Buffalo Bills: Kiko Alonso

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills will begin life without linebacker Kiko Alonso when they start training camp Sunday night.

As players reported to St. John Fisher College on Friday, general manager Doug Whaley put the absence of Alonso, who underwent surgery this week, in perspective.

Alonso
"It's a tremendous loss, but no one's crying for us," Whaley said. "Next man up. We think we've built a roster that can sustain a loss like this. But our expectations aren't going to drop."

As expected, Whaley mentioned rookie Preston Brown and third-year 'backer Nigel Bradham as possible replacements for Whaley. The second-year general manager added that each of those players have already practiced with the first team, as Alonso was out for most of OTAs recovering from hip surgery.

Other tidbits from Whaley:

Philosophy on EJ Manuel: There will be pressure on quarterback EJ Manuel to perform this season, but Whaley said the team has tried to give Manuel as much help on the field as they can. "He doesn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders, that he has to go out and win it," Whaley said. "We've surrounded him with some people where if he does his job, he should be OK." As far as how Manuel will need to improve, Whaley said: "I want to see him have more control of the huddle, of the offense. A command and a presence out there that we saw in college."

No word on Marcell Dareus: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has two pending legal situations from incidents this offseason, something that could make him subject to an NFL suspension. Whaley said Friday that he hasn't heard from the league on that front. Dareus wasn't among the players who moved into the dorm while reporters were present Friday.

Cordy Glenn status bears watching: Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, considered the Bills' best offensive lineman last season, missed minicamp with what was called an illness. Glenn was placed on the active/non-football illness list this week and can be removed from the list at any time. Whaley was cautious Friday when talking about Glenn's status. "We're still waiting on some reports on him, but it looks like it's going to be one of those day-to-day things and we'll see how it progresses." Asked a follow-up question if Glenn's illness could threaten his season, Whaley said: "We don't think so, at this time. But again, we'll just have to see how it progresses. We hope not." Glenn is present at camp. "He'll be doing some light exercises and stuff like that," Whaley said.

Other injury updates: Whaley said the team is still easing cornerback Leodis McKelvin back into action after offseason surgery. He is on the active/physically unable to perform list. Defensive tackle Alan Branch, meanwhile, is on the non-football illness list. Whaley said there were tests that came back during his check-in physical that require further scrutiny before he can practice.

Roster moves: The Bills released two players -- cornerback Darius Robinson and wide receiver Cordell Roberson -- on Friday. Whaley said the team is "upgrading" the roster and is in the process of signing two players to replace them. They are expected to be younger players, not veterans.
The Buffalo Bills signed linebacker Stevenson Sylvester on Wednesday, adding another player to compete at the position following the loss of Kiko Alonso to a season-ending knee injury.

Sylvester
Sylvester, who turns 26 on Friday, was a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. He played in 50 games in four seasons with the Steelers, making two starts. He should compete with Ty Powell and rookie Randell Johnson for a role on special teams.

To make room for Sylvester on the 90-man roster, the Bills waived tight end Mike Caussin, who missed each of the past two seasons with injuries. Caussin had been with the Bills since 2010.

In a procedural move, the Bills placed Alonso on the active/non-football injury list. Alonso remains on the 90-man roster and can be taken off the list at any time. The Bills may later choose to place Alonso on the reserve/non-football injury list, which would keep him out of at least the first six weeks of the regular season. He isn't expected to play this season.

The Bills also placed Johnson and cornerback Leodis McKelvin on the active/physically unable to perform list. Johnson participated fully in spring practices while McKelvin was recovering from hip surgery. Either player can come off the list at any time.

In addition, the Bills placed offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and defensive tackle Alan Branch on the active/non-football illness list. Either player can return at any time during training camp.

