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Inside The Bills

As expected a 1-yr deal for Crowell

Posted by Chris Brown on April 2, 2009 – 11:55 am

Knowing the serious nature of Angelo Crowell’s knee injury, his surgery and lengthy rehabilitation process, we speculated that he’d have to sign a one-year ‘prove it’ type contract no matter what NFL team he signed with. Looks like that’s just what happened.

Crowell, who signed with Tampa late last month, signed a one-year deal with the Bucs worth $2M in base salary. Now that’s still more than he made in his final year in Buffalo last season so kudos to his agent, especially in light of the circumstances.

But with none of that base salary guaranteed Crowell is going to have to prove every day in the offseason practices and minicamps as well as training camp that he can get the job done.

The nature of that contract presents no risk to the Bucs until they decide he’s healthy and he’ll be part of their 53-man roster.

It’s just unfortunate that a guy with his resume has to go down that path. But this is a cut throat league as any player will tell you.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-27

Posted by Chris Brown on March 27, 2009 – 5:31 pm

Less than a month until the NFL draft. Trying like heck to keep up with your questions. Bear with me. I’ll try to get them all answered before draft weekend.

For those that don’t know questions can be sent to AskChris@bills.nfl.net. Here we go.

1. Hi Chris,
the Bills coaching/personnel staff seem to be saying that they are looking for an every down DE, but would not be averse to taking a situation rusher. If this is the case do they see no future in Chris Ellis? They said they took him last year to be a situational pass rusher, and  being a rookie DE is hard in this league and he was injured, but didn’t they take him for this exact reason last year?
Thanks,
Rafi in Toronto

CB: You raise a good point. Some forget that Ellis is on the roster. Yes, Ellis is viewed as a situational pass rusher. His biggest issue as a rookie was not being strong enough to hold up against the run. I intend to catch up with him this spring and see what he’s done to re-shape his body and get stronger. He is taking part in the offseason conditioning program. Most NFL players make their biggest jump from year one to year two because they get to spend an offseason in an NFL training program rather than prepping for the combine and pro days.

Hopefully it makes a difference for Ellis because with the strong likelihood that the Bills take a pass rusher early, Ellis needs to show improvement or his playing time could be limited again. With respect to you thinking that the staff viewed Ellis as THE answer. He is a possible answer, but because the jury is still out on Ellis and the pass rush production has been subpar (team-wise) the Bills have to get a top flight talent at the position early in the draft as I see it.

 

2. Chris,
One thing I was interested in was the TEs in the draft. Shawn Nelson to me looked like a stud. His physical prowess was obvious, but during some of his workouts, clips of him blocking at the Senior bowl practices were shown and he looked adept against top flight competition. Where do you think he will end up being taken now that the combine has seemed to helped his value? And, do you see him as a potential Bills target? – ie. Would he be an upgrade over Fine and Schouman in pass catching, while still providing adequate blocking skills?
 
Thanks,
 
Dirk Vandewaal
Waterloo Ontario

CB: I share your affinity for Shawn Nelson. He’s a potential game breaker in the passing game. He’s a willing blocker as evidenced by his performance at the Senior Bowl, but he needs a lot of work in that area as most of the tight ends in this class do.

I think his measurables in terms of 40 time, height and length make him a more explosive pass catching option than Fine or Schouman. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be a more reliable player as a rookie. Still he’s likely to come off the board early in the second round. He may or may not be there for the Bills at 42.

 

3. Chris,

I am excited to be celebrating the 50th season of Buffalo Bills and I love the website where fans can vote on the all-time team. My question regards the selection process for the all-timers. Did you have any input when coming up with the parameters and nominees for the all-time team? I am wondering why the guidelines allow for 3 WR’s but only 1 RB to be chosen. This seems a little inequitable to me. 2 WR’s and 1 RB or 3 WR’s and 2 RB’s seems like a better ratio. What do you think?

Scott E.
Greensboro, NC

CB: I don’t disagree with your thinking there. Deciding between Thurman and O.J. was really tough for me. From what I understand they wanted to honor the Bills most prolific offensive era, which was the early 90’s and the K-Gun offense, in which the base formation was a three by one (3 WRs, 1 RB) set. The decision makers also decided to go with the 3-4 defensive front that was popular during the Bruce Smith years, which made choosing between Fred Smerlas and Ted Washington anything but easy. I understand what you’re saying, but those are the parameters.

 

4. Chris,
I was noticing the combine numbers and I could not help but notice the apparent dominance of USC OLB Brian Cushing. With Angelo Crowell gone from the Bills there is a need for a OLB.  I know the Bills need to address the pass-rush but I see Aaron Maybin as too high of a risk at #11 much like Brandon Pettigrew.  I have read that Orakpo has inconsistent effort and that Brown is not exactly a 4-3 guy. 

