.
Greg, again, asks: Do you advocate packaging assets to move up for a QB or taking best available at 21 to groom behind whichever Vikings QB we sign?
Jay: How about packaging assets to move up and signing a Vikings quarterback? The idea of signing Teddy Bridgewater is intriguing, although I’d be concerned about his injury history. The same is true of signing Sam Bradford. I’m not sure the Bills will have a chance at Case Keenum, because it seems unlikely the Vikings would let him go, especially if he gets them into the Super Bowl. I’m on board with moving up in the draft. It’s thought to be a good year at the position, and the Bills have the ammunition to do it. There is immense pressure on Beane to get it right, but that’s the job he signed up for.
Patrick Shelley asks: What’s your opinion of the Bills using a third-round pick to acquire AJ McCarron from the Bengals and using the rest to fill holes?
Jay: There is a possibility McCarron will be an unrestricted free agent. He has a grievance scheduled for Feb. 15 that will determine the status of his free agency. If he’s a restricted free agent, the Bengals are likely to put at least a second-round tender on him. The Bills could try and sign him then and give up a second-round pick. It’s unlikely the Bengals would accept only a third-round pick, because they had a deal in place with Cleveland at the trade deadline that would have given them second- and third-round picks.
Rick McGuire asks: So Jay ... any under the radar "sleepers" you witnessed at the Shrine game practices you'd like to share with us?
Jay: Homer alert – South Florida cornerback Deatrick Nichols is an intriguing prospect. He has the positional versatility Sean McDermott likes, playing outside and in the slot for the Bulls. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Nichols allowed just 23 catches for 192 yards when lined up in the slot in 2017. Buffalo's slot cornerback last season, Leonard Johnson, is scheduled to be a free agent.
Vancouver Bills Backers asks: Over/under on prime-time games this year? Any at home?
Jay: Since every team gets one with the Thursday game, I'll set the over/under at 1.5. I'll take the over, believing Buffalo's playoff berth will be enough to earn them a spot. There is also the possibility the team trades up for a top quarterback, which could be a reason to tune in. The Bills have rotated home and away Thursday night games with the Jets the last couple years. I'll say there will be a home game. Thanks for the questions this week!
Story topics: Andrew Holmes/ Brandon Beane/ Brandon Tate/ Cordy Glenn/ Deonte Thompson/ E.J. Gaines/ Jeremy Butler/ John Miller/ Jordan Matthews/ Juan Castillo/ Kyle Williams/ LeSean McCoy/ Marcus Murphy/ Vlad Ducasse