Terry Pegula was approved by the NFL to become the Buffalo Bills’ owner on Wednesday morning during the fall NFL owners meeting. The only thing left to do is for the new owners to wire the money to the Ralph Wilson Jr. estate and close the deal, which is expected to occur by Friday. Now that Terry & Kim Pegula are the new owners now the question of where do we go from here comes into play.
The front office and coaching staff
Terry & Kim have assuredly been paying attention to the team results on the season thus far; they have also probably paid attention to the media reports and fans’ comments. If fans are expecting any immediate movement then they should sit back and relax. The Bills lead the division and at this point all of the moves this offseason have paid off thus far. Until this team is out of playoff contention then Head Coach Doug Marrone, and General Manager Doug Whaley jobs are safe.
The likely scenario is that Pegula will meet early and often with his GM and coach to figure out the direction of the team and eventually get the players take on their bosses. If the team starts to lose then one can expect a move to be made in December with Jim Schwartz as an on-staff replacement on an interim basis until Pegula picks who he wants, but that’s only if Marrone stops winning.
Russ Brandon’s future
Brandon was named the CEO of the Buffalo Bills in January of 2013 by the late Ralph Wilson Jr. and has led the day to day operations of the organization. He is not a Pegula choice and just as he did with the Sabres it wouldn’t be surprising if Pegula relieves Brandon, or reorganizes, him in the off season. Again, this is a situation where Pegula needs to get settled in the owner’s box first before he starts ruffling feathers. He probably already has a list of advisors he may choose to bring in, but in the immediate future Brandon’s job, much like Marrone and Whaley, will be determined later in the season rather than sooner.
Bills Free Agents
The Bills have two big pending free agents in defensive end Jerry Hughes and running back CJ Spiller. With the NFL salary cap expected to increase next season and with the surplus they currently have the Bills have enough room to sign both players depending on contract demands. I expect Pegula in his early conversations with Whaley to identify Hughes as a priority to get a contract extension done, and Spiller as someone that they should retain, depending on price.
After those two the focus shifts to Marcel Dareus and Cordy Glenn as both players will enter the final year of their contracts next season. It’s too early to get a sense of how those negotiations will proceed, but with Pegula’s history of being willing to open his wallet one should expect the Bills to start retaining their stars rather than watching them leave as they have the past number of years.
EJ Manuel/Kyle Orton
Right now this is dependent on Orton’s play. Pegula never signed off on either player so with Orton holding on to the job for possibly the rest of this season there’s no need for a rash decision.
Manuel is still a project, but he’s signed to a cheap contract; whereas Orton has this year and a player option for next. If Orton leaves in free agency then expect the Bills to draft a quarterback in the draft to compete with Manuel. Otherwise it’ll come down on the coaching staff and front office that’s in place to choice the player to lead the team.
A New Stadium
The Pegula’s would surely enjoy getting a little vertical integration going by building a new stadium in downtown Buffalo next to First Niagara Center. By building a stadium there he can maximize his in game and sponsorship profits along with filling his hotel with Bills fans for eight weeks a season. It’s a smooth plan and one that most fans will embrace depending on design and tailgating space.
The key in getting this done is the politicians, not just locally, but also the state. The team is locked in at Ralph Wilson Stadium due to their iron clad lease, so expect the Bills to play in RWS for at least the next six seasons due to the opt out clause, which that prevents the team from moving, even locally, until 2022. Now that opt out fee can be waived, or restructured, depending on negotiations with Erie County, City and State Officials.
With the new renovations to the stadium just completed Erie County and Bills will want to stay put for the foreseeable future, and with a new stadium expected to have a construction timeline of two to three years there is no rush.
But expect a plan to be pushed to the forefront next summer with plans and mock ups starting with an ideal of construction starting in 2017 in hopes of a new stadium opening in 2020 just in time for the Bills 60th anniversary.