Cushing came into the combine with a lot to prove, and he answered any questions those had about him.  The Bills are known for their speedy defense and he fits the role perfectly.  This guy could be the most dedicated determined guy coming out of the draft. He, Poz and Mitchell would make up a fast LB corps. 

Pettigrew is too risky at #11 but he would be perfect at #20 just before both the Falcons and Eagles selections; two teams looking for some help at TE.  What do you think?  Is Cushing the right fit for the Bills?
Thanks,
Wade

CB: I think Cushing is a reasonable option at 11. I don’t think that’s a reach for him at all. There’s no question that Maybin carries some risk, and in light of the first year failures of Vernon Gholston last year with the Jets, NFL teams might be a bit gun shy about a one-year wonder. I’m not a fan of Orakpo as I’ve blogged here before, but I do believe in Brown despite his lack of measurables.

But I admit I would not be disappointed at all with Cushing, provided someone like Connor Barwin was snapped up in the second round for the pass rush.

As for Pettigrew I couldn’t agree with you more. Picking him at 11 doesn’t appear like good value, but down around 20 is far more acceptable.

 

5. Chris,
 
What is your opinion on Connor Barwin as a DE selection? He appears to be more explosive, a little bigger, and a little stronger than Everette Brown.
 
Robert Featherstone

CB: I don’t know if Barwin is more explosive than Brown. He is a little bigger, but not really stronger if you look at Brown’s squat and dead lift numbers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Barwin has a lot of potential especially after just one season at DE at Cincinnati. But Brown has proven it over time and I know college production doesn’t always translate to the NFL, but having spoken to him at the Combine, there’s just this gleam in Brown’s eye that convinces me he’ll be a player at the pro level. Plus he’s got a fantastic last name.

But if they can’t get Brown or some other top flight pass rusher in the first round, I’d be targeting Barwin with their second pick, and if they got him I’d be satisfied with him with respect to improving the pass rush.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Many layers to Crowell visit

Posted by Chris Brown on March 17, 2009 – 6:41 pm

Being 18 days into free agency and still unsigned, it has to be a weird situation for Angelo Crowell. After making trips to visit with Detroit and Tampa, he’s now come back to visit Buffalo (the visit was Tuesday).

The linebacker was no doubt hoping that he would enter free agency on a high note, coming off some monster year in 2008 and perhaps even helping Buffalo get to the playoffs. All of that as we know was for naught as he opted for knee surgery.

Crowell likely knows that it’s his health that’s preventing NFL teams from signing him. Whether the knee is 100 percent right now is unknown, but with the market lukewarm to his services it leads one to a conclusion that he’s still not quite all the way back yet. And if that’s the case prospective teams will wonder if he’ll be the same productive player he had been prior to the injury and surgery.

Crowell is confident he can still play the game, but the linebacker may have to take a one-year “prove  it” type contract, where he shows he can still get the job done. And if he does he stands to cash in come 2010, a potentially uncapped year.

It’s got to be a tough pill to swallow for a player that has put so much into his game and developed into a solid player. But the demanding nature this game has on the body often puts players on a different path than they originally saw for themselves.

It’s hard to say whether this visit means a signing is even a possibility. Three other FA LBs have visited and left. Could Crowell be different? Tell me what you think. 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills in running for Crowell?

Posted by Chris Brown on March 16, 2009 – 8:08 pm

It’s been a quiet day here at One Bills Drive, but there are reports that Angelo Crowell was scheduled to meet with the Bills Monday as he whittles down his options on where he might play in 2009.

Crowell said at season’s end that all the media scrutiny that surrounded his placement on injured reserve after he decided to have surgery on his ailing knee was water under the bridge after meeting with Bills GM/COO Russ Brandon in an end of season meeting.

“I talked to Russ Brandon and he was just saying it was the timing of the situation,” said Crowell at season’s end. “It was unfortunate, but at that time it was getting close to the game and I’m wondering if I’m going to be able to do anything and I’m going to be able to contribute the way I am and not be in pain and help this team get to the next level. I don’t harbor any ill feelings because he said at the time that it was a timing issue and he said he doesn’t have any hard feelings either. He knows I’m not a quitter.”

Crowell also confirmed at the time that the door was still open for him to re-sign with Buffalo.

“I love playing for this organization, the fans are great and they’ve supported me through this whole thing,” Crowell said at the end of December. “I would definitely entertain it. Russ said the door wasn’t closed, he just obviously wanted to see where I was in my rehab and what’s next for me. He said he would definitely be talking to my agent and the door is definitely not closed.”

Even though there were doubters out there, it appears that both Crowell and the Bills front office were true to their word in at least entertaining a return to the team for the veteran linebacker.

