AFC East: Buffalo Bills

Analyzing McShay mock: Bills 

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:15
PM ET
It's a debate that has churned since the end of the season: Should the Buffalo Bills draft a playmaker or a protector with the ninth overall pick?

ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay's latest mock draft has been released, and like Mel Kiper Jr.'s "Grade A" mock draft earlier this month, McShay is acting as the "general manager" and selecting players for each team -- not projecting who each team will actually pick.


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Buffalo Bills schedule analysis

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
8:26
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Predictions

Breakdown: The Buffalo Bills will open their 2014 season on the road in Chicago, the third time in the last four seasons that they'll open on the road. The Bills will open with three road games in their first five contests and will play each of their division opponents once before their bye week. After having the NFL's latest possible bye week last season, it is favorably placed this season, coming in Week 9. The Bills' only prime-time game comes in Week 11, a Thursday night contest on the road against the Miami Dolphins. The Bills haven't played a "Monday Night Football" game since 2009 and haven't played on Sunday night since 2007. Those two streaks will continue. If the Bills want to make the playoffs, they'll have tough sledding late, ending their schedule at the Denver Broncos, at home against the Green Bay Packers, at the Oakland Raiders, and at the New England Patriots.

Complaint department: The Bills often savor opportunities to play cold weather teams late-season at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That won't happen this season. Three of their final four games are the road, while their lone home contest in December is against another northern team, the Packers. The Bills will also host two other cold weather teams in November: the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets. It's worth noting, however, that the Bills hosted the Dolphins in late December last season, a shutout win for Buffalo. It's fair that the NFL scheduled the Dolphins' trip to Buffalo in September this time around. Still, the Bills can't be too happy with their late season schedule, which includes tilts against Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as possible barriers between the Bills and the playoffs -- if they're still in the hunt.

Bye, bye Toronto: The Bills announced this last month, but for the first time since 2007 the Bills will not play in Toronto. The Bills will have eight home games, making it even harder for the Bills to sell out their home slate. They struggled to sell out last season, with late owner Ralph Wilson stepping in twice to prevent a blackout, while their home finale against the Dolphins was blacked out. This year, the Bills will almost surely sell out their first three games: against the Dolphins, Chargers, and Patriots. They have four home games after their bye week that may create a challenge for their ticket office, but if the Packers come into Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 14 still in the playoff hunt, it will help the Bills' chances that day.

Strength of schedule: 14th, .500 | Vegas over/under : 6.5

Bills Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 7, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 14, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 21, San Diego, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 28, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 13, at Miami, 8:25 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Denver, 4:05 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at New England, 1 p.m.
The Buffalo Bills made an embarrassing error Tuesday night when an incomplete story about coach Doug Marrone's health was accidentally published to their official website.

The story, which included a line about Marrone being "diagnosed with BLANK TYPE OF CANCER," drew national attention across social media and was eventually taken down without immediate explanation from the team.

Nearly two hours later, after several ESPN and other media inquires into the matter, the Bills began distributing a statement from Marrone that said he had a cancerous mole removed from his skin.

The Bills distributed a follow-up statement Wednesday about the incident:

"We are continuing today to discuss the unfortunate situation we experienced last night with our website and will address the matter internally," the statement read in its entirety.

The website error wasn't the only problem for the Bills on Tuesday. The team was sued by five former cheerleaders who claimed they were underpaid and subjected to sexual comments, while the team also settled another lawsuit, paying out $3 million for excessive use of its now-defunct text alert service.
The Buffalo Bills are hosting Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a pre-draft visit Wednesday.

Watkins
Watkins is widely considered the top wide receiver available in next month's draft and could be off the board by the time the Bills select at ninth overall. In order to pick Watkins, the Bills would likely have to trade up.

The Bills don't have an immediate need at wide receiver after trading for veteran Mike Williams earlier this month, but Watkins is a talent that would be hard to pass up. The Bills have also hosted Texas A&M's Mike Evans and LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., considered the next best receivers in the draft, on visits.