Counting the Bills: Linebackers

July, 16, 2014
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Continuing a series analyzing the economics of the Buffalo Bills' roster, position by position:

Position: Linebacker

Total cap value: $9,540,029
Compared to NFL average: 44.1 percent less
NFL positional rank: 30th

Portion of Bills' total cap number: 8 percent

2014 cap numbers:
Brandon Spikes: $3.25 million (14th on Bills, 46th among NFL linebackers)
Keith Rivers: $1.85 million (Bills: 21st; NFL: 74th)
Kiko Alonso: $977,364 (Bills: 31st; NFL: 122nd)
Nigel Bradham: $686,065 (Bills: 39th; NFL: 146th)
Preston Brown: $582,000 (Bills: 46th; NFL: 191st)
Ty Powell: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 60th; NFL: tied for 252nd)
Randell Johnson: $435,933 (Bills: 69th; NFL: tied for 291st)
Darrin Kitchens: $422,000 (Bills: 73rd; NFL: tied for 309th)
Jimmy Gaines: $421,667 (Bills: tied for 74th; NFL: tied for 312th)
Nathan Williams: $420,000 (Bills: tied for 78th; NFL: tied for 328th)

Average per year:
Spikes: $3 million (tied for 17th on Bills, tied for 53rd among NFL linebackers)
Rivers: $2.025 million (Bills: 23rd; NFL: 72nd)
Alonso: $1.075 million (Bills: 28th; NFL: 112th)
Brown: $751,438 (Bills: 34th; NFL: 147th)
Bradham: $641,065 (Bills: 43rd; NFL: 182nd)
Johnson: $570,933 (Bills: 50th; NFL: 214th)
Kitchens: $512,000 (Bills: 63rd; NFL: 272nd)
Gaines: $511,667 (Bills: tied for 64th; NFL: tied for 275th)
Powell: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 77th; NFL: tied for 337th)
Williams: $465,000 (Bills: tied for 84th; NFL: tied for 356th)

Most overpaid: None. The Bills added Spikes and Rivers on relatively short-term, low-risk deals this offseason. Overall, the Bills aren't spending much on linebackers. The position could be a problem spot following the Alonso's injury but that's not the result of financial decisions. The Bills have plenty of youth at the position and will look for Bradham or Brown to step up in Alonso's place.

Most underpaid: Alonso. No-brainer here. Like with Robert Woods and Cordy Glenn, the Bills and Alonso can't strike an extension until after the third year of Alonso's rookie deal. However, the circumstances could be different in Alonso's case. Since he was hurt while working out away from the team's facility, the Bills can place him on the non-football injury list. Alonso wouldn't get an accrued season and would have only three years of service when his contract expires after the 2016 season. In that scenario, he would become a restricted free agent and the Bills would have more control over his future. Still, the more likely outcome is that Alonso returns to health next season and the Bills extend him before he hits the open market.
The blows for Buffalo Bills fans came in quick succession Tuesday night.

First was a shocking 33-word statement from general manager Doug Whaley that sent a clear message: brace for the worst with linebacker Kiko Alonso, who quickly had become a fan favorite and rising defensive star last season.

[+] EnlargeKiko Alonso
AP Photo/Bill WippertKiko Alonso's torn ACL puts the Buffalo Bills in quite a pickle at linebacker.
"We have learned tonight that Kiko Alonso injured his knee while working out in Oregon," Whaley said. "We do not have the details at this point, but early indications are that it may be significant."

Less than an hour later came confirmation, from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, of Bills' fans fears: Alonso had torn his ACL and is expected to miss the upcoming season.

At a time when those around the NFL are relaxing on beaches and boats, the stunning developments with Alonso have taken the wind out of the Bills' sails.

This is a crushing blow just more than two weeks before training camp begins.

Alonso was part of a defensive resurgence last season under former coordinator Mike Pettine, playing every defensive snap. The team moved him to weak-side linebacker this offseason, and its hope was that Alonso would take another step forward, helping to improve the Bills' run defense as a run-and-hit outside 'backer.

At this point, you can rip up those plans and toss them in the trash, at least for this season. The Bills are back to the drawing board at linebacker.

