AFC East: Josh Reed

Miami, Buffalo gain compensatory picks

March, 25, 2011
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The NFL assigned a grand total of two compensatory draft picks to the AFC East this year.

The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills each are the recipients of a shiny seventh-round choice. The Dolphins get the 234th overall selection and the Bills get the 244th.

Compensatory picks were announced Friday. The New England Patriots and New York Jets got zippo.

Compensatory draft choices are awarded through a closely guarded formula of free agents lost and acquired the previous offseason. If a team signs more or better free agents than it loses, compensatory picks aren't given.

Miami lost cornerback Nate Jones and outside linebacker Jason Taylor, but signed inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Buffalo lost receivers Terrell Owens and Josh Reed and defensive end Ryan Denney. They signed defensive end Dwan Edwards and linebacker Andra Davis.

Since compensatory picks were first awarded in 1994, New England leads the division with 25 of them. Quarterback Tom Brady is the most famous -- the 199th pick in 2000.

Buffalo is next with 25 compensatory picks, followed by Miami with 15 and New York with five.

Bills misjudged Edwards-to-Owens combo

November, 17, 2010
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The Buffalo Bills have misread their personnel more than a few times under first-year general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey.

Two of their bigger mistakes were in the spotlight Wednesday, when a flourishing player the Bills dismissed criticized a player they committed to -- but have since dumped.

On a conference call with Bills reporters, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens said he was "shocked at the beginning of the season that Trent was named the starter."

Owens was referring to quarterback Trent Edwards, who took Buffalo's first-team reps through training camp, in each preseason exhibition and the first two regular-season games. Buffalo released Edwards after Week 3.

But when it came to Owens, the Bills acted with conviction, going so far as to send out a press release in February to announce they would not re-sign him, receiver Josh Reed or defensive end Ryan Denney.

Owens' 59 receptions and 834 yards each rank third in the NFL. His seven touchdowns are tied for fifth.

Gailey admitted the Bills guessed wrong about whether Owens had much left to give. He had 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns in his one season with Buffalo. He will turn 37 years old next month.

"There's some point that you do reach the wall," Gailey said. "It's a guess on when guys are going to do that and you have to make assumptions with the information you have at hand. But, obviously, he's kept himself in shape, and he's done a great job doing some good things for them down there.

"We didn't know where [the wall] was. We felt like it was getting close. Obviously, it wasn't, but we felt like it was getting close, and we had some younger receivers that we wanted to develop."

But without Owens on the roster, Steve Johnson has had the chance to emerge. The 2008 seventh-round draft choice leads the Bills with 44 receptions for 591 yards and six touchdowns.

AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

October, 26, 2010
10/26/10
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NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 7.

Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson entered 2010 with one start, 12 receptions, 112 yards and two touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeSteve Johnson
Larry French/Getty ImagesBills receiver Steve Johnson is having a breakout season.
Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, he notched a performance nearly as impactful as his first two NFL seasons combined.

Johnson played an integral role in nearly pulling off the upset of the year. He had a career-high eight receptions for a career-high 158 yards with a career-long 43-yard gain and a touchdown before the Bills lost in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Individually, that's all good and that's what you want as a player," Johnson said. "If you're a running back, receiver or a quarterback that's what you want. But at the end of the day, you do want to get that win in the win column instead of just the individual win.

"I guess it's a good thing and a bad thing. I did pretty good, but at the same time we didn't win."

Johnson, a 2008 seventh-round pick from Kentucky, never had caught more than five passes or gained more than 66 yards in a game. He had trouble getting on the field his first two seasons, but the Bills declined to re-sign Terrell Owens and Josh Reed, creating room for Johnson to contribute.

He has been consistently involved this year and has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games, the span Ryan Fitzpatrick has been Buffalo's starting quarterback.

"Just seeing him since he came in, all of our receivers have confidence with him back there throwing the ball," Johnson said. "He's spreading it around to tight ends, receivers, running backs. ... We all have confidence in him, and I'm pretty sure he has confidence in us, and I'm pretty sure we can put up numbers with him."

