The Buffalo Bills put together a season of promise. Fans and coaches saw certain players step up their performance level and rookies make immediate impacts on the games. Now, before Buffalo’s brass can start to make decisions on who else they need to bring in, whether free agency or the draft, the front office has to look at itself in the mirror and make some decisions. Here are the top three decisions looming for the Bills.
1.) Jairus Byrd- Byrd is set to be an unrestricted free agent and the Buffalo Bills have until March 3rd to decide whether they want to retain the three-time Pro Bowl safety or not. Byrd is an integral part of the Bills’ defense, so keeping him in a Bills uniform is important. The team can try to work something out long-term, or franchise tag Byrd for a second consecutive year. A second season under the tag would cost the Bills $8.299 million, not too bad of a pill for the team to swallow. Byrd wants to be paid as the game’s top safety and his skills warrant such a commitment, but will the Bills want to after drafting two safeties in last year’s draft and holding a top ten pick?
2.) Mario Williams’ Cap Hit- Mario Williams is one of the highest paid defensive players in the league, and in year two with the Bills he was near the top of the league leader board in sacks. In 2013, Williams earned a Pro Bowl berth and played like he deserved the contract he received. The issue though is that Williams’ cap hit is set to be around $18.8 million dollars. With four years remaining on his deal the Bills should be approaching Williams to convert some of that cap hit into a guaranteed bonus so they can free up more space. It would bloat his numbers for the next three years, but it is something the Bills will have to do to get short-term relief and mortgage the future slightly.
3.) Marcell Dareus’ Fifth Year- It will be interesting to see how the Bills approach the third overall pick of the 2011 draft. Dareus enters the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, however all first round rookies that year have the option to pick up a fifth-year option. Dareus finally played like the Bills had hoped when they drafted him out of Alabama, but personality concerns have raised some red flags. If the Bills pick up the option, a likely scenario, they’ll have to pay Dareus the cost of the transition tender for defensive tackles. This amount comes out to roughly $8.5 million, and it’s all guaranteed.
The Bills have to figure out how to address these three issues in house before they can start planning the future. Williams and Dareus will be on the roster next year, but Byrd is quite a different story. After Doug Whaley figures out the best course of action with each situation, he can then focus on filling in the remaining pieces.