The Bills also hosted Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin and McGill offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on visits Wednesday. Martin is a potential first-round pick and could challenge Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews as the second offensive tackle off the board, following Auburn's Greg Robinson, who is considered the best tackle available.

Duvernay-Tardif is considered a mid-to-late round pick but would still fill a position of need for the Bills.
The NFL will release its regular-season schedule tonight at 8 ET.

The Buffalo Bills' opponents have already been determined by the NFL's rotating schedule formula, so Wednesday night's announcement will simply add times and dates to those games.

Some burning questions: Will the Bills make their first "Monday Night Football" appearance since 2009? Will they play on Sunday night for the first time since 2007? Will they play the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving?

Those questions will be answered by tonight.

Meanwhile, here's a refresher of the Bills' 2014 opponents:

Home: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings

Away: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buckle your seat belts: the Buffalo Bills' next major contract negotiation is right around the corner.

Running back C.J. Spiller is able to become a free agent after this season. Speaking to reporters following his first offseason workout Tuesday, Spiller dropped a line that could send shivers down Bills fans' spines.

"It's my first rodeo. I'll take advice from guys that have been there before. I'll reach out to Jairus [Byrd] and see how he handled it," Spiller said. "I haven't talked to him. I've seen him this offseason but I will [reach out] eventually."

[+] EnlargeCJ Spiller
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesBills running back C.J. Spiller says he'd "love to stay here [Buffalo] and finish my career."
Byrd, of course, was in negotiations with the Bills for over a year until he signed a lucrative, five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints last month, so he's probably not the first person that Bills fans would want talking to Spiller.

Byrd was franchised last offseason and chose not to sign his tender, sitting out the offseason program and most of training camp. Spiller, on the other hand, was with his teammates Tuesday.

"The biggest thing is, I'm here. Last year, Byrd and his situation was different and he didn't show up," Spiller said. "And it worked out in his favor. But I'm here, ready to work."

Spiller was asked if he was taking part in the voluntary workouts as a sign of "good faith" in the upcoming negotiations.

"No, this is a lot of different things. I'm not the type of guy that -- I love being around my teammates. I love working out. So, is that going to boost anything? Who knows," Spiller said. "I can only control what I do. I can't worry about anything else. I understand that this is a business. Decisions have to be made. You have to respect that. But being here has nothing to do with that stuff."

As for any negotiations, Spiller is in the process of hiring an agent. Gary Wichard, who negotiated Spiller's rookie contract in 2010, died in 2011.

"Hopefully I'll get one pretty soon. I'll need one pretty soon. So I kind of got some guys in mind, that I'm looking at. I've had a chance to meet with a couple, so that process has been going pretty well so far," he said. "I just haven't really had enough time to really get into trying to really sit down and see who the best agent would be best for me, with different characteristics that I'm looking for.

"Because my previous guy, I had a unique bond with him and that's kind of what I'm looking for. So it will take a while to try to get a feel for guys, but through a lot of talks and a lot of prayer, I know I'm going to select the right person. So it's nothing to do with trying to delay any negotiations, because I haven't had any time. I've been spending time with my daughter and my family."

Spiller didn't say when he would like to begin negotiations with the Bills' brass.

"I haven't really given it any thought. I'm sure once that time comes, both parties will try to sit down and try to get something down and start negotiating. Right now, I'm pretty sure these guys are getting ready for the draft. I'm getting ready for the season," he said. "I haven't really given it any thought, about this possibly being my last year."

Playing into the contract talks will be the diminished market for free-agent running backs. As explored in a recent piece by ESPN's John Clayton, running backs are having trouble getting paid after reaching free agency.

Spiller still sees the position as valuable.

"If you look at this free agency, running backs really didn't make a big splash in the market. I don't know if teams just decided to make this a passing league, which it already is," Spiller said. "To me, you're always going to need a running back. A quarterback's best friend is the running game. Fortunately for us, that's what we're going to have here in Buffalo. We've had a great running game since I've been here.

"But some reason, some people started looking at that stat sheet, started looking at the age and different stuff, instead of looking at production and what guys done. Take Adrian Peterson, for instance. Look at his production. Look at Chris Johnson, who went for 1,000 yards for six straight seasons. So to me, you got to have a running back. You got to have more than one because of the season."

