Here is the transcript of the question-and-answer session with Bills general manager Brandon Beane from his podium interview with media Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Check The Buffalo News throughout the day for more news on what Beane and coach Sean McDermott had to say in other interviews at the combine.
Q: What's going on for you here and what are you expecting to get out of the combine?
A: Today is Day One. We just got out of height-weight, watching these guys get measured. We had some interviews last night. It's really important the medical, which is what this started as. This is the first time our doctors and trainers can get their hands on these guys, which is a big part of the process. Now we can talk to some more guys. We met some of the players at the Senior Bowl, East-West and the NFLPA Game. But the juniors obviously we couldn't do that. So now we can talk to some of those guys.
Q: What was the thought behind overhauling the training staff?
A: It wasn't an overhaul. At the top we did make a switch. You want to thank Bud (Carpenter) for what a career he had. It was 32-33 years with one franchise. But is a good man, really helped us in Year One. He decided to move on. We did make a change at the top. We're always looking to get better. It wasn't any one particular thing. Shone Gipson is a great man and he worked hard and really helped in a lot of ways. We just thought we needed to make some changes, and that's what we did.
Q: Question on the value of running backs.
A: You've got to be able to run the football. The league has obviously become more of a passing league than what we grew up watching. But you still have to be able to run the ball on third and 1, fourth and 1, what we call four-minute football to close out games. It's important. If you stick your passer back there all day, your linemen don't like it and your quarterback's going to get hit. We see what happens when your quarterback gets hurt and is out. It's hard enough to get one, much less have a solid backup.
Q: There's been some questions on Shady's age and future, are you confident he's your running back in 2018?
A: Yeah. I'm planning on that. He obviously had the little injury at the end of the year. I give him a lot of credit to play in the Jacksonville game with the injury. That shows how competitive he is. He's healthy. He's ready to go. I saw him one time since the season ended. I expect him back and he'll be a big part of what we're doing in 2018.
Q: What did you like about Vontae Davis?
A: Vontae's skill set. He's obviously been a No. 1 corner most of his career. Last year I know he had the injury. We vetted him out, did a lot of research. We had some people who had been with him in Miami. We did our recon on him in Indy and what happened last year. We brought him in and had a good visit. I think he had some teams he thought he'd be a good fit at. He and his agent circled back, and we thought it'd be a good fit. He brings size, speed, experience. We've got a lot of experience back there other than Tre. He'll be going into his second year. It's just a guy you can get your hands on early before free agency. We were able to work something out.
Q: Where does that leave you with E.J. Gaines?
A: You know, we're still open to bringing E.J. back, for sure. E.J. did a lot of good things for us. Signing Vontae does not mean it's the end of the road for E.J. here in Buffalo. But it takes two, like with any of these guys. We've got a lot of free agents and what the value is, what somebody else is willing to pay and what we can pay will all come into that decision.
Q: In regard to Tyrod Taylor, how tricky is the roster bonus going to be in keeping him on the roster?
A: Tyrod's on our roster right now. That's the plan. We're just taking it day by day. Like every position, we're trying to get better everywhere. We're looking at every position, including quarterback. But Tyrod did a lot of good things for us, so I'm not really worried about the bonus. I see him on the roster right now. Unless something changes, he'll be here through that part.
Q: Has there been a resolution of the investigation by the NFL on Richie Incognito?
A: To be honest with you, I don't know. I got asked that at the Senior Bowl. I have not spoken to the league since a conversation that week after the Jacksonville game. I don't know if it's officially closed or what to be honest.
Q: Would you like some clarity on it? Does it impact anything you do?
A: At some point, we'd like some clarity there. I'm not privy to the timeline. To be honest with you, we've had so much going on, I haven't spent any time trying to chase the answer. At some point, we'd like to know this is officially resolved.
Q: Does it make you cringe, the price it would take if you want to go into the top five to make a trade? I'm sure you like the fact you have a lot of picks.
A: I do like my picks, you nailed that. It's one of those things where if you're gonna move up, especially in Round One, it takes a lot. The higher you go, it exponentially increases. So you have to feel good about what you're doing. You can't just go up there, hey, we need a quarterback, we're going to mortgage everything to go up there. We've got to know that we feel this guy is the guy and is worth the ransom or whatever you want to call it that it would take to move wherever you have to move to get a guy you think fits your long-term plan.