Luckily for them, the team made two low-cost, high-upside signings this offseason, bringing in Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes. That shored up what was, aside from Alonso, a weaker point in their defense last season.

Before Alonso's injury, the Bills planned to start Rivers on the strong side and Spikes in the middle. With a hole potentially opening up on the weak side, they have several options.

First, they could move Rivers to the weak side. That would open a hole on the strong side, but Rivers has adequate range to play any of the three linebacker spots. He has an injury history that should make the Bills leery of relying too much on him, but at this point they might not have a choice.

Moving Rivers across the formation would require someone else moving into his old spot. One choice would be Preston Brown, a third-round pick who impressed at middle linebacker this spring. Having a rookie learning one position in organized team activities and another in training camp isn't ideal, but Brown has impressed coaches so far. The Bills could hold their breath and hope that Brown makes like Alonso and steps in without a hitch on the strong side.

Rivers
If the Bills wanted to go with more experience in their second level, Manny Lawson is their best bet. Lawson, who turns 30 later this month, started 15 games last season at strong-side linebacker. That's a different position in Pettine's defense than it is for Schwartz, and Lawson would need to play off the line more than he did last season. Moving Lawson back to linebacker would also weaken the Bills' depth at defensive end, but it's an option they need to consider at this point.

Another possibility is to replace Alonso with Nigel Bradham, keeping Rivers on the strong side. Bradham, a former fourth-round pick, started 11 games in 2012 as part of a Bills defense that ranked 31st against the run. His playing time was cut considerably under Pettine last season, but he offers more athleticism than the alternatives at the position.

There are few, if any, remaining options on the free-agent market who could step in and start for Alonso. Any new player coming in would have to play catch-up to learn the defense. The Bills could add a veteran for depth during training camp, but they would likely keep the expectations low with any new addition.

Instead, the strongest bet is that Alonso's replacement is either Bradham, Brown or Lawson.

None is Alonso. After snagging four interceptions in his first four games, Alonso's on-field play and his nonchalant personality earned him "legend" status among Bills fans, who flocked to buy his jersey.

In a cruel offseason twist that came down like a bolt of lightning on a summer night, Alonso won't be wearing his jersey on the field this season.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' luck with the weather ran out as they held their ninth and final organized team activities session Thursday.

Skies opened about halfway through the outdoor practice, with players initially toughing it out during an 11-on-11 drill before moving indoors to their practice facility.

Even before the weather was a factor, it was a practice to forget for quarterback EJ Manuel and first-round pick Sammy Watkins. In a routes-versus-air drill, three of Manuel's throws directed towards Watkins in the end zone were off-target. Watkins got his hands on each but couldn't haul them in.

Later in the practice, back indoors, Manuel hit Watkins with a well-thrown pass but Watkins couldn't get ahold of the ball. Manuel also had multiple passes on fade patterns sail over receivers in the end zone, a trend during the three weeks of OTAs.

The Bills wrapped up practice with a full-team red zone drill. Manuel's first pass was an incomplete fade pattern, while his second pass was overthrown. Following a hand-off to Anthony Dixon that went for a touchdown, Manuel's next pass was thrown away, while his final pass was intended for Dixon on a dump-off but was off the mark.

From a big-picture standpoint, the one sequence of the one OTA doesn't mean much, but it wasn't the way the Bills wanted to end their three weeks of practice. Manuel and Watkins will look to bounce back next week at mandatory minicamp.

Attendance-wise, linebacker Brandon Spikes was not spotted Thursday after participating in the first eight OTAs. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who has been practicing on a limited basis following hip surgery, was also not on the field.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore took a step forward in his recovery from hip surgery, taking reps at first-team cornerback in an 11-on-11 drill. Linebacker Kiko Alonso (hip surgery) also had an increased workload Thursday.

Offensive lineman Doug Legursky returned to practice for the first time in a week.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin participated in positional drills Thursday but was limited as he recovers from a knee injury suffered earlier this week.