ESPN NFL Nation writer Kevin Seifert recently examined running backs' performance as they age and found a "cliff" after age 27. Spiller, who turns 27 in August, brushed aside any fears of a possible decline.

"I don't think nothing about it. It's just somebody that came up with a stat. Good on their part," he said. "I don't think my play is going to decline. If you really go look at my body of work, I don't really have a ton of carries. I probably have maybe 600. And this is going into my fifth year. You look at other guys who have almost 2,000 carries, it's a huge difference.

"I don't think about it. I don't pay attention to it. I'll be 27 this year and if people say that's my peak, then that's them. But to me, I'm just going out there and just balling."

Spiller defended his play last season, when he was limited by an ankle injury but rushed for 933 yards.

"I was very pleased. Considering that I was playing on one wheel, really. Almost went for another 1,000-yard season," he said. "That was one of my big goals, trying to get back to that 1,000-yard season. Just came up short. To be able to do it on one wheel, that was pretty impressive."

However, Spiller's production and playing time dipped from the season prior. He and coach Doug Marrone seemed to be on different wavelengths at points last season, with Spiller eventually sitting out one game in October to rest his injured ankle.

"I won't forget what everybody was writing in the papers," Spiller said Tuesday. "What really stung? Everything. 'Should I [have] sat down? Was the 2012 year just a one-year thing?' But it is what it is. You guys get paid to do what you do, and I get paid to do what I do. Like I said, I'm gonna be ready to go this year and hopefully I can get back to that 2012 form."

Despite the potential to test the free-agent market next spring, Spiller said he would welcome a long-term deal with the Bills.

"I would. There's not too many guys that can say that they've played [their whole] career at one spot," he said. "But at the same time, you've got to be a realist with yourself and understand that this is a business, as well. But my goal -- I would love to stay here and finish my career -- but who knows how it'll play out."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Linebacker Brandon Spikes did not take part in the voluntary portion of the New England Patriots' offseason program last spring, but he was present for the start of the Buffalo Bills' offseason workouts Tuesday.

Spikes, who signed a one-year deal with the Bills last month, said he views the next stop of his career as a challenge.

Spikes
"This offseason program, I'm all in. I'll be here all day, trying to get better," he said. "It just feels right. I've always been the type to embrace challenges."

Spikes has made headlines earlier this month when he called his time in New England "4 years a slave," but brushed off the comments Tuesday.

"It's a free country," Spikes said. "That's what Twitter is for. I use it just to interact with my fans. ... People are gonna love you. People are gonna hate you. I just know how to be myself."

Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick once called Spikes "a punk at times," and Spikes hasn't shied away from trash talking in his career. He didn't back down from his style of play Tuesday.

"Everybody got a theme. You gotta respect that," he said. "I got a big mouth, I talk a lot of trash. I feel like I can back it up. ... If I can get in a guy's head, I'll take advantage of it."

Spikes then took it a step further.

"You've seen a lot of the greats do it, with Floyd [Mayweather] and [Muhammad] Ali," he said. "I'm not saying on their level, but hey they personally might use it the same way. For me, it just gives me that edge."

Coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday that he met with Spikes to make sure "it was a good fit" before he signed.

"I like his personality," Marrone said. I have no issues at all with his personality."

As for Spikes' remarks on Twitter, Marrone doesn't view them as a problem.

"Obviously we live in a democratic society, where free speech, you would know better than anyone about what we have," Marrone said. "I don't have any issues when players say what they believe and what they really feel is in their hearts. As long as its being productive, productive for the team."

Whether it's on the field or on social media, Spikes' sometimes-edgy comments have even drawn the attention of his mother.

"It just rubs people the wrong way. My momma always tells me, 'Baby, some stuff you shouldn't say. Some people make take offense to it,'" Spikes said. "I say, you got an opinion, you either like it or you don't. The world turns and it'll be over."