We’ll see if anything shakes loose in the next few days. Apparently Tampa is still in the mix as well.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Crowell visiting Lions

Posted by Chris Brown on March 11, 2009 – 8:31 pm

Bills FA LB Angelo Crowell is visiting the Detroit Lions Wednesday, a day after meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to NFL.com no team has offered Crowell a contract, indicating that interest is more exploratory in nature.

That’s not surprising since Crowell is coming off of knee surgery.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Crowell to visit with Bucs today

Posted by Chris Brown on March 10, 2009 – 1:59 pm

Bills FA LB Angelo Crowell is scheduled to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday. That according to the Tampa Tribune. Buffalo still has an opening at the strong side linebacker position, the one Crowell manned for the better part of four years, but the chances of his return at this point are doubtful.

It could happen, but it’s unlikely that it will. Crowell is also fighting the hesitancy of NFL clubs concerned that he won’t be the same after his knee surgery.


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Fan Friday 2-20

Posted by Chris Brown on February 21, 2009 – 3:24 am

It’s been a busy couple of days so I apologize for getting this up so late. You can send questions to me at AskChris@bills.nfl.net. I answered more questions this week figuring there would be more draft related questions, but nothing on the combine. Catch up with you next week.

1. Chris,

I know you think a pass rush DE is our likely 1st round pick, and other Mock Drafts have us picking a TE with that first pick (which I think is a huge reach at 11) but what about Aaron Curry, OLB from Wake? Assuming Crowell doesn’t re-sign after his issues with the front office this past season, we will be looking at hypothetically losing not only depth if Ellison doesn’t re-sign, but also potentially our starting OLB.

Todd McShay has the Seahawks picking him at #4, but I don’t see it– especially with glaring needs like WR, and people like Michael Crabtree likely being available when they pick. Curry is big, physical, and has the high motor that the Bills love (ie Kyle Williams)– so why not Curry at 11?

Thanks Chris,

Matt, Beverly MA

CB: I wouldn’t rule Curry out as a possibility, but I’d be surprised if he’s there at 11. I suppose it’s possible, but this guy is super on the field and super off. Squeaky clean and a playmaker. Jerod Mayo went 7 last year to the Patriots. I can’t see him dropping to the Bills at 11, but if he does I wouldn’t mind the Bills taking him at all. He’s one of the safest picks in the draft.

2. Chris with Mr. Wilson stating that our beloved Bills lack talent what do you see as a realistic off season as far as resigning our own or free agents go? Very interested in your response.
Scott Eustace

 

CB: I think some of the restricted players could be retained in addition to Jenkins and DiGiorgio like Keith Ellison and Gibran Hamdan, but I think Angelo Crowell will be allowed to test the market. If it’s lukewarm and he has trouble getting offers I think the chance of him returning increases. As for Greer, I fear that his asking price will be too high. Buffalo is heavily invested in Leodis McKelvin and could probably re-sign Terrence McGee to an extension as an alternative. I think Kirk Chambers and Duke Preston stand a good chance of being re-signed, but I think both would be reserve players if the Bills acquire what they want to in free agency and the draft.

3. Hey Chris,
I don’t agree that it is imperative to find an experienced backup QB. I think Trent will be fine. Of course the game is still a bit fast for him, he has only played a little more than one season. The second time he saw the 3-4 defenses and 8 in coverage he handled it. (The running game wasn’t exactly helping the first time through those teams either!). No one works harder wants to learn more, and don’t you think we may already have a decent backup??
Thanks, Ray Perez
Rochester

CB: While I agree with some of what you’ve said, I think an experienced backup would be a welcome sight for the Bills quarterback position. Talking to Turk Schonert at the combine today he too would like an experienced backup.

The reason why is he believes a veteran, that knows his role, can really help Edwards with some of the nuances of the game that he may not have experienced extensively as of yet. The problem is the free agent pool at quarterback is so thin that I don’t know that they’ll find a good fit for the Bills.

Finding an experienced backup, that knows his role, is actually a way to help Trent (and the team) not to threaten him with competition.

 

4. In your opinion, what needs to be upgraded more, offense or defense? I am of the opinion that offensive success is more due to strategy (ie: playcalling), and defensive success is more due to talent. I’d like to see the Bills draft defensively. Also, do you think Schonert will finally implement the no-huddle? It’s something the OC’s have talked about for a couple years now, but we’ve yet to see. What are your thoughts?
-John, Rochester NY.

CB: I think both offense and defense need to add playmakers. When opponents can double Lee Evans and shut down the passing game, that screams for more talent, despite the fact that I think Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish are good complementary receivers. The added talent has to come at tight end to help Reed in the middle of the field. On defense you’re right another pass rusher, and outside linebacker that can start are two big pieces that need to be added.

As for the no huddle Turk Schonert addressed why they didn’t use it as much at the Combine today. I’ll let him explain.