A statistical look at Buffalo's big outburst

October, 24, 2010
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There will be no negativity in this post about the Buffalo Bills, not even a reference to Sunday's score or result against the Baltimore Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium.

A few notes on the Bills' surprising offensive eruption against one of the NFL's best defenses:
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick was 29-of-43 for 374 yards and four touchdowns for a 106.1 passer rating.
  • He became the first Buffalo quarterback with back-to-back games of at least three touchdowns since Jim Kelly in 1990.
  • Fitzpatrick has thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games, longest streak of his career and longest for any Bills quarterback since Drew Bledsoe went 10 consecutive games in 2002.
  • The last Bills quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards was J.P. Losman in November 2006.
  • Lee Evans caught six passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first player in Bills' history with at least three receiving touchdowns in multiple games.
  • Evans topped 100 yards for the first time since November 2008.
  • Steve Johnson also had a career afternoon with eight receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown.
  • Johnson has a touchdown in four straight games, the longest streak since Evans in 2006. One more next week would tie Elbert Dubenion's club record set in 1964 and tied by Eric Moulds in 1999 and Evans in 2004.
  • The Bills had two 100-yard receivers for the first time since Evans and Roscoe Parrish in September 2006 and first time on the road since Peerless Price and Josh Reed in September 2002.
  • Rian Lindell kicked a 50-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation, only the 14th time since 1983 a kick of at least 50 yards forced overtime.

Camp Confidential: Buffalo Bills

August, 2, 2010
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 31

PITTSFORD. N.Y. -- Of any preseason prediction I can make, the one I'm most confident in is that the Buffalo Bills will finish fourth in the AFC East.

That slot would be neither general manager Buddy Nix's nor head coach Chan Gailey's fault. The problems they inherited have set the course for 2010.

But they are setting a tone for the long-term future the players can respect.

Gailey is trying to establish a new culture with his first training camp. He wants people to use two adjectives that haven't been associated with the Bills for a long time: tough and disciplined.

"He's very particular about things and how he wants them done," Bills receiver Lee Evans said. "We haven't really had that for a while here, with the head man running the show. You understand what he's trying to get done."

Gailey has kept his players in full pads at St. John Fisher College. Previous coach Dick Jauron rarely had his players in complete gear at camp.

Gailey believes players should be in pads and tested both physically and mentally. He's in a discovery phase not only about what he'll be able to work with on Sunday afternoons, but also keepers who will help him build a long-term foundation.

"When you actually have those shoulder pads on, mouthpiece in, chinstrap buckled up and you have to get off a block to make a play," safety George Wilson said, "that really shows the true testament of a real football player.

"That's what our coaching staff needs, a new staff that's coming in to evaluate this entire team and be able to put the best 53 men together for this 2010 season. I like what we’re doing. It's going to make us a lot more physical, a lot tougher, a lot more mentally prepared, and I have a positive outlook about it."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeEdwards
AP Photo/David DupreyTrent Edwards is being given the chance to win the starting quarterback job.
1. Can quarterback Trent Edwards capitalize on another opportunity? Bills fans seemed to be pulling for Brian Brohm to emerge as the favorite to win the starting quarterback job. A major reason is they haven't seen him truly fail yet -- unlike Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Yet, after several months working with his quarterbacks, Gailey liked Edwards best and installed him as the No. 1 quarterback to begin training camp. The battle remains open, but with Fitzpatrick and Brohm sharing reps with the backups and surrendering a few here and there to rookie Levi Brown, it's Edwards' job to lose. Based on Edwards' medical chart (combined with Hot Issue No. 2 below), there are no guarantees.

But Edwards has yet to get a fair shot to prove what he can do. He has experienced plenty of chaos since the Bills drafted him in the third round in 2007. Gailey is the first offensive-minded head coach Edwards has played under. Last year, offensive coordinator Turk Schonert got fired 10 days before the season, the Bills jettisoned both starting tackles (two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and the most experienced member of the offensive line, Langston Walker) from the season before and endured a futile no-huddle experiment.

Gailey has run successful offenses everywhere he has been. This finally could be a legitimate chance for Edwards to show what he can do.