Spikes said he looks forward each morning to reading tweets from the "Bills Mafia" and has embraced the fan base in Buffalo.

"Another thing, reason why I came here, was because the fan base here. I never felt that type of love, even though there hasn't been much success around here, really you can't deny, it's right there in your face. I've embraced it, I've used it as an advantage," he said. "I hadn't had that since I was in Gainesville. "Gator Nation" was the same way. It's just good to have it on your side as you were going about it."
The Buffalo Bills are hosting Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans on a pre-draft visit Tuesday.

Evans is projected to be selected early in the first round of next month's draft. He's the second top receiver prospect to visit the Bills' facility, following LSU's Odell Beckham Jr.

The Bills are also hosting USC offensive lineman Marcus Martin and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon on pre-draft visits Tuesday.

The team has now used 23 of its 30 allowed visits.

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Bills 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:15
PM ET
Is a consensus developing around which position the Buffalo Bills should draft with the ninth overall pick?

After trading for wide receiver Mike Williams earlier this month, the Bills are expected to target offensive tackle or tight end with their first-round selection.

In each of his four mock drafts, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has projected a tackle to the Bills. So what about in his most recent mockInsider, which was released today?


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The Buffalo Bills pulled off the shocker of the first round last year when they selected former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel with the No. 16 overall pick.

Manuel
Buffalo received various criticisms from draft experts. Manuel was the first quarterback taken when many felt it was a reach. ESPN’s Todd McShay was perhaps one of the harshest critics of the Bills, calling the Manuel pick “a waste” in the first round.

“He is someone you develop three or four years down the road,” McShay said last year. “Personally, when I look at this pick, I think it's one of those you look at as a waste. Because there was opportunity to do something really good with this draft pick, and not even at the quarterback position. There were plenty of other positions they needed to draft to get better in certain areas. ... EJ Manuel is not a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position. I think it's going to be a big mistake for this organization."

A year later the jury is still out on Manuel. He had an up-and-down rookie season where he threw for 1,972 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

But where would Manuel rank if he was in this year’s draft with other top quarterback prospects such as Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater? According to former NFL general manager and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly, Manuel still would not rank favorably in 2014.

“I've got a lot of guys rated ahead of [Manuel] based on their college career and based on Manuel's college career," Casserly said on NFL Network this week. "Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel, [Derek] Carr, [Jimmy] Garoppolo and [AJ] McCarron -- I've got them all rated ahead of EJ Manuel coming out a year ago. And you know what, LSU quarterback [Zach] Mettenberger, I've got him ahead of Manuel, too."

Seven 2014 rookie quarterbacks ahead of Manuel? Ouch!

It’s clear that Casserly was (and still is) not a fan of Manuel. But saying last year’s first-round pick would be behind that many quarterbacks in the 2014 draft is harsh.

Ultimately, the only opinions that matter are Manuel and the Bills organization. It’s up to Manuel to prove detractors -- such as McShay and Casserly -- wrong on the football field this season.
The Buffalo Bills pulled off one of the biggest surprises in the first round of last year’s NFL draft when they selected EJ Manuel. He was the first quarterback taken off the board, and the pick garnered national headlines and mixed reaction.

What will the Bills have in store this year in the first round with the No. 9 overall pick? ESPN draft expert Todd McShay provided his fourth mock draft Insider, and Buffalo's projection may surprise you.


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Mettenberger
The Buffalo Bills have representatives in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday to check out former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger's pro day, a source tells ESPN.com.

Buffalo was 28th in passing last season and has one of the NFL’s least-experienced group of quarterbacks. EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon have all combined for just 20 career starts.

Mettenberger is one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects in this year’s draft. He threw for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions for LSU before a season-ending knee injury last November hurt his stock. Wednesday marks the first time Mettenberger will throw in front of pro scouts since the injury.

Most project Mettenberger to be a second-round pick. He's considered in the second tier of quarterbacks prospects behind Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel.
Buffalo Bills controlling owner Mary Wilson, the widow of late owner Ralph Wilson, greeted fans as they signed a guestbook for her late husband at a memorial service Saturday.

