Looking back to the beginning of March, most Bills fans were filled with anxiety as the free agency period was quickly approaching. There were plenty of comments and questions speculating what the team might do:
“Will Stevie Johnson re-sign? How come that hasn’t happened yet?”
“Is Scott Chandler asking for too much money?”
“Can the team really make a push for Mario Williams?”
“Will this be another penny-pinching free agency period, where the team just looks for value?”
“What will the team do to address the pass rush?”
“Can the team find a #2 receiver?”
“Is Demetrius Bell in the team’s plans, or is Chris Hairston the projected starter moving forward?”
As I think back, most could understand why Bills fans would be filled with angst in fear that the Bills would leave with more holes to fill once free agency was over. I can’t blame most for thinking this way – too much speculation can drive everyone a little crazy sometimes. But over the past 6 weeks all of these questions have been answered to some extent.
When Stevie Johnson re-signed that was the first piece that allowed fans to exhale and rejoice. With some big name WR free agents on the market, no one knew what the market would dictate for a player with Stevie’s talents. But SJ’s re-signing was another example of the front office making a commitment to a talented starter, similar to the commitments made with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Williams. The team’s #1 wide receiver was back without hitting the open market.
Scott Chandler went from a street free agent to a valuable starter for the Bills, and a favorite target of Fitzpatrick. To bring back a sure-handed option at TE eliminated another hole that the team would need to fill in free agency or the draft. Chandler was also locked up before the start of free agency, which provided more optimism for fans heading to March 13.
The fact that Mario Williams is a member of the Bills still feels like a dream that I have yet to wake up from. His visit to Buffalo was filled with 48 hours of angst for all members of the Bills Mafia, as everyone took to Twitter looking for the latest updates. There was a lot of questionable information out there, but when Luke Russert’s mother tweeted that Williams checked out of his hotel, I remember feeling crushed. Little did we know that Williams and his fiancée were headed to Jim Kelly’s house for a visit that would help finalize his decision.
Williams first, and only, visit was to Buffalo, and the coaches, front office, players, and their wives all contributed to the recruitment efforts. The signing answered a lot of questions and showed the team’s commitment to improving the pass rush and sending a message to all Bills fans. A few days later Mark Anderson visited and signed with the Bills, adding another defensive end with the ability to produce 10+ sacks a season. In addition to the support that Anderson would give the Bills D-line, it also left a hole for Divisional foe the New England Patriots to fill.
While the team did not find a #2 receiver in free agency, there was an effort made to bring Robert Meachem to the Bills. While he eventually signed with the Chargers, most fans were ok with this as the team heads into the draft with our current crop of receivers. The 2012 draft is considered deep at WR, with solid value projected in rounds 2-4. This combined with the play of David Nelson and the promise of Marcus Easley provides fans with some optimism moving forward.
While it was unfortunate to see Demetrius Bell leave for Philadelphia, most fans understood that the contract was too rich for the Bills to match. Bell has battled injuries over the years, so now the team turns to Chris Hairston as the only LT on the roster. The team will likely add an OT (or two) during the draft, possibly with a first round pick at #10. Don’t be surprised to see a free agent added to provide some depth as well – which is just a hunch based on Hairston’s inexperience.
We all know that championships are not won during free agency, but it is clear that the team has made the changes needed to contend. With the draft just 2 weeks away we are close to finding out who are the newest members of the Buffalo Bills, and of course the Bills Mafia. The past 6 weeks have been a great success for the Buffalo Bills, and we can hope that the next 2+ weeks will be the same concluding with the draft.
Bills Mafia Blog