2. How will the Bills survive without proven offensive tackles? The Bills aren't known for their pass rush, but it was apparent in the early days of practice their offensive tackles were overmatched in pass protection. For their safety, quarterbacks wear red jerseys to remind oncoming defenders not to hit them. Good thing, or else the Bills might have needed to sign some replacements already.

While some front offices believe guards are fungible and tackles vital, the Bills have operated contradictorily in recent years. They've drafted guards within the first two rounds (Eric Wood and Andy Levitre) and paid big bucks for a free agent (Derrick Dockery) while declining to draft a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002.

Left tackle Demetrius Bell has been limited in 11-on-11 drills because he's recovering from knee surgery. He received his first snaps Sunday. His replacement, Jamon Meredith, has been overwhelmed at times. The other tackles likely to make the 53-man roster -- Cornell Green, Kirk Chambers and rookie Ed Wang -- have looked ordinary at best.

[+] EnlargeSchobel
Bob Donnan/US PresswireThe Bills have decided to move forward without linebacker Aaron Schobel.
3. What will happen with vacillating pass-rusher Aaron Schobel? He spent the entire offseason at his home in Texas, perhaps playing possum. He didn’t return to the Bills' facility to collect his roster bonus or participate in offseason workouts. He told some media outlets he was all but retired.

Then, on the verge of camp, the two-time Pro Bowler with a $6 million base salary expressed a change of heart. Schobel might want to play after all. Or maybe he's posturing for a trade, threatening to show up a month before the regular season despite failing to attend so much as a chalk-board session on the team's transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.

On Monday morning, the Bills provided a nebulous answer: In a news release, Nix announced the team is moving forward with plans that do not include Schobel.

Nix said: “Aaron has been contemplating retirement for the past seven months, but we are at the point where we are moving forward and have informed his agent of our plans.”

Schobel can improve the defense with his talents, but the team is rebuilding and going through a defensive transformation he has demurred from. If they cut him, then they forfeit an asset. A trade appears to be the best option to me.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Wide receiver Steve Johnson was an afterthought when the Bills drafted him in the seventh round three years ago. But the front office was quietly confident he would be a player someday. After getting buried on a depth chart that no longer includes Terrell Owens and Josh Reed, Johnson might be ready to emerge. Johnson opened camp as the starting No. 2 receiver opposite Evans. That puts James Hardy on the spot. The Bills took him in the second round the same year they drafted Johnson.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Rookie running back C.J. Spiller, the ninth overall draft choice, still hasn't been signed. Reports indicate it might be a while before he's under contract. The players around him in the draft order have come to terms, but Spiller was the first running back off the board and was considered the most electric playmaker in the draft. His agent, Gary Wichard, certainly is hammering home that point every time he speaks to the Bills. While it's true running backs can afford to miss practice more than other positions because their role is so reactionary, Spiller is more than that. The Bills also consider him a receiver, and that makes practice time more precious for learning the nuances of Gailey's offense.