Q: Do you think it's a seller's market this year with all these teams that seem to be chasing a quarterback?
A: I don't know. I haven't gotten into any deep conversations with anybody because we're still evaluating. I haven't met some of the quarterbacks. So all I've seen is them on tape. You hear some things about them, with some of the recon we've done talking to some of their coaches and trainers and people in the building. I have not met all of these quarterbacks. I'm going to meet some of them this week. Then we have a plan in March and through April until the draft to continue to process. The combine is another step. Until I can put that final value on where we see each of these quarterbacks I'm not going to worry about where I'd have to move to if we decided we need to move up and get one.
Q: Are there two defensive positions you think are best this year in terms of depth?
A: I think the secondary as a whole there's some pretty good depth. I don't have in my head exactly if it's more corners or more safeties. But we just finished our meeting and went through a lot of guys we have some decent grades on in the secondary. That's an area hopefully at some point we can continue to add depth there.
Q: You only have two QBs on the roster even if Tyrod Taylor is one. Will you be looking at free agency there?
A: We're looking at everything. We really are. We're seeing what's out there. This year it's been well publicized there's more veteran quarterbacks that are out there. We have to do our recon on those. If we see something that seems like it's a good fit for us and upgrades us, then we'd look to do that. Again, we're happy with where we're at with Tyrod and Nathan until we decide different, really.
Q: Your view on this QB class and how has that view evolved?
A: There's a lot of good players. Again, I haven't got to meet them all but there's some guys who have done a lot of good things. I know all the mocks have five, six guys, maybe some even have seven. But there's a lot of guys, different flavors, different skill sets, different personalities. Not everybody is a fit for every team. We've got to decide what's the best fit for the Buffalo Bills.
Q: Will you be laying any ground work this week with the agents of your impending free agents?
A: We'll talk to some of the agents of our guys. That's what's good about here. Most agents do show up here. We'll talk to 'em about some of our guys. We've been in discussions even before we got here but we'll continue those. See where they're at. I know most of the guys this close to free agency, they're going to want to see what their value is. The ones we want back, we'll try. But sometimes you get out-bid. All it takes is one team to give somebody a high price pay and you gotta let 'em go.
Q: How important with the QBs is the personality piece and the connection with Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll?
A: The intangibles of the quarterback, it's the most important position, it's a quarterback league. There's so much expected out of that position. It's the closest thing to a coach on the field. The leadership that's required. So to your point, you're going to vet a quarterback probably more than any other position. I know at Carolina, the guy we vetted the most was Cam Newton. We spent a lot of hours before we came to that decision. As we go through this process we will investigate all these guys. But we'll do that every year.
Q: You had the No. 1 pick in Carolina. How much more difficult is it now?
A: But we didn't know in February that Cam Newton was the choice. We had not met him until the combine. We're just now getting to meet some of these guys. We met a couple at the Senior Bowl. We'll be able to spend more time with them either in on-campus visits or bringing them to Buffalo.
Q: How much of a fit is the coordinator and the QB, given coaches change?
A: We're looking for good football players at every position. Yes, coaches move on. So we've got to draft a good football player who fits the Buffalo Bills. You're exactly right, Brian could be a head coach somewhere. Yeah, I'm not just going to draft a guy who only fits what Coach Daboll does.
Q: Do you have a drop-dead date to make a call on whether Kyle Williams is coming back?
A: Yeah, we've been in communication with him and his agent. Hopefully we'll get something done sooner rather than later. But it takes two. He's got to do his due diligence. We do as well. So yeah at some point there would be a we-need-to-know. I'm sure they're feeling the same thing on their end.
Q: For Kyle is it just a question of whether he's going to retire or not?
A: I don't know. He's not communicated that to me. But we haven't had an in-depth conversation since he and I personally talked the day after the season ended. We talked again when he came in town for Eric's deal. Mostly been working through his agent. You'd have to ask Kyle what he's contemplating.
Q: Does the team want him back if he wants to be here?
Q: How do you go about running the combine, and handling the 15-minute player interviews?
