This week’s Bills Mailbag naturally highlights Super Bowl LIV, starting with the question: Who should Bills fans root for? It also includes plenty of draft and free agency chatter. Let’s get right to it.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: Everyone I know is rooting for the Chiefs for former Bills players and AFC representation. I say root for the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo for MVP to stick it to the Bills’ arch-enemy Patriots for giving him away! Your thoughts?
Jay: Here’s what sportswriters root for, Luigi – a blowout either way, so that we can start writing our stories early. Unfortunately for me — but lucky for you — I don’t see that happening Sunday. This looks like two evenly matched teams that should put on a great show.
The truth is, while I don’t own one of those T-shirts that says “I just hope both teams have fun,” I can appreciate the sentiment.
As far as rooting interests go, the Chiefs definitely have more working for them. Specifically, for Bills fans, I could see them being apprehensive about Patrick Mahomes winning a Super Bowl – which would surely intensify the “Bills should have drafted him” talk. I could also see Bills fans not terribly eager to watch LeSean McCoy and/or Sammy Watkins win championship rings, for different reasons.
On the flip side, there are two Buffalo-born players on the Chiefs: Linebacker Demone Harris (Timon/University at Buffalo), and Jody Fortson Jr. (South Park/ECC), a wide receiver on the practice squad. Additionally, Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan Hunter graduated from Canisius High School. It would be cool to see them come home with championship rings.
To me, it comes down to how you feel about the Chiefs. The 49ers are just sort of here. They don’t invoke any strong feelings either way.
Pat Reale asks: If the Bills can land a top free-agent wide receiver, should they still draft one in the first round, or fill another need and pick one in a later round, considering how deep the wide receiver position is this year?
Jay: If it were up to me, the latter. It depends on what your definition of a “top” receiver is, though. To me, the only true No. 1 receivers scheduled to hit the open market are the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper and the Bengals’ A.J. Green. I’m skeptical that either one even reaches free agency and not confident the Bills would pay what it’s going to cost to sign them even if they did.
I want no part of the Jets’ Robby Anderson, who some team is going to overpay. He’s the exact opposite type of guy I’d want in my locker room.
If the Bills want a wide receiver who fits into their top three, but wouldn’t be classified as a “No. 1,” that figures to be easier to find in free agency. In that instance, I wouldn’t rule out a wide receiver in the first round – especially if a top-10 talent on the Bills’ draft board happens to slip.
General Manager Brandon Beane will tell us he’s sticking to his “best player available” philosophy, which I can accept this year. The depth at wide receiver does allow the Bills to address a different position in the first round, though, and still have a chance to get a good player on the second day of the draft.
Thomas Larsen asks: How could so many teams whiff on Raheem Mostert? Wasn’t he on, like, four practice squads?
Jay: The same way talented players slip or fall out of the draft entirely every year – scouting is an inexact science. Sometimes, it takes the right coach and right scheme for a player to show what he’s capable of. Mostert has no doubt done that with Kyle Shanahan. For the record, the 49ers are Mostert's seventh NFL team. His perseverance is absolutely one of the best stories of Super Bowl week.
Rick McGuire asks: Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault is a popular choice for the Bills in early mock drafts. Lately, I’ve seen Iowa edge rusher A.J. Epenesa’s name pop up. I’d take Epenesa, then a wide receiver in the second round. If both are on the board at No. 22, who would you take – or would it be someone else?
Jay: I’d go along with your plan, Rick. Epenesa has been a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes and has a combined 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss over the last two years. He’s considered the second-best pass rusher in this class behind Ohio State’s Chase Young.
The Bills have a clear need at defensive end, both in the short- and long-term view. I’m totally on board with drafting a wide receiver in the second or third round. Last year, Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin all were drafted on the second night. Any one of them would have easily been a top-three receiver in Buffalo.
Don Regensdorfer asks: Why don’t the Sabres use the Bills’ process? At the very least, McBeane cleaned out all the bad actors, while the Sabres seem to embrace them. Below-level replacement players should be easy to shuffle in and out, no?
Jay: This would fit better in my man Lance Lysowski’s Sabres Mailbag, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m not in the Sabres’ dressing room, so I can’t speak to the team chemistry. I think that is important in hockey and hasn’t been good before, but that’s what happens when a team consistently loses. As for this year, however, I can’t say definitively that it’s a problem.
The second part of your question is easier to answer: It’s not easy at all to shuffle in hockey players. Guaranteed contracts, in fact, make it exceptionally difficult. If the NHL followed the NFL’s lead and players didn’t make guaranteed money, I would agree with you. For example, Kyle Okposo and Zach Bogosian would no longer be here at the salaries they currently have. It’s much easier in the NFL to escape a bad contract.
TNFP69 asks: What is your take on what the Bills will look to do in free agency? I know what most of the armchair general managers want. Second question, did you take your golf clubs with you?
Jay: I don’t expect the Bills will be anywhere near as active as they were in free agency a year ago. Deciding what to do with their own free agents will take precedence, specifically when it comes to defensive end Shaq Lawson, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, left guard Quinton Spain and cornerback Kevin Johnson. If the Bills decide to let one or all of them go, replacements will become a priority.
If those players are re-signed, free agency will be a tool to fill holes in the starting lineup so that Beane really can go after the best player available. As mentioned above, wide receiver figures to be on that list. A replacement for Lorenzo Alexander also is a need. If the team decides not to re-sign Frank Gore, a running back to complement Devin Singletary belongs on the list.
As for the second question, sadly, I did not. More on that …
Michael Lenhard asks: What SPF are you using this week?
Jay: Zero. I’m disappointed in how little I’ve actually been outside this week. Most of my time has been spent on media shuttles or inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, where radio row and the media workrooms are set up. It has been beautiful, though, with temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s and sunny skies, so I’m not expecting any sympathy cards from back home.
I did get to the annual media party Tuesday. A quick power rankings of the food there: 1. Ceviche. 2. Coconut shrimp. 3. Steak skewers. 4. Conch fritters. 5. Hamburger sliders.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay in Miami! Gotta love it. In honor of the return of Andy Reid to the Super Bowl, please power rank the following returns: Return of the Jedi, kickoff returns, Return of the Mack, return policies, point of no return. Enjoy the Super Bowl!
Jay: 5. Point of no return – I don’t think I’ve ever reached it, but can’t imagine it would be good. 4. Return of the Jedi – not a Star Wars guy at all. Sorry! 3. Return policies – shout out to those stores that give you 45 or even 60 days, not 30. 2. Kickoff returns – pretty boring now, but still better than the rest of this list. 1. Return of the Mack – an absolute banger. In doing research on this song (read: a Google search), I learned that Mark Morrison decided to go on tour when this song started blowing up instead of doing court-ordered community service. He paid a lookalike to do his community service. Amazingly, that brilliant criminal plan didn’t work and Morrison then had to serve a year in prison. Great song, even better story. Enjoy the big game!
Story topics: Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Demone Harris/ Devin Singletary/ Frank Gore/ Jody Fortson Jr./ Jordan Phillips/ Kevin Johnson/ LeSean McCoy/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Quinton Spain/ Sammy Watkins/ Shaq Lawson/ Super Bowl LIV