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
AP Photo/ David DupreyChan Gailey is trying to learn as much about his team by working them out in full gear.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • The atmosphere at St. John Fisher College has been lifeless. It hasn't mattered whether it's morning, afternoon, night, weekday or weekend. The few fans who have shown up are silent.
  • Fitzpatrick has been plagued by interceptions through the first few days of camp. Bills defenders seem to have developed a strong read on where he's going to throw.
  • Gailey has mandated knee braces at practice for the offensive linemen, whether they've had injuries or not. He has been doing that since he began working with O-line coach Joe D'Alessandris at Georgia Tech in 2002. The players can opt out of the knee braces for games if they don't like how they feel.
  • The Bills' defensive backs have sensational hands. In every drill I watched, it was rare to see a ball hit the ground.
  • Left cornerback Leodis McKelvin has demonstrated lapses in concentration. He seemed lost in a passing drill Saturday, getting beaten by Hardy for an easy touchdown. Secondary coach George Catavolos had trouble getting McKelvin's attention afterward for some instruction. Soon after, McKelvin was dropping punts in a return drill.
  • Inside linebacker Kawika Mitchell told me the unit relies on free-agent acquisition Andra Davis' insight when it comes to 3-4 questions. That also goes for inside linebackers coach DeMontie Cross, who hasn't coached an NFL 3-4 before.
  • Mitchell on the 3-4: "It gives you more freedom. It allows you to showcase your ability a lot more. It's going to be a lot more fun."
  • Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell are one of the NFL's best punter-kicker combos. The Bills didn't bother to bring in any additional legs.
  • Wood is a head knocker. His quick return from a shattered left leg and no-nonsense demeanor on the field will make him popular in Buffalo.
  • After obstructed media views on the opening day, the Bills did a fine job of reorganizing their access areas to allow better viewing of 11-on-11 drills.
  • Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin has a body shape that stands out the moment you see him. Maybin looks like a Wii character, with a tiny waist that flares upward toward his shoulder pads. He told me his waist is 36 inches, but in pads it seems like a 28.
  • I focused on the tight ends at the blocking sled Friday morning. I saw why sophomore Shawn Nelson is viewed as more receiver than blocker. He looked considerably less powerful than the rest. While Derek Schouman, Jonathan Stupar and Michael Matthews jacked the sled, Nelson merely budged it. Nelson is listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Only Matthews is larger at 6-4 and 270.

Over or under? Buffalo Bills

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
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Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.

We start with the Buffalo Bills.

Spiller
Spiller
Rookie running back C.J. Spiller, 1,152 yards from scrimmage

Barnwell's take: UNDER. The problem here isn't Spiller's talent, but the context of the situation he's entering. The Bills are rebuilding their offensive line after last year's rash of injuries and the retirement of Brad Butler. Lines take time to meld. There's no established quarterback to take the pressure off of the run game, which suggests there will be eight men in the box against Spiller on most plays. He's also going to be splitting time with Fred Jackson and, potentially, Marshawn Lynch. He's explosive, but so was Darren McFadden when he was coming out of school.

My take: UNDER. For those who were wondering, ESPN.com's fantasy forecast has Spiller rushing for 812 yards and catching 39 passes for 340 yards. I can't envision Spiller running for that kind of yardage behind a patchwork offensive line that's especially weak at tackle, which will curb Spiller's ability to get outside. Spiller won't be able to grind out 800-plus yards up the middle. That said, I also disagree with the receiving projections. They're too low.

Evans
Evans
Wide receiver Lee Evans, 54 catches

Barnwell's take: OVER. I think that projection is pretty close to his eventual total, but my concern is the lack of reliable talent across the field from Evans. He was thrown 137 passes in 2006; since then, his target total has gone consistently down, with 113 in 2007, 102 in 2008, and 95 a year ago. It's hard to figure that James Hardy or Steve Johnson will be thrown as many passes as Terrell Owens was last year, and with those passes needing to go somewhere, I think Evans gets closer to that 130-target level in 2010.

My take: OVER. Call me foolish for continuing to believe this, but Evans is a far superior talent compared to his production, and Buffalo's quarterback play can't get any worse than last year. Evans has played six NFL seasons, and in three of them he caught 48 or fewer passes. He's coming off the worst season of his career in both receptions and yardage, but as Bill points out, Owens is gone. So is Josh Reed. Somebody has to catch the ball, and I have a hard time believing an offensive-minded coach like Chan Gailey won't be able to figure out a way to deliver it to Evans.

Byrd
Byrd
Safety Jairus Byrd, five interceptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER. Since 1990, there have been 24 instances of a player picking off nine passes in a year. In the subsequent season, those defensive backs averaged fewer than three interceptions. I think Byrd's performance last year was a combination of good instincts and, honestly, luck. How many of Byrd's interceptions were overthrows that just fell into his lap? Those just don't happen year after year.

My take: OVER. It's hard to guess what the Bills' defense will look like. They're transforming from a Tampa 2 to a 3-4. But Byrd is a ballhawk in a division that should pass more this year. He recorded nine interceptions even though he didn't take over the starting free safety spot until Week 5, played hurt for most of the season and missed the final two games to have sports hernia surgery.