Defensive end Bryan Johnson, who was carted off the field with an apparent left leg injury Monday, will be out until training camp, coach Doug Marrone said.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- One Williams in, another Williams out.

Williams
That was the theme of the Buffalo Bills' organized team activities Wednesday. Defensive end Mario Williams, who is recovering from hip surgery and missed Tuesday's session, was back on the field. He took limited reps during team drills, with Jerry Hughes and Jarius Wynn seeing the bulk of the playing time with the first team.

Meanwhile, guard Chris Williams was not spotted at Wednesday's OTA, which is voluntary. The reason for his absence is not known. In his place, Mark Asper took first-team reps at left guard. Asper had been practicing with the third team until Wednesday.

Running back Bryce Brown, who has sat out OTAs since Friday with an undisclosed injury, was back in action in team drills. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who sat out Tuesday's OTA with what coach Doug Marrone called "weekend soreness," was back in team drills Wednesday.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso watched from the sidelines during team drills. He is recovering from hip surgery.

Safety Aaron Williams, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, took reps in a 7-on-7 red zone drill but did not take part in any other team drills. Williams was paired with Da'Norris Searcy on the first team. In 11-on-11 drills, Jonathan Meeks replaced Williams with the top unit.

Wide receiver Marcus Easley, cornerback Darius Robinson, running back Ronnie Wingo, guard J.J. Unga and defensive end Bryan Johnson didn't participate in practice but were on the field. Tight end Mike Caussin was not spotted for the second consecutive practice.

Defensive tackles Alan Branch and Marcell Dareus, as well as defensive end Manny Lawson, remained out of action.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After sitting out Wednesday's organized team activity, Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams and linebacker Kiko Alonso participated in limited team drills Thursday.

Williams
Alonso
It was a step forward for the two defensive starters who both had hip surgery this offseason.

Alonso's surgery was to repair a torn labrum and was performed sometime in January, a league source told ESPN's Adam Caplan. The recovery time for such a procedure is typically four to six months.

Thursday's OTA also saw the return of defensive end Jerry Hughes to team drills after Hughes sat out Wednesday's team drills for unspecified reasons.

Meanwhile, undrafted cornerback Darius Robinson left Thursday's OTA with trainers, holding his left arm. He did not return.

Second-year wide receiver Marquise Goodwin came down hard on his elbow after diving for a pass. He briefly met with trainers before returning to action and finishing the practice.

Bills moving Kiko Alonso to OLB

March, 14, 2014
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The "Legend of Kiko" will continue ... elsewhere.

Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, who played every snap at middle linebacker last season, will move to outside linebacker under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, general manager Doug Whaley said Friday.

Alonso
"That right now is the plan," Whaley told WGR 550. "We're going to move him outside. Have Keith Rivers on the other outside [spot]."

Alonso finished second in voting for the Associated Press' defensive rookie of the year award last season. His 159 tackles were third in the NFL, while he added four interceptions, two sacks and one forced fumble.

The Bills believe moving Alonso, presumably to the weak-side, will free him up to make more plays.

"We think with his athletic ability, his speed, and his instincts, why limit him by having to take on those big guards? Let's cover him up and let him run and hit," Whaley said.

Whaley said Rivers, who the Bills signed Wednesday, will compete for a starting job at the other outside linebacker spot. He started eight games for the New York Giants last season but they weren't expected to bring him back.

Schwartz is expected to change the Bills' scheme to a more traditional, 4-3 look. That means Manny Lawson -- who started 15 games on the edge in Mike Pettine's "46" style defense last season -- doesn't have a well-defined role in the new system.

"I think he's going to be a hybrid player. He's going to be able to bring us something as an outside linebacker but also come off the edge as a defensive end," Whaley said. "His versatility is going to be utilized within this system. That we think is going to be very valuable for us."

Lawson, who is entering the second year of a four-year deal, received a $500,000 roster bonus Thursday. He will count $3.1 million against the Bills' salary cap this season.

