Buffalo Bills: Five Biggest Questions To Be Answered

Posted on April 19, 2010 by Patrick Moran

Buddy Nix Buffalo Sports DailyAfter what seems like an eternity of never-ending speculation, the time has finally arrived when the Buffalo Bills future begins to come in focus.  By this time next week we’ll know a lot more about which direction the team is headed and what kind of general manager Buddy Nix is looking to be.

Will he be the commander that ultimately rights a sinking ship or does he fall down the bumbling draft weekend path his predecessors Marv Levy and Tom Donahoe are infamous for?

The reality is despite his admission that he’ll never be accused of being the smartest man in the room, we know precious little in regards to Nix’s team building skills as the man in charge.

We can discern that he’s not afraid of what others think.  His first major move as GM was an exceptionally vanilla coaching hire in Chan Gailey. The appointment was anything but inspirational to fans, but Nix isn’t in the business of winning championships on paper and took little time to get defensive, even borderline confrontational with the media that questioned him.

He’s asserted the team would be built over the long haul through the draft, yet he made more than his share of veteran free agent signings.  Andra Davis and Cornell Green are anything but wet behind the ears and Dwan Edwards will soon be 29. Those are the kind of moves made from a man who believes his team can contend much sooner than later. That’s only fueled further after reports surfaced that the Bills were among the teams who made offers for Donovan McNabb when he was on the trading block.

He’s also signed a castoff in Chad Jackson and a pair of running backs you probably never previously heard of, Walter Mendenhall and Rodney Ferguson—moves that are head scratchers to say the least.

So if you’re utterly in the dark about how the next week will shape up with the NFL draft, I assure that you’re not alone.

There are many questions fans are looking forward to having laid to rest between now and the conclusion of April 24. The following are five I consider the most prominent.

1.  Will the Bills draft Tim Tebow with the ninth pick?
Personally, I find this growing rumor a tad humorous. It’s apparent the pundits who have Tebow going to Buffalo in the first round do precious little research when it comes to the organization.

Nearly every person in the media with Tebow tied to Buffalo at nine isn’t for football reasons, but his anticipated marketing prowess.  Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post is a guy I have a great deal of respect for and is one of the best minds (and writers) in the business.  However, I completely disagree with his assertion Tebow will be drafted to Buffalo because the “Bills need to sell tickets.”

Buffalo has had mostly deplorable teams over the past decade, but selling tickets has rarely, if ever been a problem. Granted, Terrell Owens was brought in last year at least in part for marketing reasons, but he was also a proven future Hall of Famer that was expected to team with Lee Evans and provide Trent Edwards with a breakout opportunity.

With or without Tebow, Ralph Wilson Stadium will be filled to the rafters on Sundays.  While critics nationwide can poke fun at the team all they want, the passion of fans that continually support the team and sell out the stadium should never be understated.

Chan Gailey likes Tebow, and he said as much. He loves his attitude, leadership and intangibles.  He also confesses to questioning whether he can fix the hitch in his throwing motion.  The Bills need to find an impact player who can contribute from day one, and Tebow is not that guy.

Estimated chance of happening: 0.01% or less. I can definitely see Tebow going to Buffalo in round two, but not with the ninth pick.

2.  Will the Bills trade Marshawn Lynch?

Reports over the past week have differed. Last week I cited a source that basically said Lynch getting dealt is “now inevitable.” Among others, Adam Schefter has said that he expects the troubled running back to be dealt.

At his media luncheon last week Nix stated publicly the complete opposite.

“Our intention is for Marshawn to be here,” Nix told reporters. “He’s under contract. We think he’s a good back. We need two backs. Our intentions are for him to be here. All this trade talk, it’s not coming from us.”

The reality is Nix’s comments should be judged as partial truth.  Lynch probably has more value talent-wise in Buffalo than the Bills could get in a trade.  Nix isn’t going to simply give Lynch away.

On the other hand there’s little doubt that the organization and some of its players have grown tired of Lynch’s immature act.  He did himself no favors after skipping OTA’s a couple of weeks ago.

In terms of football itself, Lynch’s play as a backup to Fred Jackson was worrisome.  Coming off the bench in a restricted supportive role Lynch lacked the intensity in his game that made him feared during his first two seasons.  At times he played like he was disinterested. If Lynch really wants out of Buffalo, how much effort and focus will he put into being a complimentary back for a once-journeyman who took his job?

If the Bills can get a pick anywhere in the third they’ll probably drive him to the airport themselves.  Whether he’s dealt comes down to how little the Bills will accept in return.  Charles Robinson’s (Yahoo Sports) report that Seattle is considering giving up a second rounder is preposterous.  They may be interested but aren’t going to give up a second rounder in a running back heavy draft.

Seattle, Detroit, Houston and San Diego are four teams to definitely keep your eyes on.  In the end, I stand by what I’ve been told and believe in my heart sometime before the end of the weekend Lynch will be wearing another uniform.

Estimated chance of happening: 70%

3. Will the Bills trade for Jason Campbell?

Everyone is so caught up in debating Jimmy Clausen and Tebow that most forget that Campbell is definitely on the block.  There are only a small handful of teams that don’t have a starting quarterback at the present time and the Bills are one of them.

