Before we get to this week’s Bills Mailbag, let me start by wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, including mine, Dan, who I know is reading this.
The Bills are a bond shared among fathers and sons across Western New York, and it’s no different in my family. My dad passionately consumes everything I write, and the Bills are frequently a topic of conversation for us. The same is true for my son, Elliott, who is developing his own passion for the team.
With that, let’s get to your questions ...
Peter Wiley asks: Would you (and almost everyone else) stop trashing Devin Singletary, who is constantly called an average- to below-average running back? Please consider the following lifetime yards per carry averages: Jim Brown 5.2; Barry Sanders 5.0; O.J. Simpson 4.7; DEVIN SINGLETARY 4.7; Adrian Peterson 4.6; Walter Payton 4.4; Emmitt Smith 4.2; Thurman Thomas 4.2. When you also factor in that the Bills’ current offensive line is not nearly as good as the ones that blocked for Simpson, Thomas, and Smith, I believe the only fair conclusion is that Singletary is, at the least, an above-average running back.
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Jay: Peter, I know we’re not comparing Devin Singletary to those running backs, right?! Singletary’s career high in carries is 188. Every other running back on that list regularly had more than 200 carries a season and frequently topped 300. It’s not exactly a fair comparison. However, your larger point about Singletary is a fair one. He has not been a terrible player. I’m not sure I’ve “trashed” him, but there have been times it’s been legitimate to ask for more out of him. You’re also correct in stating that more consistent offensive line play would help Singletary (that’s true for every running back). Whether we consider Singletary “average” or “above average” feels a bit like splitting hairs.
The most important part of the conversation surrounding him is this: The Bills proved last season that their offense is at its most complete when he’s playing a consistent role. They can win with him as their “lead” running back, in whatever form that takes.
Bill Kelley asks: Are we all too optimistic about the Bills this year? I know we finished the year strong, but it is not like we were a juggernaut all year. The loss to the Colts and how the defense played against the Chiefs makes me worry. It was great beating the Patriots like we did in the playoffs, but they were a mediocre team at best. I guess I’m just looking for reassurance. Can you give me that, Jay?
Jay: I’ll put it this way: If you’re a fan of the Bengals or the Chiefs and have spent all offseason reading or hearing about how the Bills are Super Bowl favorites, you’re probably a bit perplexed. The Chiefs, after all, have eliminated the Bills in each of the past two seasons, although the subtraction of wide receiver Tyreek Hill does seem like it might weaken their offense in a significant way. The Bengals, meanwhile, have rebuilt the weakest part of their offense from last season, which was the offensive line, and have a legitimate claim to be considered the AFC favorite, considering they won the conference last season. That doesn’t mean Bills fans should apologize for taking an optimistic view of their team’s chances in 2022.
As you mentioned, Bill, the team was playing its best in the playoffs – particularly on offense. Quarterback Josh Allen looked like an unstoppable force. Allen’s development into one of the two or three best quarterbacks on the planet last season is fueling plenty of the offseason optimism, which is fair. As for the defense, it has struggled to come up with an answer for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but you can’t say General Manager Brandon Beane isn’t trying. Beane spent big this offseason to address what he believed to be the team’s biggest deficiency by signing star pass rusher Von Miller.
Michael Brier asks: A couple of us were discussing Deshaun Watson’s $230 million, guaranteed contract. You would think there would have been some type of “conduct” clause in the contract that would void it if he got into any trouble (such as what’s going on right now with all the lawsuits). I’ve not seen this discussed in any of the news accounts I’ve read about the contract. All I see or hear is “fully guaranteed.” What’s your take on all of this?
Jay: The Browns were fully aware Watson was facing more than 20 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual misconduct before they made the trade. That did not dissuade them from making the deal. They even structured Watson’s contract in such a way that his base salary in 2022 is only about $1 million. The reason for that is because if Watson is suspended for the season, he’ll “only” lose his base salary – none of his signing bonus or any other bonuses. That’s a particularly disgusting part of this entire gross ordeal.
They say they “fully investigated” the situation before making the trade, but how that’s possible without interviewing any of the women suing Watson is a question nobody in the Browns’ organization seems willing to answer. There is no “conduct” clause in Watson’s contract – at least that we know of – because the Browns didn’t want to put one in there. Like all players, Watson is subject to the league's personal conduct policy. As part of the NFL’s investigation at least 11 of the women accusing Watson have been interviewed, according to The Washington Post. Watson has said he "never forced anyone to do anything."