Where do the Bills turn at middle linebacker? Whaley said the team will consider options already on its roster, which are slim.

"We're going to have to field an inside backer. We have some guys on campus now that we're excited about and we're going to keep our eyes open for anybody else that is out there," Whaley said. "Ty Powell is a guy that we're excited about. We brought [him] in last year off the New York Giants' practice squad. He played on special teams. He came in and actually played in the defensive package during the season. We're excited about him and we believe he'll take that next step coming up this season."

Powell, a seventh-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013, played in five games as a reserve late last season.

The other possibility is Nigel Bradham, whose playing time dropped significantly last season and is probably better suited as a weak-side linebacker.
The Buffalo Bills are hosting free-agent linebacker Jameel McClain on a visit Wednesday.

McClain
McClain, 28, was released by the Baltimore Ravens last week. Entering the final year of his contract, he was due a $3.2 million base salary.

After beginning last season on the physically unable to perform list, McClain started 10 games, recording 52 tackles and one forced fumble.

The Syracuse product has played his entire career for the Ravens after going undrafted in 2008. His best season came in 2011, when he started all 16 games, notching 84 tackles, one sack, one interception, and four passes defensed.

At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, McClain played inside linebacker in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme. His best fit with the Bills would likely be at middle linebacker in Jim Schwartz's system.

That could mean Kiko Alonso, who finished second in the Associated Press' defensive rookie of the year voting last season, could move to weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 alignment.
The snow may still be flying, but February -- the second month of the offseason -- is coming to a close today.

Four weeks ago, we asked what we would learn about the Buffalo Bills this month.

Here are the answers to most of those questions, along with some other developments:

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
AP Photo/NFL PhotosAndre Reed is the latest member of the Bills to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reed elected to Hall of Fame: After eight consecutive years as a finalist, former Bills receiver Andre Reed was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this month and will be inducted on Aug. 2. He becomes the 10th Bills player, coach, or contributor to be enshrined in Canton, and the first since owner Ralph Wilson and defensive end Bruce Smith were inducted in 2009. Reed will be presented by former coach and fellow Hall of Famer Marv Levy. The current Bills will be in town for the festivities, beginning their preseason against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game.

New York State forms committee: Included in the Bills' 10-year lease with Erie County is a provision to form a 21-member committee that will explore options for a new stadium. Earlier this month, New York State named the first five members to the group, but the Bills or the county have yet to announce any appointments. The Bills released a statement saying that they were "appreciative" of the state's efforts but that their focus remained on a major renovation to Ralph Wilson Stadium. There are concerns if building a new, modern NFL stadium is viable in Buffalo -- one of the NFL's smallest markets -- while the uncertain future of Bills ownership could stall any efforts of the committee.

No cuts, yet: All NFL teams could begin releasing players the Monday after the Super Bowl. The Bills are one of many teams that have yet to make any moves. In terms of cap space, the Bills should be comfortable; they have one of the NFL's highest carry-overs of unused cap space from last season. The future of quarterback Kevin Kolb remains something to watch as the new league year approaches in mid-March.

Coaching staff set: The Bills rounded out their coaching staff this month, hiring Rob Moore as wide receivers coach and promoting Jason Rebrovich to assistant defensive line coach. Both were assistants for Doug Marrone at Syracuse. The Bills don't have any vacancies remaining among position coaches, but could still add quality-control coaches to their staff later this spring.

No ROY for Kiko: Linebacker Kiko Alonso finished second in voting for the Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year Award, which was announced on Feb. 1. The honor instead went to New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Alonso still took home the Pro Football Writers of America's version of the award in January, becoming the first Bills rookie defender honored since Shane Conlan in 1987.

Top takeaways from scouting combine

February, 23, 2014
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Sunday marks the final day of access to players, coaches, and general managers at the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley both spoke to reporters last week, providing a few nuggets as the team progresses through the offseason.

