The Buffalo Bills are entering a make-or-break 2014 season, where every member of the organization, from General Manager Doug Whaley, to Head Coach Doug Marrone and his staff, all the way down to the players, are basically holding open auditions for a new potential owner. Recent history has shown that new ownership typically results in a new front office. A new front office equals new coaches, which generally leads to new players that fit the mold of what a new staff desires.
So, when I read Jason LaCanfora’s article regarding the Bills today, it was hard to argue with any of the points he made… up until he speculated on a potential C.J. Spiller trade. The Bills want to be identified by a strong rushing attack, using an up-tempo system that is designed to run as many plays as possible.
Last year, the Bills’ offense carried the ball 546 times, the most in the National Football League. During the offseason, the team doubled up at the running back position, signing a big, strong and sneakily-athletic short-yardage back in Anthony “Boobie” Dixon, while trading away their fourth-round pick for 23-year old do-it-all running back, Bryce Brown.
Throw Fred Jackson into the mix, and the Bills’ backfield went from having a talented one-two punch, to possibly being overcrowded.
When looking at the situation through a vacuum, it could seem as if trading Spiller would benefit the team in the long-term. Spiller will be 28 at the start of the 2015 season, and the freakishly fast home run hitter will likely demand a top-tier contract in an open free agent market.
So, in a league where running backs are plummeting in monetary value, you can’t fault someone for suggesting that the Bills see what type of return they could receive for Spiller.
However, when you take a step back and look at what Whaley and Marrone are trying to accomplish THIS season, it’s quite clear that trading one of the most physically gifted and talented running backs in the league isn’t a likely scenario.
The Bills are literally in a win-now mode and it’s pretty difficult to imagine that Whaley would take the risk of shipping Spiller off for a future draft pick—one that the second-year GM likely won’t be able to use if the team misses the playoffs again.
NFL teams win by finding out what they do well, and making it a strength that can compensate for a lesser performance from another unit. Despite the fact that the Bills invested heavily in the wide receiver position this offseason as well, the team wants to establish the run early and often as a way of taking control of games.
Having a player that’s a home-run threat like Spiller, coupled with a rotation of fresh legs that each bring unique traits to the offense, should prove to be critical in sustaining drives and converting on third-downs—something that the young offense struggled to do in 2013.
So, while valid arguments can definitely be made in favor of trading C.J. Spiller, it just doesn’t make sense in the short-term, which is most definitely the mindset of the brass at One Bills Drive right now.