Pats draft bust seeks redemption with Bills

June, 28, 2010
6/28/10
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There's an assumption when an elite organization such as the New England Patriots misfires on a high draft choice that it must be the player's fault.

Chad Jackson carries that stigma, a 36th overall selection the Patriots dumped after two seasons and 14 games.

[+] EnlargeChad Jackson
AP Photo/David DupreyKnowing he is running out of chances, Chad Jackson is trying to make up for lost time.
Jackson knows he's running out of chances and appears to be an underdog to make the Buffalo Bills' roster. Head coach Chan Gailey said he intends to keep five receivers. Jackson, who didn't play a down anywhere last year, might need somebody else to get hurt.

"I got a lot to prove around the league," Jackson told me after a Bills minicamp practice last week. "I was a high draft pick, and coming out I had a lot of disappointments. Right now, I'm just trying to make up for it."

Jackson left the University of Florida after a sparkling junior season. He led the SEC and tied a Gators record with 88 receptions for 900 yards and nine touchdowns.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick carries an aura of infallibility, and with inside information from Gators coach and close pal Urban Meyer, Patriots fans figured Jackson would be a star when they traded up 16 spots to draft him in 2006.

Jackson battled hamstring and groin problems through his rookie season. He was limited to 12 games and only one start. He caught 13 passes for 152 yards, but he did score three touchdowns. In the AFC Championship Game, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He played in only two games in 2007.

When the Patriots cut him in August 2008, there was a belief Jackson wasn't willing to put in the time necessary to be great -- whether it was through rehab, learning the playbook or film study.

"There's two sides to every story," Jackson said. "I won't get into all that. But I had my opportunity and I didn't take full advantage of it."

I asked him if he could do anything differently, what would it be.

"Not get hurt," he said with a laugh. "When I got hurt, I fell back. I tore my ACL. I hurt my hamstring. Then they brought Randy Moss and Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth and all those guys in. I was put on the backburner. I'm just trying to make up for lost time now."

Jackson spent four games with the Denver Broncos in 2008 but couldn't find work at all last year. He turned 25 in March.

You would think there's room at receiver on Buffalo's roster. Terrell Owens and Josh Reed weren't re-signed. But the Bills had a pretty deep group last year and have youngsters worth looking at.

If Gailey sticks with his plan of keeping five receivers, then Jackson could be in trouble.

Lee Evans is the No. 1 receiver. The Bills also have James Hardy (a 2008 second-round pick), Steve Johnson (a 2008 seventh-round pick the organization has been intrigued by), Roscoe Parrish (a dangerous punt returner) and Marcus Easley (a fourth-round pick this spring).

"The wide receiver position is open," Jackson said. "I can come in here and get a starting spot, No. 2 or No. 3 spot. I got a lot of opportunity here ahead of me.

"I think I've made a good impression. I'm not gone right now, so I must be doing something good."

What AFC Easterners under most pressure?

June, 28, 2010
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NFL.com senior analyst Pat Kirwan wrote a column about the 16 players (actually 17) he believes to be under the most pressure to perform in 2010.

Four AFC East players made the list, which Kirwan explained is for players whose "teams have put the onus on them to succeed, and if they don't come through, their teams will likely disappoint."

12. James Hardy, Bills receiver: The 41st pick of the 2008 draft has an injury history. The Bills need a receiver to emerge opposite Lee Evans with Terrell Owens and Josh Reed no longer on the roster.

13. Matt Slauson, Jets guard: Kirwan suggested Slauson will have to replace perennial Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca. That might happen, but I disagree there's a serious amount of pressure on Slauson. He was a sixth-round draft choice last year and was inactive for 13 games. Plus, the Jets drafted guard Vladimir Ducasse in the second round two months ago.

14. Charlie Anderson and Koa Misi, Dolphins outside linebackers: They made Kirwan's list in tandem because the Dolphins lost 16 sacks when Joey Porter and Jason Taylor departed. I'm surprised not to see Cameron Wake's name included. Porter singled out Wake when publicly ripping the Dolphins in February.