Here's our biggest takeaways from Marrone and Whaley:

Manuel
1. Bills won't draft a quarterback in the first round: Typically general managers will shy away from ruling out any options in the draft, but Whaley made it clear Friday that the Bills will not select a quarterback with their first-round pick. "With the way our roster's set up right now, besides quarterback, we could go with any position," Whaley said, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. The Bills don't seem keen on the idea of drafting a quarterback in the first round in back-to-back seasons, which is an idea that has been bounced around since EJ Manuel suffered his third knee injury in December. While Whaley shut the door on that possibility, the debate remains the same: How should the Bills go about hedging their bets with Manuel, and are they making a mistake by not leaving the first-round possibility on the table?

2. Marrone reaches out to Stevie Johnson: One of the more complex personalities within the Bills' locker room is wide receiver Stevie Johnson, whose long-term future with the team has been clouded by a large roster bonus due next month. Johnson played through several injuries last season, one which ended early after the death of his mother in December. On Thursday, Marrone was asked about a report that the coaching staff had trouble connecting with Johnson last season. Graham lays out the background to the question and Marrone's answer.

Byrd
3. Bills meeting with Byrd's agent: The Bills continue to take the stance that they want safety Jairus Byrd, who is set to become a free agent next month, back with the team. They met with Byrd's agents Saturday, as noted by Graham, which is a fairly common occurrence between teams and agents at the combine. Still, Whaley publicly continued to express interest in a long-term deal with the three-time Pro Bowler. "We as an organization, again, we're going to leave every option open for Jairus, because we would like him back," Whaley said. The Bills have until March 3 to assign Byrd the franchise tag.

4. Dareus extension on radar: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus made his first Pro Bowl last month, and despite being benched for parts of the final two games after being late to team meetings, the Bills are apparently interested in keeping the former third-overall pick around for the long-term. Whaley was asked about the possibility of a contract extension for Dareus, and said: "It’s on our radar, but right now we prioritize things." Dareus, like other first-round picks, has a team option in his deal that would keep him under contract through the 2015 season.

5. Whaley would take the "bigger guy:" This year's quarterback class is considered stronger than last year, when the Bills took Manuel off the board at 16th overall. WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia relays an exchange where a reporter asked Whaley how he would rank Manuel if he was part of the 2014 draft class. "Oooh. Good question," Whaley said. "I would have to say he would be talked in the top tier of those guys. Just with his size and athletic ability, you looked at the measurements now, there was only one guy close to his size and that was Blake Bortles at 6-5, and AJ McCarron was over the 6-3, so he's in there. I'm a big proponent that everything equal, you go with the bigger guy."

Williams
6. Mario Williams' cap hit a "non-issue:" Few NFL players will eat up more salary cap space this season than defensive end Mario Williams. The Pro Bowler will account for $18.8 million against the cap, but Whaley downplayed the possibility that the Bills would restructure Williams' contract. "At this time, non-issue. We're comfortable where it is right now," Whaley said, according to Buscaglia.

7. Kiko on the move? When we spoke to former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last season about Kiko Alonso, Pettine pointed out that Alonso could play any of the linebacker spots within the defense. While the Bills' best bet is to keep Alonso -- who did not come off the field last season -- as their "Mike" linebacker, Whaley didn't rule out the chance of moving Alonso to outside linebacker in Jim Schwartz's scheme. "He would excel there, just like he excelled at middle linebacker," Whaley said, according to Graham. "But either way -- middle linebacker, 'Will' or 'Sam' -- we think this guy's going to have a bright future."
There will be no celebration for Kiko Alonso in Radio City Music Hall.

New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was named the Associated Press' NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, edging out Alonso. Richardson will be awarded his trophy at the NFL's annual honors show Saturday night in New York City.

Alonso was awarded the Pro Football Writers of America's version of the award last month, but it's the AP's honors that the NFL recognizes each year.

Richardson finished with 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in 16 games (15 starts). Alonso played in every defensive snap and finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles. He also snagged four interceptions, all of which came in the first four weeks of the season.