The Bills released the following statement from Mary Wilson during the event:
"I want to take this opportunity to thank Bills fans and people everywhere for their tremendous outpouring of love for Ralph. Their heartfelt condolences and warm wishes have truly been a comfort for me, Ralph’s daughters Christy and Dee Dee, Mary Owen and the entire Wilson family during this difficult time.”

“Ralph loved his life and he had a great full life that touched so many people in a variety of ways. He loved his family and his many friends. He loved his Buffalo Bills and he loved the fans. Before he passed, he told me that he wanted people to celebrate his life after he was gone. He wasn’t big on tears. And so that’s why we are referring to events such as the one today as “celebrating” the life of Ralph Wilson.”

“This man accomplished so many things during his time and most of them have been well documented in the past couple of weeks. But the one thing that everyone has mentioned in their kind words was his sense of humor and that certainly was one of his most endearing qualities. Ralph most likely would have offered a funny quip about today’s event. But at the same time, he would have been profoundly touched by the fans outpouring of emotion."
When the Tennessee Titans released running back Chris Johnson earlier Friday, each NFL Nation reporter was polled on his or her team's chances of signing Johnson. For the Bills, I said their interest was 'low,' because of the presence of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the backfield.

Then came news Friday afternoon from ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky, who reported that the Bills and Miami Dolphins were the two teams closest to making a move with the Titans before Johnson was released.

Spiller
Johnson
It's a nugget that could be as much about C.J. Spiller as it is about Johnson.

With Spiller and Jackson, there would be few opportunities for Johnson to get carries. That wouldn't be the most efficient use of Johnson, who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards each season since being drafted in 2008, so something would have to give.

Both Spiller and Jackson will become free agents this season. Jackson is 33 -- and has faced injury issues in both knees -- but he performed much more consistently than Spiller last season. It would be almost unimaginable for the Bills to move on from Jackson, their offensive captain, in favor of Johnson.

That leaves Spiller, who never got into a groove in first-year offensive coordinator Nate Hackett's system. Although Spiller averaged 4.6 yards per carry, he averaged fewer than three yards per carry in six games. On plays with at least five yards to gain for a first down, Spiller lost yardage on 14.4 percent of his runs, the worst rate among NFL running backs with a qualifying amount of carries.

Hampered by an ankle injury, Spiller played 34 percent of offensive snaps, considerably less than Jackson's 56 percent and the fewest since Spiller's rookie season. Spiller's 185 receiving yards were also the fewest since he was a rookie.

Spiller said following the season that he would not request a trade.

“A trade? Nah. I don’t have any reason to. [I’m] satisfied,” he said on Dec. 30. “You know, I don’t have any, you know, bad feelings with this organization or with [CEO] Russ [Brandon] or with, you know, [general manager] Doug Whaley. You know, I like Coach [Doug] Marrone and I like [running backs] Coach [Tyrone] Wheatley, so I have no reason to go nowhere else, but you know that’s stuff I can’t control. But I wouldn’t go up there and ask for one.”

Spiller has a $5.9 million cap hit this season, the sixth-highest on the Bills' roster. However, trading Spiller would only save about $1.8 million Still, there would be incentive for the Bills to trade Spiller this offseason instead of losing him to the open market next offseason.

Now that the Titans have released Johnson, the Bills have the opportunity to sign him without having to give up anything in a trade. If they choose to pursue Johnson further, it would continue to cast doubt on Spiller's future.
The Titans held on to Chris Johnson until Friday because they felt they had potential to trade him.

At least two teams gave Tennessee a real sense that a deal could be reached. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported four teams were interested, but a source tells me Miami and Buffalo were the teams that came closest to making a move.

Johnson would have had to reduce his contract, which called for base salaries of $8 million, $8 million and $7 million.

I can't envision Johnson wanting to go to Buffalo. Choosing to hit the open market instead of facilitating a trade there would be an understandable move.

The Dolphins and Miami might be attractive. But if he didn't like the Titans' offensive line in transition, the shakeup the Dolphins have undergone hardly suggests a line that will have jelled by opening day.

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