Regardless of what anyone might tell you, the Buffalo Bills have commit to another rebuild under a new head coach and a new general manager. Buffalo traded away two quality starters in WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby, leaving the Bills with zero first or second round picks from their 2013-15 drafts.
And now the Bills front office has traded 2016 second round LB Reggie Ragland to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2019 fourth round pick without having played a single down after suffering an ACL tear in his rookie training camp. Ragland, coming out of Alabama’s 3-4 defense, was projected to be a quality fit in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 front, but he had no job in new head coach Sean McDermott’s 4-3 defense.
To act as a cherry on top, the Bills traded up in the 2016 draft to take Ragland, giving up their 2016 and 2017 fourth round picks.
Ragland wasn’t even the first top Bills pick from the 2016 draft to be moved, either. The Bills traded fourth round QB Cardale Jones to the Los Angeles Chargers in July for a conditional 2018 seventh round pick.
Now I would be the first to credit Belichick for releasing a player that just isn’t working out, and to praise him for getting any sort of return in a trade. But Buffalo flipped their 2016 second and a trio of fourth round picks into a 2018 seventh (maybe) and a 2019 fourth.
This isn’t new for the Bills, either. Just four players remain from the first five rounds of the 2011-15 drafts:
- 2011 first round DL Marcell Dareus. Dareus was sent home early prior to facing the Baltimore Ravens for violating a team rule. Dareus was suspended for four games in 2016, and one game in 2015 for violating the league’s drug use policy. He’s also in year three of a 6-year, $96.5 million extension and carries a dead cap hit of $38.6 million so he’s an albatross on the neck of the Bills salary cap. He’s likely stuck on the team for two more seasons due to his dead cap value.
- 2012 second round LT Cordy Glenn. Glenn is the Bills franchise left tackle and is just 27 years old. Glenn battled ankle injuries in 2016 and is currently dealing with a foot injury. He’s a cornerstone piece.
- 2014 third round LB Preston Brown. Brown is entering the final year of his contract and he has started 46 of a possible 48 games. He was graded as one of the worst starters on the Bills in both 2015 and in 2016 by Pro Football Focus.
- 2015 third round RG John Miller. After a terrible rookie season, Miller elevated his play in 2016 as a solid run blocker. He’s a solid building block for an offensive line.
In comparison, the Patriots have Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon from the 2011 draft; Dont’a Hightower from 2012 (Nate Ebner was a sixth round pick); Duron Harmon from 2013; Jimmy Garoppolo, James White, and Cameron Fleming from 2014; and Malcom Brown, Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, Shaq Mason, and Joe Cardona from 2015.
Even if Richards and Grissom fail to make the team, you can see how impressive it is for the Bills to have just four players from those five drafts.
Buffalo is not making it easy for QB Tyrod Taylor to succeed and earn a new contract, which means the team could be continuing their rebuild into 2018 as their best players- LG Richie Incognito, 34 years old; DT Kyle Williams, 34 years old; Lorenzo Alexander, 34 years old- head towards retirement. Even RB LeSean McCoy will be 30 next season, which is ancient for a running back.
A fair question: What is the goal for this current Bills regime?
How much job security will they have? The previous two Bills coaches were fired by the Pegula family after two seasons.
Will they be in a position to take steps forward as a franchise in the near future? They’ve gutted the youth on the roster and they’re planning on replacing them in future drafts, but the veterans will be done by the time the new players are ready. If the team doesn’t have players from 2016 drafts and earlier, then the timeline to compete will be kicked down the road another season.
And I have to wonder if all of these summer trades by the Bills would have been made with 2017 draft picks if general manager Doug Whaley had been fired prior to the draft. Instead, the Bills won’t be able to capitalize on those assets and hit the ground running until 2018.
Will McDermott get a fourth year at the helm? Every NFL head coach that is entering their fourth season (or more) on the job has reached the playoffs. Every head coach entering their fifth season (or more) has multiple playoff appearances. In other words, unless you’re Jason Garrett, head coaches generally have three seasons to reach the playoffs and four seasons to become contenders (in the loosest sense). If the Bills are punting 2017 by acquiring 2018 draft assets, then tick, tick, tick.
Can the Bills reach the playoffs anytime soon? It seems like the front office has opted to build a roster from scratch instead of trying to find ways to incorporate the talent of the incumbents. Maybe McDermott and company can do it, but even Bill Belichick inherited a roster with Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Damien Woody, and Adam Vinatieri.
I get the sense that McDermott is married to his defensive scheme of 4-3 fronts and fungible cornerbacks in the same exact way that Rex Ryan was married to his 3-4 defense. They both ignored the talent of the roster to jam the pieces into whatever vision they had and it failed miserably for Ryan.
I’m not going to be surprised if the Bills are ready to commit to a new rebuild in 2020, either.