Washington tendered Campbell with a first round tag (which he signed last week) but with the club recently trading for McNabb, it’s common knowledge the Redskins will take less, far less to rid themselves of Campbell and his $3.1 million backup salary.

The day after McNabb became a Redskin there was an ESPN report that the Bills were interested in Campbell.  I don’t think that’s changed.  If Buffalo can get Campbell for a third, possibly even a fourth rounder, I think they could pull the trigger.  They’d still get impact players at nine and 41 and in Campbell a veteran quarterback who at the least is a modest upgrade over anything on the current roster.

Estimated chance of happening: 30%. In essence he’d be given a one-year audition for a long-term contract.

4. Will the Bills take a left tackle with their first pick?

It doesn’t take Mel Kiper or Peter King telling you the Bills need to upgrade at left tackle.  Arguably it’s the single-biggest need entering with the draft with the very unproven Demetrius Bell serving as current incumbent.

I also think like most GMs, Nix has done a fine job of blowing smoke all over the place in recent weeks.   I do however believe him when he said he’s not married to taking a left tackle with the ninth pick.

Russell Okung is guaranteed to be gone well before the Bills are on the clock.  It’s nearly unanimous that Trent Williams and Bryan Bulaga are the next two on the board.  There’s a more than decent chance both could be gone before Buffalo gets their opportunity with Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland all a strong possibility beforehand.

So what if neither are available? Are the Bills going to reach for Anthony Davis or Bruce Campbell or even Charles Brown at nine?  I don’t see the fourth or fifth best offensive tackle being solid value at this stage.

I think if either Williams or Bulaga is available, they will be the pick (with Williams the top choice). If they are both gone I see Buffalo going with the top rated player at another position with defensive tackle Dan Williams, linebacker Derrick Morgan and running back C.J. Spiller being rated well ahead of Davis or Campbell.

And then there’s Jimmy Clausen (more on him momentarily)

Estimated chance of happening: 40%. Unless Cleveland or Oakland pull the trigger on Clausen, I see Williams and Bulaga both gone and believe Nix is serious when claiming he’s not married to need over value.

5. Will the Bills take Jimmy Clausen if he’s there at nine?

Without question, from now until the Bills are on the clock or he’s off the board, the biggest debate centers around if the Bills should take Jimmy Clausen.

There are some who love the idea, many who hate it and as you’d expect with such a hot button topic, very few who are indifferent.

First we need to figure out if he’ll even be available.  If you’re pro-Clausen the sweating begins when Cleveland goes on the clock two slots ahead of the Bills.  Mike Holmgren said around a month ago he wasn’t interested but has been sending signals lately that he may have changed his mind.  Personally, I don’t buy it, especially if Eric Berry is on the board.  They could use help almost all over the board.  I don’t see them taking Clausen.

Then you have Oakland at eight. Is Al Davis ready to throw in the towel on JaMarcus Russell?  Can he resist falling in love with a combine phenom like Campbell or Jason Paul-Pierre? I don’t think Clausen goes to Oakland either.

That puts Buffalo on the clock with Clausen on the board.  I’m not going to get into his strengths and weaknesses, as it’s already been beaten like a dead horse everywhere.  All that matters is what Nix and Tom Modrak think and when it comes to Clausen, he’s been uncommonly quiet.

We know that Clausen has spent time with the Bills recently and like every prospect that’s ever been on a visit to One Bills Drive, the organization came away “impressed.”  What’s not palpable is how serious the team is considering making him the face of the franchise.

At the end of the day I don’t think it happens. This is Nix’s first draft as a general manager and although he truly doesn’t care what’s thought of him, he doesn’t want to get this pick wrong.  Clausen has an enormous boom-or-bust factor and I’m not sure Nix is willing to roll the dice on an extremely talented—and flawed Clausen.

I do think anytime quarterback is a need and a potential franchise guy is available that you have to pull the trigger.  Just color me unsold that Nix identifies Clausen as a franchise type of guy.

Estimated chance of happening:  50%. I’m realistic enough to understand nobody really knows how Nix will operate quite yet.  While I stand by my opinion the Bills will take a pass on Clausen, the reality is we need a quarterback, he should be available and you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think he’s being strongly considered at this very moment.

The best news is we’ll all find out soon enough.

(For instant Buffalo Bills and all Buffalo sports updates, follow Buffalo Sports Daily on Twitter)

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4 Comments on Buffalo Bills: Five Biggest Questions To Be Answered

  1. Mike Wright

    Great article, summed everything up very well. The only thing I differ on is if Clausen is available when the Bills pick there is a 99% possibility they will take him. QB is the keystone of any franchise and the opportunity to grab a potential star only comes around once in a while. Nix won’t hesitate.

  2. Bob Thomas

    Nice article, but I don’t think you can completely judge Buddy Nix at this time next week. Sure you can have opinions on what the Bills did in the draft, but we won’t be able to judge how it turned out until after next season. I’m very anxious to see the strategy he will take in the first three rounds, I can still see them taking Spiller at nine. Keep up the good work

  3. Matt

    Those were extremely marginal free agent signings and not a sign that the team will be competitive. Edwards could be good, but he has an injury history that scared away other teams! Green was unlikely to start in 2010 for the pathetic Raiders!
    Old Buddy has no clue what he is doing!

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