A: I modeled it a lot after what we did with Carolina. We watch a lot of film in there. We sit the player down and the reason we do it that way is they don't know what plays are coming. They don't know what clips are coming. They don't know what question the position coach is going to ask. A lot of the talking is the position coach and the coordinator and then Sean and I will jump in if we don't feel it was answered correctly. For 12 of the 15 minutes, we're watching film, probably. Then we'll ask them a few (other) questions but we can get the other stuff, your family and your career at another time. We just want to make this intimately about ball.
Q: Has that changed over the years?
A: Yes. Every team still does things differently. If you walked down that hall, some teams are watching film, some are not. Some people are giving tests, talking to a psychologist. There's so many various things teams do. That's how we're choosing to do it.
Q: Is it hard to really get to know a player, though? Get his personality?
A: You do see some of their personality come out. How do they handle it when the mistake is pointed out? Do they blame somebody else? Do they take the blame themselves? How do they take coaching? What's their football smarts? How do they communicate? Are they comfortable? Are they backing down? Do they not know anything? Some guys are very confident when they come in the room and they want the laser pointer, and they're not only pointing out what their job is but the guy next to them and the guy next to him. They're pointing out the front on defense. So you can pick up a lot about their knowledge and their personality just by the way you talk to them in the room.
Q: What are the biggest red flags in that meeting?
A: Guys that struggle with stuff you think would be basic football. Sometimes you've got to find out what was asked of him at his school. If he was never asked to know what the defensive front was, you can't blame him. That doesn't mean he can't learn it. So you've got to dig into that. Sometimes we'll have follow-up things to do based on what he says he was taught. We may circle back and ask the position coach, was he taught that? We don’t necessarily have every answer when they walk out in 15 minutes because it is a short time. But you do have a lot of questions answered.
Q: With the QB are you looking for somebody to take over the room?
A: You're looking for his personality, his leadership. With the quarterbacks, we're obviously going to spend more than this 15 minutes but it does give us a quick snippet in a different environment. I like to see guys in different environments. How are they on their own campus? How are they in this thing? I think it's good to mix up where you interact with them.
Q: I'm sure you have a preliminary list of the quarterbacks on your board, how much can this week change that?
A: I don't know that we're going to walk out of here and move guys on the board. When we left last week, when my college scouts left town, I told them I want to set the board as if we were drafting tomorrow. Now we don't know a lot of these kids yet. But as if we were drafting. Let's remember this when we get back in April. We'll take notes between now and then. We're not going to go back next week and say this guy had a bad interview in 15 minutes and move him from the first round to the fifth round. But we'll talk more. It will answer questions now and give us things we need to follow up on in March and April before draft day gets here.
Q: How many times will the draft board change between now and draft day?
A: The next time we'll touch the board is in April when the college scouts come back. We'll have all the pro days, any of the privates we do, the 30 guys we're allowed to bring to Buffalo. So Until we've done all of that we won't touch the board until then.
Q: How do you balance the cap space you have, free agency and the chance to move up?
A: Picks are valuable. I trust my scouts. I trust our vision. I trust the coaches in the process that we're going to select good players. Any time you're packaging picks in any round to move up you've got to know you're doing it for the right guy. So I do take that very seriously. I have to look at those things. There's a time to be aggressive. You've got to know when that is. Part of it's your gut. Part of it is all the research you've done on these guys. . . . I value this guy at the 12th. If he falls past 10, let's go up to get him. If he falls to 20, let's go get him there. We're in the third round and we had a second-round value, we believe in this second-round grade, let's go up and get him.
Q: What did you make of Zay Jones' rookie season and how do you feel about Kelvin Benjamin going forward?
A: To be honest with you, we didn't know about his shoulder. He played through that. I'm sure that limited him. He had some contested catches that he worked on. But he did a great job. Zay is a pro's pro for a rookie. I was really impressed with how serious he takes the game. It's easy to talk it, he walked it. He was in early, he did treatment, he had the injury in the Jets game that set him back a little. He did everything he could. He worked after practice. I'm really impressed with Zay and he has a bright future in this league. Unfortunately Kelvin got hurt pretty quick. I know what Kelvin can do when he's healthy. He's back to healthy now and hopefully this year he can stay injury free and I think everybody will see what his talents are.