Clayton: Bills have NFL's worst offseason

May, 19, 2010
5/19/10
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Two weeks ago, ESPN.com's John Clayton appraised the NFL's best offseasons. AFC East clubs took the first three slots.

Clayton rated the New England Patriots first, followed by the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

The Buffalo Bills didn't make that list, but here they are, atop Clayton's followup analysis. He claims the Bills had the league's worst offseason.

Writes Clayton:
1. Buffalo Bills: No team had a greener offensive line last season than the Bills. ... All the Bills did to help the line was sign 33-year-old tackle Cornell Green.

The Bills averaged a horrible 16.1 points a game on offense and did nothing to upgrade a quarterback corps filled by Trent Edward sand Ryan Fitzpatrick. The receiving corps lost 82 catches by not re-signing Terrell Owens and Josh Reed. The only replacement was fourth-round choice Marcus Easley, leaving Lee Evans with little around him.

Owner Ralph Wilson was willing to pay a high salary for his new coach, and ended up with nice guy Chan Gailey, hardly a headliner. To make things even more challenging, the Bills switched to a 3-4 defense even though they didn't have a legitimate 3-4 outside linebacker or a nose tackle. They drafted nose tackle Torell Troup in the second round and hope that Broncos castoff Andra Davis and seldom-used Aaron Maybin can handle the tough outside linebacking jobs.

Making matters worse, the Bills' three division rivals -- the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins -- had three of the best five offseasons. With those odds against them, the Bills won't need luck to be in position to draft either Jake Locker or Andrew Luck next year.

AFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
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Buffalo Bills

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.

Miami Dolphins

Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.

New England Patriots

Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.

Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.

Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.

What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.

New York Jets

Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.

Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.

Owens' time in Buffalo served its purpose

March, 1, 2010
3/01/10
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AP Photo/Don HeupelHe came, he played, it snowed and now Terrell Owens is leaving Buffalo after one year.
The Buffalo Bills have higher standards than VH-1.

Despite abysmal ratings, the cable network renewed "The T.O. Show" for a second season in 2010.

The Bills weren't so inspired. Their reality show simply wasn't compelling enough to bring Owens back. A whirlwind affair is over after one year.

Saturday night the Bills publicly disassociated themselves with Owens, receiver Josh Reed and defensive end Ryan Denney. In a news release, Bills general manager Buddy Nix said the team would not offer them contracts and allow them to become unrestricted free agents Friday.

You won't find any outrage in Buffalo that Owens won't be wearing a Bills uniform this year. Bills fans didn't come to loathe him at all, but somehow a polarizing figure came to town and engendered shoulder shrugs and vague feelings of meh.

Before it reached that level of apathy, the one-year relationship was a marketing success.

Owens and the Bills used each other. They were a perfect fit, a team desperate to capture their disenfranchised fans' imaginations and a character in need of an image makeover.

Owens came to Buffalo because it was the only place that would take him, and he knew he needed to seize the opportunity to cleanse himself, to show the rest of the NFL he could be in a locker room without detonating its chemistry.

He's a future Hall of Famer who should've generated more attention than he did when the Dallas Cowboys cut him. Perhaps that was a wake-up call. He couldn't afford to depart Buffalo with another quarterback controversy similar to the ones he left behind in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.

His mission: Show up, play football, be a good soldier and hope the football community notices he served his time with good behavior.

The Bills, meanwhile, needed something -- anything -- to stimulate their followers. The fans were disgusted with how 2008 ended. They started the season 5-1, then collapsed, failing to reach the playoffs a ninth straight season. Head coach Dick Jauron not only was retained, but the club insulted anyone paying attention by refusing to acknowledge what was known, that they'd given him a contract extension before the implosion.

So intense was the furor in Buffalo that some wondered if Bills owner Ralph Wilson would get booed during his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Owens was identified as the solution. He sold tickets. He sold jerseys. The mere fact the Bills would make such an organizationally deviant acquisition put fans in a euphoric state.

Owens arrived with the type of fanfare Buffalo will look back upon with at least a little embarrassment.