“We didn’t use it a lot, not like we wanted to for various reasons,” said Schonert. “We’d use it for a series and we actually used it in the fourth quarter of the Oakland game and it helped us win the game and wore them out. We started a couple of games in no huddle, but we didn’t execute and weren’t very good so I got out of it in the first quarter.

“Last year we had to back off a little bit at the start of the season because of Jason’s (Peters) holdout. All of a sudden he’s coming into a terminology change so we had back off at the beginning of the season due to that. Then Josh (Reed) gets hurt, he’s out three games and we had a rookie flanker in there. Then Trent (Edwards) got hurt. We kind of hit these roadblocks that kept us from using it as much as we wanted to.”

As for 2009, Schonert said that they plan to use it more.

“We’re going to continue to work on it, we like it, we want to use it,” Schonert said. “But we’re going to use it, try to improve it and plan on having it in our arsenal.”

 

5. Hey Chris;
Is there any chance the Bills keep Greer? It would be tough to watch another player that has developed into a dependable starter at a vital position walk (Winfield, Clements). It would seem they want McKelvin to take that starting role with Youboty as the nickel, and Corner as the dime. It would be great to see McKelvin battle Greer for the starting role, with the player finishing second be the nickel. Greer seems to always come to camp prepared to compete, and would push McKelvin to do the same, or become the nickel, which would still give them 3 top corners, and solid depth.
 
The need for a solid starter at weak side linebacker needs to be addressed. How do you see the Bills taking care of that need? Crowell?
 
Thanks;   Dan from Williamsville

CB: As Russ Brandon told me today at the Combine they’ve maintained an open dialogue with Greer’s representatives, and have made it clear that they would like to bring Greer back. The problem is the money. My guess is that Greer’s agent is looking for $7-$9M a year in light of some of the recent contracts signed by comparable corners (Kelvin Hayden, Corey Webster). I can’t see the Bills committing that kind of money to Greer as much as they’d like to retain him. I think he hits the market.

As for the strong side linebacker position (Mitchell plays the weak side), there are options in free agency like Tyjuan Hagler, who could come in familiar with the system having played in Indianapolis in similar scheme. I think Morlon Greenwood would be an affordable option too.

 

6. Hey Chris,
 
I heard the Lions are leaning toward giving Culpepper the #1 spot and releasing Kitna.
How would Kitna fit in as a back up to Trent? How much do you think he would cost? Would any team look at picking up Kitna as a #1?
 
Randy
NL, CAN

CB: I think Kitna would be an interesting option. I think the first thing that has to be clear is that Kitna is willing to accept a backup role and realize in Buffalo he would not be able to compete for the starting job. As long as he can do that, I think he could be a capable backup. Kitna has always been prone to at least one big mistake in games, but as a backup that’s less likely to happen. He has seen a lot in this game and could probably assist Edwards in the quarterback room.

 

7. Hey Chris,
 
I really like Eric Wood (out of Louisville) at center.  I am a U of L fan so I have been able to watch this guy for a while.  Where do you see him going in the draft itself and could the Bills use him?
 
Thanks
Mike Lundert

CB: There’s no debating that the Bills need help at the center position. Jason Whittle, Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler are all free agents. I think Preston is the most likely to be re-signed before free agency opens, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they seek another veteran player, and add another interior linemen in the draft. It could be a player like Wood, who figures to go late 2nd to top half of the third round.

I like the way Wood finishes plays, but according to the experts drive blocking is where he needs to get better. I liked some of the tape that I saw on him and he seems to get to the second level pretty well. I think he’d be a good player to groom behind a veteran center to eventually take over the job in a couple of years.

8. Chris,
 
I know this may sound crazy but consider this. I  don’t think the Bills want to spend the money that Peters would be looking for thus making him an unhappy Bill. Trade for a top 5 pick and another solid pick. Bills won’t want to pay for a top 5 pick so trade down to near 10. Use the pick to get another tackle. Trade into top 10 with the other pick from Peters trade to get one of the top DE’s. Then use second round pick for TE?
 
After seeing what you wrote about the other OT getting big money I think there is trouble ahead with Peters.
Thanks,
Dave

CB: Sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. If it were up to me a bird in the hand (or in this case a franchise left tackle) is worth more than two in the bush. You have a bona fide Pro Bowl caliber left tackle on your team that is unhappy because he feels he’s underpaid, and he played like it last season.

I believe the Bills will find a way to rectify that situation in the form of a new contract for Peters. They’ll have to make some roster decisions to do so, but left tackle is the second most important offensive position after quarterback and you’ve got a guy that can play eight to 10 more years. I’m confident that if Peters gets a contract he is happy with he will be back to Pro Bowl form on the field.

 

9. Chris,
 
My question is what likelihood do you think there is that the Bills draft Pettigrew. He has character issues and I have to believe we will be very gun shy. A lot of the pundits have us drafting him with the first pick. I say “no way.” Have a good one.
 
