Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay announced that he intends to retire Wednesday evening, pumping the brakes on a 10-year career that at the very least saw him become one of the organization’s most respected players in the locker room.
On the field, the former second-round choice out of Nebraska in 2003 would play 147 games for the team. He accumulated 32.5 sacks to rank ninth all-time on the team’s list and when he was healthy and a little bit younger, a pretty consistent defender.
Unfortunately for Kelsay he spent an entire decade in the NFL without played in a single playoff game. That’s been the price to pay in recent years when you’re a Buffalo Bill.
Rather than recycle complimentary quotes many of his current and former teammates are saying about his moving on, let me indulge in a few random thoughts regarding Kelsay and how this move affects the organization.
♦ Firstly, kudos to the Bills organization for allowing Kelsay the opportunity to retire. Had he decided to continue his playing career there was no way it was going to be in Buffalo. He knew it, and the team knew it. Forget the injury risk—Kelsay was not only up in age, but a horrible fit for any 3-4 defenses new coordinator Mike Pettine will run. Couple that with a $5 million cap hit and Kelsay knew it was retire or find a job elsewhere. I’m guessing he hinted strongly to the front office of his retirement and the Bills came back by letting him decide before making their move. Class move by Buffalo.
♦ I also give Kelsay plenty of credit for retiring rather than trying to continue, especially considering his neck would be susceptible to further injury. While Kelsay said it was a ligament and not structural injury, it’s still a risk. He told Chris Brown over at Bills.com he “didn’t want to leave the game broken down” and deserves praise for that. Had he proved he was physically able to go full speed, I’m pretty sure Kelsay could’ve continued his career on a lesser contract elsewhere. He decided it was more important to be healthier for his family, plus got a rare opportunity in today’s sports to spend his entire career with one team.
♦ The move is a gift for the Bills financially, a huge one. With Kelsay retiring the Bills just saved themselves $5.1 million against the salary cap. According to Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News the Bills are now $28.425 million under the salary cap and when factoring in Jairus Byrd’s likely franchise tag and money to sign draft picks, Buffalo will take with them a little over $16 million of salary cap money to free agency with them. (PS, if you don’t follow Skurski on Twitter you should—this guy pumps out valuable information on a regular basis and is one of Buffalo’s most underrated media members.)
♦ Kelsay’s retirement has no effect on Jairus Byrd’s status with the team. Simply put, the team is going to slap the $6.8 million franchise tag on him if a deal isn’t agreed upon before March 4. Reportedly the sides have been talking, but I’d consider it an upset if an agreement is reached in the next few days.
It’s worth noting Byrd’s agent is Eugene Parker, who isn’t exactly regarded around the league as the easiest agent to deal with. No matter what, Byrd won’t be going anywhere for 2013, and that was the case long before Kelsay decided to hang up his cleats.
♦ Many people think Kelsay’s freed up money will result in a contract for guard Andy Levitre before he hits free agency. Sorry, but I’m not on that same boat. I know the Bills would like to have Levitre back and he’s said the feeling is mutual, but short of him getting blown away with dollars, expect him to test the open market.
If he gets to free agency I think there’s an excellent chance that he’s gone for good. Indianapolis and Detroit are two teams that are sure to show plenty of love to Levitre, and I’m not sure the Bills are willing, nor should they be willing to give Levitre a monster-sized contract.
Don’t get me wrong. Levitre is a very good guard and losing him would be a blow, but with the amount of holes on their roster I’m not sure the team would be better served spending significant money at linebacker or wide receiver over guard.
One cheaper option could be to assure the return of free agent Chad Reinhart and have him start at guard while drafting a quality backup.
So we’re clear on this—I would like to see Levitre back and I’m sure the Bills do too. I simply think he’s going to be priced out of Buddy Nix’s plans.
♦ If Buddy Nix decides to let Levitre get richer elsewhere, they’ll probably sign one big ticket free agent instead along with a few better role players. Who is that player? No clue, but as stated above linebacker or wide receiver are the primary guesses.
♦ I do now expect free agent Leodis McKelvin to be back, at least partially as a result of the Kelsay cap money freed up.
♦ Lastly, fans have been clamoring for change. Well you now have it. The Bills have an entire new coaching staff and it’s only a matter of time before Doug Whaley takes over for Nix. P
ersonnel-wise Kelsay’s retirement makes six notable players on the team last year that won’t be back; a list that includes Nick Barnett, Terrence McGee, George Wilson, David Nelson and Donald Jones.
It remains to be seen if the Bills are going to be any better, but they’re certainly different.