AP Photo/David DupreyThere was a lot of fanfare for Owens in Buffalo, including a key to the city presentation.
He touched down at Buffalo Niagara International Airport to find cheerleaders, chanters and other assorted zealots certain he was the savior. One fan dressed up as a popcorn box, a reference to his showstopper promise to "Get your popcorn ready."

The moment was staged for his VH-1 show, but the feelings expressed were genuine. Bills fans were smitten, drunk in love with a personality who might make their team relevant again. The next day, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown presented him with a key to the city, an honor Wilson has never received.

Pageantry pretty much was all Owens brought to Buffalo, and the front office acted as though that's what it was most interested in anyway.

Whatever daring the Bills showed in signing Owens was offset by their inept evaluation of personnel. They traded Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert 10 days before the regular-season opener and released right tackle Langston Walker and running back Dominic Rhodes.

After the season began, they scrapped the no-huddle offense they'd spent the entire offseason installing, fired Jauron and revoked Trent Edwards' job as starting quarterback.

Not even counting the new Bills regime, Owens played under two head coaches and two offensive coordinators and with three starting quarterbacks -- in the span of nine months.

The Bills sold out every home game with his help. And while Owens showed flashes with little teammate support, he rarely made enough of an impact on the field.

He posted his lowest receptions-per-game average since his rookie campaign with San Francisco in 1996. He finished with 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns.

The theory was that if Owens didn't have a big year, his presence would allow underrated receiver Lee Evans to excel on the other side of the field. Evans had 44 catches for 612 yards (both career-lows) and seven touchdowns. Evans' career average entering last season was 6.4 touchdowns.

In Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints, Owens' receptions streak ended at 185 games. It seemed like an appropriate time for Owens to lash out against the Bills, new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt or Edwards, who'd become known locally as Captain Checkdown.

But Owens admirably held himself together and set a media tone for the rest of the season. He was disappointingly uninteresting, but he kept his nose clean. He was adamant about remaining as bland and politically correct as possible. It was part of his cleansing, after all.

Owens' employment options will be limited. He'll turn 37 before the next season is over.

But the way he carried himself in Buffalo and the excuses he'll have at the ready -- thanks to Buffalo's dysfunction and hindrances outside his control such as a slew of injuries on the offensive line -- might give him more possibilities if he's willing to play for a discount.

From the Bills' standpoint, they extracted all they could from Owens' aura. Besides, they cleared the way for younger receivers.

James Hardy, a second-round draft choice in 2008, has only three receptions. He missed almost all of last season while coming back from a knee injury, but he's ready to go. The Bills think highly of Steve Johnson, a seventh-round pick who has been lost in the shuffle.

For Owens, it's time to move on.

The Bills got what they wanted. So did he.

The only ones left unfulfilled were the fans, their excitement turned to yawns.

Bills uninterested in T.O., Reed, Denney

February, 27, 2010
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Teams usually don't disseminate news releases to announce they won't re-sign a free agent, yet the Buffalo Bills want you to know they won't offer contracts to receivers Terrell Owens and Josh Reed and defensive end Ryan Denney.

[+] EnlargeOwens
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireTerrell Owens caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five TDs for the Bills in 2009.
"We wanted to inform all three players ahead of the start of the free agency period so they could begin making their plans," Bills general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement. "We just felt that was the right thing to do. All three have represented our organization with class and we thank them for their dedication and hard work."

There was no mention of Buffalo's other unrestricted free agents: guards Seth McKinney and Kendall Simmons, linebacker Chris Draft and safety Bryan Scott.

Owens played one season with the Bills. He had a team-high 55 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns.

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh suggested he would be interested in bringing Owens aboard.

"I've always said I've got a lot of respect for T.O., and I know Ozzie [Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome] does, too," Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine. "He had a good year last year, we watched him on tape and he was very effective."

When pressed on his interest in Owens, Harbaugh added "You cornered me. You got me. We're interested in T.O. We're interested in all the guys that can make our team better."

Reed spent eight seasons with the Bills. The slot receiver caught 27 passes for 291 yards and one touchdown last year. He had his best season in 2008, when he made 56 catches for a career-high 597 yards and a touchdown despite missing three games.