Mark Tate

CB: I think Pettigrew is a very impressive player. He’s the only major all-around tight end and will be a first-round pick. His off the field blemish stemmed from a house party and he was charged with assaulting a police officer when he “elbowed” one in the chest as he was dispersing. Rest assured the Bills just like every other team will investigate it fully.

I felt Pettigrew came across well in his interview with the media. He seems very focused on his career and excelling at the next level.

I’m still a bit apprehensive about making him the 11th pick in the draft. There aren’t many picks of tight ends between 8 and 15 in the last 15 years that have proven worthy of a selection that high. Tony Gonzalez is one of the few exceptions.

And I think if you’re taking a tight end that high he has to be Tony Gonzalez good.

 

10. Chris,
 
What do you think about Torry Holt being traded to the Bills in a Stroud-esq. trade? He makes perfect sense considering he has two years on his contract, and we will have a solid receiver alongside Evans while Johnson and Hardy are learning the system and will prove to be the real deal or not. He’s played well on a terrible team and before this year had 83 receptions on a team that drafts top 5. He had a slight dip with comparable numbers to Lee Evans. With Holt, Edwards will have another great target and a better learning curve.
My concern is his transition from 6 games in a dome to 6 games in swirling winds and cold weather. He respects the Bills as he’s said prior to playing us and wants to be traded.
What do you think the likelihood is of us bringing him in and what would it take?
 
Thanks
Jonathan – Westchester, NY.

CB: I think it would take probably a third or fourth-round pick, but I’m just guessing. Holt is on the decline, but I like your thinking in terms of another weapon to work opposite Lee Evans. Holt is still respected by opposing defenses so it’s not a bad idea. A veteran receiver is what is needed not more youth.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Morlon Greenwood anyone?

Posted by Chris Brown on February 11, 2009 – 3:32 pm

The Texans released veteran LB Morlon Greenwood on Tuesday as Houston committed to their youth movement at the position last season. Set to turn 31 before training camp, Greenwood has been a very productive and durable player over the years with four straight 100 tackle season prior to this past season when his playing time was cut back.

A Long Island native and Syracuse grad you have to think he’d be open to an overture from the Bills if they expressed interest. At 6’0″ 241 pounds he’s certainly big enough to handle the strong side where Buffalo has uncertainty with Angelo Crowell and Keith Ellison (RFA) both free agents.

Certainly there are other options, but Greenwood might be part of that mix now as well.


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Seattle FA LB Hill may not be affordable at all

Posted by Chris Brown on January 21, 2009 – 4:02 pm

It looks like the hope that a free agent LB like Seattle’s LB Leroy Hill might be somewhat affordable in free agency is a pipe dream. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, its likely that Hill will prove difficult to land without a monster offer.

By the sounds of it Hill might prove to be too expensive for the Bills and a lot of other teams. Buffalo needs an OLB to replace I-R’d free agent Angelo Crowell.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-9

Posted by Chris Brown on January 9, 2009 – 4:19 pm

As always you can send your questions to me at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and I’ll get back to you either personally or here on Fan Friday. Here we go.

1. Hey Chris,
 
I started to see draft talk on some sites this week. I know this is a bit premature, but how do you see the Bills going this year? Could this be a year were trading for a player may make more sense than making a first round pick?
 
Randy
NL, CAN

CB: I doubt that the Bills are going to cough up their first round pick in a trade this year. I’m hoping the Bills take a defensive end with their top pick, provided the depth of talent is still there. I wanted to Buffalo to take a defensive tackle in 2003, but by the time the Bills were on the clock they were all gone and they took McGahee. But that would be my preference this spring.

 

2. Chris-
Is it too early to call James Hardy a bust and do you think the front office will add another receiver this off-season in case he is not able to contribute immediately next season?

CB: I think that is a possibility, but more so because James Hardy has a torn ACL to rehab from. He’s not a bust. Eric Moulds didn’t have a breakout season until his third year. The ACL is the issue. It’s usually 7-9 months before a player can come back. He tore it on Dec. 14, so he may not be full go for training camp. Missing all those spring practices and OTAs will hurt his development so I think they do need to add another receiver even if it’s just for a one or two-year deal.

 

3. Dear Chris,
Who do you think the Bills might pick up in this year’s free agency market?  There are some very high profile defensive ends (Suggs, Peppers), and some solid centers (Birk, Brown, Saturday, Meester) up for grabs.   The Bills have attempted to solve their biggest problems in the free agency market over the past two seasons.    Do you think they will try to make a splash at either of these positions?
Jack

CB: I think Birk and Brown are realistic. Saturday and Meester are more at the end of the line. As for DE Suggs and Peppers they will cost too much and Peppers has already been negotiating with Carolina to re-sign.

I believe the Bills get their pass rusher at the top of the draft this spring.

