This week’s Bills Mailbag leads with an attempt to reorder the first-round quarterbacks drafted in 2018. It also touches on Tom Brady’s future, the potential asking price for A.J. Green and how the Bills match up with two potential playoff opponents. Let’s get to it …
BigD asks: In hindsight, if you were general manager two years ago, which of the quarterbacks in Josh Allen’s draft would you pick for the Bills? Lamar Jackson is playing the best right now, but they’re using him as a running back/QB which everyone says can’t last long term due to injury probability.
Jay: It’s impossible not to put Jackson at the top of the list. He’s been absolutely electric this season, to the point he’s an MVP candidate. I don’t know if Jackson can keep it up, but I’m not going to knock him for his rushing ability – the same thing that was celebrated with Allen last year. It’s a weapon for both of them, so go ahead and use it, but try to be smart about it. It gets interesting after that. Baker Mayfield was awesome as a rookie, but has regressed this season, throwing an NFL-leading 11 interceptions. It’s not like he doesn’t have talent around him, either, although the Browns’ offensive line is a weak spot. I’d still take Mayfield second. It would be easy to let recency bias creep in after Sam Darnold absolutely melted down against the Patriots last week, but that’s not the only reason I’d put Allen ahead of him at this point. The Bills’ quarterback simply has better numbers. Josh Rosen would, of course, be a distant fifth.
Rick McGuire asks: Adam Schefter seems pretty convinced that 2019 will be Tom Brady's final season with the Patriots. Brady is in the final season of his contract and recently put his house up for sale, as did his business partner and personal trainer. What do you think? To me it seems too good to be true.
Jay: I’ll believe it when I see it. Why would he retire? He’s playing at a high level for a 7-0 team. He didn’t go out on top last year when he had a perfect opportunity to do so. The contract for Brady has never seemed like a big deal. He’s consistently made less than the top quarterbacks in the game and is extremely close with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. If he wants to play next year, they’ll get a deal done. As much as it pains Bills fans to hear, the Patriots are the favorites to win the AFC again. The same likely will be true heading into the 2020 season if Brady returns.
Dave Universal asks: How do you see the matchup in Indianapolis or Houston on Jan. 4-5 playing out? Assuming the Bills are the No. 5 seed and Baltimore/Kansas City are 2/3.
Jay: I think the Bills can give either of those teams a game. Buffalo’s defense did a great job last season against Deshaun Watson and Co. in Houston. The Bills got waxed by the Colts, but that was with Derek Anderson at quarterback, and Andrew Luck on the Indianapolis side. Obviously a lot can change, but if the Bills were going to play either of those teams next week, I’d expect the home team to be favored, but not overwhelmingly.
Paul Catalano asks: What do you believe the asking price is for A.J. Green and do you think we get him?
Jay: I would expect the Bengals are holding out for at least a first-round pick, as well as a Day 3 selection. If Mohamed Sanu can fetch a second-rounder, the Bengals are going to want more than that for a superior player, even if he is 31 and has yet to play this season because of an ankle injury. Bills GM Brandon Beane has mentioned being hesitant about giving up first-round picks for players he may not be able to retain. With Green on an expiring contract, that leads me to believe the Bills won’t pay a first-round price. If that cost comes down to a Day 2 pick and another late-round selection, that’s something to consider. The big question with Green, though, is his health. The Bills (or any other team trading for him) will have to be confident he will be ready to play soon.
dmoskal asks: So almost halfway through the season, your grade on this year's draft?
Jay: I’d give it an A- so far. Ed Oliver got his first career sack last week. He’s been a starter since Week 1 and a key part of the defensive tackle rotation. Second-round draft pick Cody Ford has played a lot at right tackle as part of a rotation with Ty Nsekhe. It will be interesting to see where Ford lands long term. It’s possible he eventually shifts inside, although that would leave the Bills thin at tackle. Singletary has flashed home run potential when healthy, while fellow third-round pick Dawson Knox leads the team’s tight ends in playing time. Knox has made some highlight catches. If he can clean up his issue with drops, he could turn into a really nice player. Sixth-round pick Jaquan Johnson has played on special teams, while both seventh-round choices, defensive end Darryl Johnson Jr. and tight end Tommy Sweeney, have made contributions. It’s the class’ depth more than its star power that earns it a high grade at the moment.
MikeyG asks: Now that Devin Singletary is healthy, do you see a more even split in running back touches or do we rely on Frank Gore even more with a possible playoff spot happening each week?
Jay: My expectation since LeSean McCoy was released has been that Singletary would eventually become the man in the backfield, but his hamstring injury put that on pause. Over that time, Gore has shown he’s capable of handling the bulk of the rushing duties. The Bills are well aware of his age, though, so I wouldn’t expect to see him carrying the ball 25-plus times a game. As the weather worsens and the running game takes on added significance, Singletary’s touches will go up as the Bills try to keep both running backs fresh.
