The signatures are in place in big, bold letters: Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott.
Now, more than ever, this is their roster. This is the team the general manager and head coach envisioned when they took over the Buffalo Bills' football operation in 2017.
Of course, there are a handful of holdovers from before their arrival on the 53-man squad that came out of Saturday's cuts: defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, and long-snapper Reid Ferguson. Those players are still around because Beane and McDermott saw them fitting — if not precisely what they want the Bills to be in terms of talent and culture, then as close to it as possible.
LeSean McCoy is gone because his best years as an elite NFL running back are behind him. Whatever star power he commands ultimately couldn't overshadow the mission of assembling a unit that meshes well and places winning ahead of all else, including statistical milestones and other individual recognition.
Long gone are the days when the Bills' acquisitions were largely made without rhyme or reason. There once was far more emphasis on splash — which resulted in the trade that brought McCoy to Buffalo and other players who are elsewhere — than substance. If a blueprint existed, it was pretty much indecipherable. The GM did his thing, the coach did his. Whatever was on the field was mainly filling out a lineup, hoping it would find a way to win rather than with a true sense of purpose of what must happen to get that done.
Beane and McDermott are genuinely of one mind in their firm belief that you cannot succeed without the latter.
At times, they disagree on player personnel decisions and have readily acknowledged as much in public. But when it comes to how they see their team being built, there's no question that they look through the same sharply focused lens.
Beane and his scouting staff entered the offseason with a definitive sense of what had to be accomplished to fulfill their sole objective, which is to do whatever is necessary to support McDermott and the coaching staff. They needed to find better offensive linemen, better receivers, better tight ends, and a replacement for the retired anchor of the defense, tackle Kyle Williams. They also had to upgrade the disaster that was special teams.
The Bills' roster reflects the checkmarks next to the majority of those goals, even if the preseason struggles of punter Corey Bojorquez are cause for concern. At the very least, the group that has been assembled provides a sense of logic and sound thought, a means to an end.
"We want our offense to win some more games for us and not have to put too much on the defense," Beane told reporters Sunday, in as straightforward an assessment as someone in his role typically gives. "We want to be a balanced team. We want our special teams to improve and control/win the field-position game.
"There's a lot of factors. How's our red-zone defense? How's our red-zone efficiency on offense? Is our team winning the turnover battle? Those are things that, generally, Monday morning, you can point to and this is why you won the game and this is why you lost the game. If you win enough of those, I think the win total will be where you want it at the end of the season."
Beane isn't predicting the Bills will go from last year's 6-10 finish to a division championship or a playoff spot. However, he is offering a decent amount of transparency about his and McDermott's expectations.
The mission was to create a team that is strong enough to not only have a solid core of starters, but also some reliable backups. It does. The mission was to create a team that would be difficult to make. It was.
Ask McCoy, who joined the Kansas City Chiefs after seeing his spot go to third-round draft pick Devin Singletary, with Frank Gore providing veteran mentoring. Ask defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, a member of the team the past two seasons who now finds himself on the practice squad. Ask veteran safety Captain Munnerlyn, whose Carolina Panthers history with Beane and McDermott wasn't enough to impact his inability to secure a reserve spot in one of the best secondaries in the league.
Ask receiver Duke Williams and running back Christian Wade, both of whom became instant fan favorites for dynamic preseason play-making but also find themselves on the practice squad. Ask receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, a sixth-round draft pick last year who the Panthers claimed off waivers. Ask linebacker Deon Lacey, who contributed on special teams the past two seasons and who was claimed by the Miami Dolphins, with whom he spent training camp in '17.
"We want to show growth in a lot of areas," Beane said. "Last year, our defense probably carried our team. We weren't good enough in offense or special teams. I think you saw a lot of the moves that we made this offseason, whether it was draft or free agency was to improve and, if our defense was here (holding his hand higher) and those two (offense and special teams) were here, try to close the gap.
"Wins and losses are what Sean and I get judged on, but sometimes there's adverse situations that happen in the year, so it would never do any justice to give you, 'I expect this number of wins.' But we want to be more competitive."
By all indications, the Bills have 53 players in place that look to give them an excellent chance to do so. If that's the case, it will largely be because the men in charge of their football operation are actually following the same plan.