 

4. Hey Chris,
Were any Bills named pro bowl alternates?
-Sean

CB: Yes, I blogged this a while back. Marshawn Lynch and Marcus Stroud were Pro Bowl alternates. We’ll see if someone pulls out of the game with an injury.

 

5. Chris,
What is the contract status with regards to free agents, both restricted and un- restricted.
Thank you for your help,

Mike Czerwonka

CB: Unrestricted – Kirk Chambers, Angelo Crowell, Melvin Fowler, Jabari Greer, Teddy Lehman, J.P. Losman, Corey McIntyre, Duke Preston, Jason Whittle.

Restricted – John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Dustin Fox, Gibran Hamdan, Justin Jenkins, George Wilson.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Will Crowell re-sign with Bills?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2008 – 5:07 pm

With the whole decision to place Angelo Crowell on I-R apparently water under the bridge after Crowell met with Bills COO Russ Brandon today and no hard feelings on either side, what is the likelihood of Crowell re-signing with Buffalo?

I think there’s a 50-50 chance, which is a lot better than I had initially anticipated. Here’s why I think the Bills do have a shot provided he can show he’s fully recovered.

1. The people that have the most familiarity with his body of work in the league are the Bills. He will likely get more of the benefit of the doubt that he can play and play at a high level again in Buffalo than anywhere else where there will be more to prove.

2. Crowell will be affordable. Anyone who is on I-R in a contract year is going to have to accept the fact that they’re not going to hit the jackpot in free agency. It’s unfortunate for Crowell who has put some good years together, but he knows as well as anyone else that it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately league.’ Crowell will likely have to take a more modest contract with plenty of incentives and earn more pay with his play.

3. He’s tight with Kawika Mitchell. Crowell and Mitchell have been buds since they both came in together in the 2003 draft class. They were excited about playing together in the same linebacking corps. Crowell told me that Fletcher had Spikes. He saw the Mitchell addition this year as his Spikes. The two were joking around in the locker room on locker cleanout day and have a genuine respect for one another’s game. Playing with teammates you like and more importantly trust carries weight.

4. Familiarity. Crowell is going to have enough to worry about in terms of proving to himself that his knee is going to let him play the way he always has. Having to worry about moving to a new city, buying a new house, getting acquainted with new teammates and possibly a new defensive system might not be extra things Crowell wants to put on his plate as he tries to return to form.

Maybe I just want to see the guy make a successful comeback in a Bills uniform, and believe Crowell, Poz and Mitchell is a solid starting unit. Maybe Crowell was just putting on a good public face.

But if the Bills can re-sign him to an incentive-laden deal it’s one less hole for the Bills to fill this offseason.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-5

Posted by Chris Brown on December 5, 2008 – 6:29 pm

Fan Friday 12-5

Here’s the latest rundown of questions posed by you the fan. You can always e-mail me at AskChris@bills.nfl.net. I try to answer each and every question, if not personally in this blog. Let’s get rolling.

1. At the end of a game and in critical situations, who makes the offensive play calls? Is it Turk or Jauron?
Thanks, John

CB: I don’t know exactly how it works specifically with Schonert and coach Jauron. In a lot of cases the head coach will have a ‘check with me’ policy in crunch time. A lot of times a head coach will be in a coordinator’s ear where he’ll tell him any number of things from, ‘Run it again’ to ‘you’ve got two downs here because we’ll go for it on fourth down if necessary.’ But head coaches don’t often tell a coordinator what specific play to call. They like to have their coordinator feel like he has he freedom to call the game the way he feels comfortable. Otherwise why did you hire the guy to begin with?

2. Chris
 
I was curious of what direction you think the team will take with the following free agents:
 
Angelo Crowell   (has this ship sailed when the team placed him on IR ?)
Melvin Fowler   (Lost his starting job to Preston, can he handle the big 3-4 NT?)
Duke Preston  (He’s done well the last few games, at the very least a valuable back up)
Jabari Greer   (Has developed into a very good corner, also one we won’t be able to afford)
CB: I would be surprised if Crowell is back in light of how his whole injury situation/surgery decision went down at the beginning of the season. I don’t anticipate him being back because that situation did not appear to go amiably.

Melvin Fowler I think is another player that doesn’t stand a good chance of being re-signed. I think Preston is a possibility, but I believe the team will find quality competition for him at center whether it’s in the draft or in free agency.

As for Greer, I don’t think his contract demands will be up in the stratosphere like Nate Clements were. They might be able to work something out, but if he hits the open market it will be much more difficult.

 

 

3. Hi Chris,
I’m a Bills fan stranded in Phoenix. Anquan Boldin is keeping quiet for now but has not changed his mind about wanting out of AZ. I have dreams of seeing him line up opposite Lee Evans- what a Christmas present that would be !
 