J Mock asks: It’s never too early to talk Bills signing their own free agents. That said, which upcoming unrestricted free agent do you feel should be a priority for the Bills to re-sign? Jordan Phillips? Lorenzo Alexander?
Jay: Those two would definitely top the list, although in Alexander’s case, he has to decide if he wants to continue playing. He made it sound like the last contract he signed for this season would be the final one of his career. Phillips may be pricing himself out of the market for the Bills. Even with a lot of cap space, the Bills have a lot of money invested in Star Lotulelei and, down the road, will have a contract extension to consider for Ed Oliver. Even though it’s been a good fit for both sides, if Phillips gets a massive, multi-year contract offer, he would reasonably be expected to take it. Defensive end Shaq Lawson, veteran running back Frank Gore, left guard Quinton Spain and cornerback Kevin Johnson also are key contributors this season who will become unrestricted free agents after this season. The good news is, all of them should carry a reasonable cost in free agency. As mentioned above, Singletary might take over for Gore at some point. Spain didn’t have other contract offers before signing with Buffalo. Johnson isn’t a starter, but provides good depth as a cornerback who can play inside and outside. I’d look to re-sign all of them.
Ed Helinski asks: What’s your thoughts on the many momentum-killing penalties committed by the Bills’ offense? Is it a lack of concentration, discipline or something else?
Jay: By my count, the Bills have been flagged for 15 penalties that have stalled offensive drives. That’s a lot for any offense to overcome, but especially one with a young quarterback who is trying to find his way in the league. Overall, the Bills have been called for 51 accepted penalties against, which is second most among teams that have played six games. It’s too high of a number, which is exactly what Sean McDermott would tell you. What’s causing it is trickier to answer. It’s fair to speculate that a combination of a lack of concentration and discipline are factors. There also have been times the play either needed to get into Allen sooner, or he needed to relay it to his teammates faster.
Frank in Cheektowaga asks: Give me three reasons we shouldn’t trade for Fitz!
Jay: 1. Why should the Bills help the Dolphins in their quest to tank for the No. 1 draft pick and a potential franchise quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa? If Fitz keeps playing like he did in Week 7, he’s going to lead the Dolphins to a win or two, which might be all it takes to prevent them from the top spot in the draft. 2. The Bills have a backup quarterback in Matt Barkley who is familiar with the system and has shown he’s capable of running the offense when called upon. 3. If I had to put money on it, I’d say last week was the aberration. In Fitzpatrick’s first two starts this season, he completed 50% of his passes and threw just one touchdown against four interceptions. My guess is he can’t replicate his showing against the Bills very often moving forward.
Rich Ullman asks: The antiquated and cheesy Shout song (the Bills are happenin’ now, they’re makin’ it happen now – GAG!), the stupid train whistle and the copycat Seven Nations Army chant (which is basically irrelevant now that every kickoff is a touchback) all should go! Change my mind.
Jay: I wholeheartedly agree about the train whistle. Enough is enough. I’ll disagree on the Shout song, but I would ask for discretion. It’s not that hard to know when a field goal should be viewed as a disappointment or when it should be celebrated. Choose wisely. I’ve got no strong take either way on the Seven Nations Army thing, although I agree that getting pumped up only to watch kickers blast it through the end zone over and over is a bit of a letdown.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay my man! I’m coming home this weekend. Concentrating solely on Buffalo food (and the Bills) so please power rank the following Buffalo eateries: Bocce Club Pizza, Bagel Jay’s (shout out to the name Jay), Duff’s, John & Mary’s chicken finger subs, Mighty Taco.
Jay: Welcome home! This is the toughest power ranking yet, but I won’t shy away from a challenge. 5. John & Mary’s – This is solely because I haven’t had a chicken finger sub there. I trust Louis’ recommendation, though, so it’s now on my list. 4. Bagel Jay’s – My go-to order is chicken salad on an everything bagel. It’s solid, but the problem is there is no side of potato salad like Manhattan Bagel used to have. 3. Mighty Taco – If this was 1998 and I was a high school sophomore, Mighty would be No. 1. Give me a Super Mighty and large chicken fajita any time, though. 2. Duff’s – Sheridan Drive location only. 1. Bocce – I probably wouldn’t put Bocce No. 1 on my pizza power rankings, but it’s still very good. Pizza is my weakness. Thanks for all the questions this week!
Story topics: Bills Mailbag/ Devin Singletary/ Ed Oliver/ Frank Gore/ Jordan Phillips/ Josh Allen/ Kevin Johnson/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Quinton Spain/ Ryan Fitzpatrick/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Star Lotulelei