This may have been a case where voters felt Richardson played at a more consistent level over the course of the season. Some could argue that Alonso's play-making statistics tailed off after a fast start in September, when he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.
On Friday, we asked the following question: What did we learn about the Buffalo Bills in January?

Now we'll ask this: What do we expect to learn about the Bills in February?

As the Bills move into the second month of the offseason, here's what on the radar:

Alonso
Does Alonso win rookie honors? On Saturday, the NFL will reveal the Associated Press' NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year at their annual awards show in New York City. Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso could be the favorite, having been awarded the Pro Football Writers of America's version of the award last month. Alonso played every snap his rookie season and finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles. Alonso's top competition could be a pair of defensive tackles: Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers) and Sheldon Richardson (New York Jets).

Does Andre Reed make the Hall of Fame? For the eighth consecutive year, former Bills receiver Andre Reed is a finalist for election into the Pro Football Fame. On Saturday, the 46 voters will meet to decide the latest class to be inducted into Canton. The feeling on this end is that Reed is a longer shot to finish in the top five of the voting. Among wide receivers, he faces stiff competition from Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison.

Byrd
Does Byrd get franchise tag? Teams have from Feb. 17 to March 3 to assign the franchise tag to player set to become an unrestricted free agent. Realistically, the only Bills player who could get tagged is safety Jairus Byrd, who was also franchised last season. Because of the back-to-back tags, the Bills would need to tender Byrd at $8.3 million, which is 120 percent of his salary this season. That amount would be guaranteed if Byrd signed the tender, which could happen at any time after he is tagged. From this perspective, the Bills could keep the franchise tag on the table if they feel (a) they feel they aren't making progress in talks with Byrd's representatives, and (b) they believe the $8.3 million figure is palatable to keep Byrd in Buffalo for one more season.

Does coaching staff get finalized? The departure of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has brought several changes to the Bills' coaching staff, which should continue into this month. The Bills hired two coaches Friday: Pepper Johnson (defensive line) and Fred Pagac (linebackers). It's possible that they hire another assistant to help with the front seven. They are also without a wide receivers coach.

Do Bills make any cap casualties? It's difficult to pin down the Bills' exact salary cap position -- the NFL has yet to settle on a figure for the 2014 season -- but the expectation is that the Bills will be around the middle of the pack in cap space entering the new league year in March. Teams are allowed to release players as soon as Monday, following the Super Bowl, and it would not be a shock if the Bills trimmed their roster in order to free up extra cap space. We'll dive deeper into that topic Monday.

Kiko Alonso wins PFWA rookie honors

January, 14, 2014
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Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America on Tuesday.

Alonso
The PFWA's version of the award is lesser-known than that given by the Associated Press. Those players selected by the AP -- including defensive rookie of the year -- will be announced at the NFL's annual award show on Feb. 1 in New York.

Alonso, selected in the second round, played every defensive snap this season. He finished with 159 tackles, third-most in the NFL.

Earlier this month, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. named Alonso Insider as his defensive rookie of the year. Also, Alonso becomes the first Bills rookie since linebacker Shane Conlan in 1987 to earn AP or PFWA rookie of the year honors.

The PFWA also released its All-NFL and All-AFC teams this week. No Bills made the cut.

Bills fire LB coach Chuck Driesbach

January, 13, 2014
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The Buffalo Bills fired linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach, the team announced Monday.

Driesbach joined head coach Doug Marrone's staff last January after 36 years in the college ranks, most recently as Rice's defensive coordinator. He also served as defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 1993-1996, with current Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on his staff as a graduate assistant from 1993-1994.

One of the top performers on the Bills' defense was rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is among the top candidates for NFL defensive rookie of the year. However, the Bills struggled to find consistency next to Alonso, with Arthur Moats and Nigel Bradham both seeing limited time in that spot.

Driesbach becomes the second Bills assistant coach fired this offseason, joining wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard.

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