If I were GM I’d offer the Cards a #1 pick plus James Hardy, McCargo (if they are interested), and their choice of Kelsay or Denney. I might even dangle Jabari Greer if he’s not interested in signing an extension w/ the Bills.

AZ has been getting by with journeyman CBs Hood & Green and would like an upgrade- they also need an upgrade over aging and injury prone DE Bertrand Berry.

James Hardy would be a reasonable replacement at WR with Steve Breaston moving into Boldin’s slot.
 
If you don’t think I’m offering enough, keep in mind Boldin wants to get paid what Fitzgerald is making and I don’t think AZ can afford to tie up so much of their salary cap in 2 WRs. And the Bidwells are ALWAYS looking to pinch pennies.
 
What do you think?
 
Pete
Gilbert, AZ

CB: Well there’s no question that you’ve thought this through. Unfortunately the problem that the Cardinals have in keeping Boldin happy ($$$$), is the same problem any other team would have in acquiring him. He’d likely want a new deal for considerably more money and since his career numbers are better than Evans, he’d probably want more than him.
I just don’t seeing that flying in Buffalo. So as much as I like your dream, I think you’re going to have to keep dreaming.

 

 

4. Do you think now that Turk is calling plays from upstairs it will help the Bills offense and maybe get a better view of what defenses are trying to do?”
Mike from Williamsport, PA

CB: That’s what he seems to think after I spoke to him following the Chiefs game outside the locker room. Most coaches say they can more definitively see what is unfolding with respect to defensive coverages or offensive formations depending on which side of the ball the coordinator is in charge of. That should translate into quicker play calls and more effective counter punches. It’s been two weeks and the results have been very different from on the field from one game to the next. We’ll see how things work in the last four games.

 

 

5. Any news on their prospects for Schobel, Whitner and Greer returning?

Also, what are your thoughts on the play of Ko Simpson? On the surface he appears to be soft & late in pass coverage and has looked out of position on several of the long runs the team has given up.

Thanks,
Mike M.

CB: Schobel is not playing this week. He practiced fully according to Dick Jauron on Wednesday and Thursday, but in the brief time we watch practice, he did not look game ready. The good news is he won’t need surgery.

Whitner should play on Sunday (he’s questionable) and Greer (out) is probably a week or so away. As for Ko Simpson I think the organization was expecting he would be making more plays at this point in his career. That’s why Donte Whitner has been steadily transitioned to free safety.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 11-28

Posted by Chris Brown on November 28, 2008 – 7:35 pm

Fan Friday 11-28

Here’s the latest edition. If you have a question you’d like answered just e-mail me at AskChris@bills.nfl.net.

1. Why haven’t we been utilizing James Hardy in the red zone, more specifically inside the five? 
GO BILLS,

Anil

CB: That’s a good question. While it’s been no secret that Hardy is still working on grasping the playbook, having him run a fade pattern in the end zone doesn’t appear to be something that requires a lot of playbook retention. I saw Hardy on the field in the red zone on one occasion last week at KC, but he did not run a route into the end zone.

I understand that he might be coming along slowly in terms of the entire offense, but there’s no denying he’s a physical mismatch in the red zone and would create coverage dilemmas for an opposing secondary.

2. What do you think the chances of Teddy Lehman eventually stepping in for Ellison to provide more strength are?
 
Adam

CB: I think they’re remote unless Ellison is injured and Lehman is healthy. Right now Ellison is nursing a lingering ankle injury and will be a game time decision for Sunday. Unfortunately for Lehman he’s not healthy to fill the void if called upon because he has a hamstring injury of his own. Right now Bryan Scott would be the next guy to step in at linebacker.

Ellison is a heady player with a bit more athleticism than Lehman and it appears that is what the coaching staff covets at that position especially with stouter linebackers alongside Ellison already in Poz and Mitchell.

3. Dear Chris,
 
The offensive line appears to have regressed significantly this season.  It seems to me the biggest change has been Coach Jim McNally’s retirement; your thoughts?
 
Thanks,
Dick Sheehy

CB: There’s no question the offensive line has had its share of problems this season. However, I don’t think coach McNally’s retirement is the only change. Peters was a holdout curbing his development into an elite tackle, Butler was out for three games and they got so thin inside at one point that Kirk Chambers had to play guard. Now I’m not completely excusing the offensive line of criticism because of injuries, but they do play a factor.

With all due respect to coach McNally, the run game and effectiveness in short yardage were issues for this line last year. Marshawn Lynch only has four 100-yard rushing games in his career counting his day against the Browns. So it’s not like they were ripping yards off in huge chunks last year either. And on 3rd-and-1 last season Buffalo was one of the last teams in terms of conversion percentage in the league.

I actually think they have some of the same problems from last year to be honest.