Denney also played eight years in Buffalo, collecting 23.5 sacks mostly as a backup. Of his 31 career starts, 24 of them came in two seasons -- 2003 and 2008.

Video: Help wanted at WR and TE

February, 23, 2010
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To varying degrees, all four AFC East teams have a need for receivers and tight ends.

The Miami Dolphins still haven't identified a reliable, stretch-the-field target.

The New York Jets would love to get Mark Sanchez more help.

Randy Moss is predicting 2010 will be his last season with the New England Patriots, and slotmeister Wes Welker is recovering from an awful knee injury.

Terrell Owens and Josh Reed are unrestricted free agents for the Buffalo Bills.

With that in mind, let's drop by the NFL Draft Lab to see what analysis Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have concocted about prospects who can catch.

Buffalo fans will notice two local boys getting some attention: Syracuse receiver Mike Williams (from Buffalo's Riverside High) and Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski (a native of suburban Amherst).

McShay considers Williams second to only Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant in terms of talent and a potential steal. Williams has character issues. Syracuse suspended him as a junior and he quit the team as a senior.

"Tons of baggage, there's no question about it," McShay said. "You've got to deal with him and have good leadership around him to keep the off-the-field trouble away. But if you can do that, I think he's the second most talented receiver in this year's class, and you can get him probably in the third or fourth round."

Kiper and McShay each have Gronkowski rated as their fifth-best receiver or tight end.

video

Free agency: AFC East

February, 15, 2010
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the AFC East.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Buffalo Bills

Unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, S Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons.

[+] EnlargeOwens
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireTerrell Owens caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five TDs for the Bills in 2009.
Key figures: The Bills' roster presumably will experience considerable turnover under new general manager Buddy Nix and new head coach Chan Gailey, who's switching the defense to a 3-4 scheme. The Bills don't have any free agents they must re-sign. Their most notable unrestricted free agents are Owens, Reed and Scott. The club probably won't go out of its way to sign any of them. Strong safety George Wilson and guard Richie Incognito are the most prominent players who would be impacted by the uncapped year, morphing from unrestricted to restricted.

Miami Dolphins

Unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.

Key figures: Some big names populate the Dolphins' free-agent list. Three of their captains -- Pennington, Ferguson and Taylor -- are unrestricted. They're trying to jettison a fourth captain, outside linebacker Joey Porter, onto the open market. Ferguson is 35 and coming off a leg injury. Yet he would be the toughest to replace because 3-4 nose tackles are commodities. If the NFL miraculously avoids an uncapped year, then running back Ronnie Brown would be unrestricted. Otherwise, a clause would keep him under contract for 2010.

New England Patriots

Unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, LB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson, NT Vince Wilfork.

Key figures: Wilfork is the only AFC East free agent worthy of a franchise tag. While most of the focus is on him, other significant contributors have expiring contracts. One of the Patriots' areas in need of an upgrade this offseason is their pass rush. Sacks leader Banta-Cain and Burgess accounted for 15 of the team's 31 sacks. There's a belief the Patriots will let Watson walk, creating a larger void at tight end.

New York Jets

Unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, K Jay Feely, TE Ben Hartsock, FB Tony Richardson.

Key figures: Richardson and Feely are the biggest names because a blocking fullback is integral to the offense, and a reliable kicker is crucial to the Jets' defense-first, grind-it-out approach. The Jets' list of free agents could grow if they don't want to fork over substantial roster bonuses next month for running back Thomas Jones, cornerback Lito Sheppard or safety Kerry Rhodes.

Video: Changes ahead for Jets, Bills

January, 26, 2010
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ESPN's John Clayton takes a spin around the conference in his weekly "AFC Huddle."

Clayton leads off with what happens next for the New York Jets. He doesn't see running back Thomas Jones or cornerback Lito Sheppard coming back in 2010 and wonders how they'll eventually replace left guard Alan Faneca and right tackle Damien Woody.

Also addressed are the number of changes in store for the Buffalo Bills under new head coach Chan Gailey. Will Gailey switch the Bills to a 3-4 defense? Will Trent Edwards get another shot to be the quarterback?

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