Still, it’s clear the Browns were desperate enough to acquire Watson as a quarterback that they were willing to overlook the allegations. The entire situation is a horrible look for Watson, the Browns and the NFL.
Ed Helinski asks: Regarding contract negotiations and extensions coming due, might we see training camp trades this year? The Bills appear to have good depth in several areas and not everyone can receive significant raises. Or, in your estimation, does Brandon Beane keep this roster intact this season?
Regarding the Bills, please settle this friendly disagreement between my friend, the Brain, and myself. The Brain claims last season’s playoff loss to Kansas City was the most demoralizing postseason loss in Bills history. However, I say there have been many others that rank up there, like Wide Right or another of the other Super Bowl losses, the Music City Miracle and other devastating playoff losses against Jacksonville, Houston and San Diego, as well as losing to the Chiefs for the right to play in the first Super Bowl. In my opinion, Wide Right against the Giants is the most demoralizing loss. Please referee this friendly disagreement, or select your own hot mess in Bills playoff history for this dubious distinction.
Jay: Trades at the end of the summer right before teams set their initial 53-man rosters are always a possibility. It makes sense for teams to call around if they have a player who won’t make their roster, but could be of interest around the league, maybe because of the position he plays. We’ve seen the Bills do that in the past. It didn’t work out in 2019 with Wyatt Teller, who became an All-Pro with Cleveland. It did work out when Beane somehow netted a draft pick for Russell Bodine in 2019 and traded Darryl Johnson Jr. to the Panthers last offseason. This year, the Bills look to have pretty good depth along the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at wide receiver. If there is a player or players at those positions who might not make the 53-man roster, a trade is a possibility. However, I would not expect Beane to trade anyone who might contribute in any meaningful way to the 2022 season. The issue of raises for impending free agents doesn’t really factor into this discussion all that much, because the likelihood of a player with a big salary being traded is small.
As for the painful playoff losses, nothing is bumping me off Wide Right being No. 1 on that list. Missing a field goal for a chance to win the Super Bowl is the ultimate gut punch. It’s a coin flip between 13 Seconds and the Music City Miracle for No. 2. Recency bias initially had me leaning to 13 Seconds, but the complete unexpectedness of the Music City Miracle edges out the loss to the Chiefs on the pain scale. Unfortunately for Bills fans, there has been no shortage of nightmare playoff losses to qualify for this list.
Jim Revelos asks: I was glad to see that the Bills brought back Matt Barkley. He seems to be one of the guys in the quarterback room who elevates everyone’s performance. Can you see him moving into a coaching role with the Bills?
Jay: Barkley showed last year, which he spent with the Titans, Panthers and Falcons, that he’s determined to continue his playing career. Given that, I’d be surprised if coaching is on his mind at the moment. Barkley hasn’t been talked about as a potential future coach the way last year’s Bills practice squad quarterback, Davis Webb, has been. I haven’t had the chance to ask Barkley specifically about the topic, though, so any answer would be speculation on my part. I’ll add this: Coaching is a much different animal than playing. The hours are a lot longer, for starters. That’s not for everyone. Jim’s larger point about Barkley being good for the room based on his intangibles, however, is a good one. He’s tight with Allen and having good chemistry, especially in that room, is important.
NT 75er asks: Do you think with the new offensive coordinator, we will struggle early in the year because of the lack of experience in calling plays quickly in different situations? Would you rather play on Sunday afternoon every week as a coach instead of all these different days because of injuries and time to heal or rest late in the year?
Jay: Yes, until Ken Dorsey goes through those tight-game situations and proves himself as a play-caller, it’s fair to wonder how he’ll react in those pressure-cooker moments. Because of that, it’s reasonable to think some early-season struggles are possible. That wouldn’t be the end of the world. Coach Sean McDermott frequently talks about how he wants his team peaking in December, January and February as opposed to September and October. Some growing pains for the offense are a possibility. As for the schedule, coaches – and by extension, their teams -- are creatures of routine. They would love every game to be at 1 p.m. Sundays. Incidentally, so, too would sportswriters on tight deadlines. The number of prime-time games the Bills have is a sign of respect, though, not to mention something fans not so long ago were clamoring for. If that’s the cost of being a good team, it’s well worth paying.
Thank you, as always, for the questions. As a reminder, they can be submitted via Twitter, @JaySkurski, or to my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.