4. Chris,
 
I was wondering if you had a complete and up-to-date list of Buffalo’s free agents for 2009. I did some research and here’s what I’ve got so far:

CB: Here you go
Unrestricted free agents – Angelo Crowell, Kirk Chambers, Melvin Fowler, Jabari Greer, J.P. Losman, Teddy Lehman, Corey McIntyre, Duke Preston, Jason Whittle.

Restricted free agents – John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Dustin Fox, Gibran Hamdan, Justin Jenkins, George Wilson

5. Hey Chris, i was wondering, from everything that i’ve read so far, tolbert is saying that steve has a better grasp of the bill’s offense and that he’s better at adjusting to the defense he’s seeing, if that’s the case, why has it taken so long to get him involved in the offense? i’m not saying replacing reed (when healthy), but being in there in place of hardy earlier in the season.

Ryan

CB: I think it’s due primarily to the fact that the grasp of the offense only started to happen for Johnson these past couple of weeks. Only in the past couple of weeks did the light bulb really go on for Johnson is how I understood Tyke.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday Q&A

Posted by Chris Brown on October 10, 2008 – 6:57 pm

Don’t forget if you have a question just e-mail me at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and I’ll do my best to get all your questions answered.

Let’s get to it.

1. I know each opponent is different and handle things differently. It seems over the last couple games the Bills are not blitzing as much. Is that because they think just rushing four is getting the job done?
Adam Janik

CB: The Bills did blitz Arizona early, but according to the coaching staff they were just outexecuted by a very sharp Kurt Warner. The quick passing game is the popular offensive answer to defeating an effective pass rush and it’s worked at times against the Bills. It’s not anything that the Bills front four aren’t doing so much as it is what the opponent is doing.

That being said I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more press coverage to keep opposing quarterbacks from going so quickly to their first reads. With signal callers like Phillip Rivers, Chad Pennington and Brett Favre coming up who know how to execute short passing games and make quick decisions, more bump and run may be in order to help the pass rushers up front.

2. Chris,
The thought crossed my mind that we have a lot of potential offensive weapons sitting on the sidelines most games.  Has there been or will there ever be talk about using McKelvin like the Bears used Hester on offense? What about trying a few of the circus tricks like bring Morman in as a Receiver or put Losman out wide (with a non-green dot helmet) like Atlanta would do with Mike Vick at times.  Based on the success Ronnie Brown had against the Patriots I can’t help but think a lot of teams are going to entertain the idea of using gadget plays to throw opposing defenses off or, at the very least, force them to burn a timeout.  Any of this possible?
 
Eric in Maryland

CB: While the Bills are not opposed to pulling the occasional surprise (see: special teams) Dick Jauron as a matter of philosophy is not a big fan of trick plays. He believes you do what you do best and challenge the opponent to try to stop it.

Now don’t think that Jauron is narrow-minded. Quite the contrary. Jauron just doesn’t believe you win consistently by using trickery, and I think he’s right. That being said Jauron is open to an unexpected play at the right time (e.g. Denney’s TD catch vs. Seattle), but putting McKelvin on offense would be putting too much on the rookie’s plate and Losman at receiver is a bit far-fetched as I see it.

3. Through the last three games, how has Ellison graded out at LB? Also, why does he play the strong side backer, when as I recall, he played the weak side for much of his earlier time in Buffalo?
 
Dick from Florida

CB: You are right. Ellison did play on the weak side last season, but this past offseason he was moved to the strong side to serve as Angelo Crowell’s backup. Ellison has been steady as far as I see it and he only has a couple of missed tackles by my count on the year. He’s good in coverage and a smart player. I know he’s not the biggest linebacker around, but playing alongside Posluszny and Mitchell and with a player like Stroud up on the line his size is not an issue.

4. Hi Chris,
 
What’s up with the letters “GU” on the players’ jerseys?  Thanks.  Gerry, West Virginia

CB: That patch is to honor Hall of Fame offensive lineman and former Executive Director of the NFL Players Association Gene Upshaw who died right before the regular season from pancreatic cancer. On opening week you may have noticed that each NFL home field had a giant GU symbol painted onto the field. Now for the rest of the season every NFL player jersey will have that patch on the shoulder.

5. Sorry to see Roscoe go down as he was off to a productive season and look forward to his return. With Parrish sidelined any chance of the Bills going with Evans and Reed as the wideouts and having Steve Johnson take that slot position? I think this kid has great hands and can run some nice routes. What do you think?
 
Randy C

CB: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Steve Johnson since OTAs in the spring. He’s got a pro body already and is only going to get stronger in an NFL strength and conditioning program. I agree his hands are good. He doesn’t drop much of anything. While I certainly think he’s capable of playing the slot, at his size I’d anticipate seeing him outside a bit more. At 6’2”, 202 he’s a nice target out wide.

All that being said getting playing time is going to be tough for him. You don’t want to have too many inexperienced players on the field at once. So knowing they’re trying to get Hardy more involved each week, Johnson is probably not going to be on the field at the same time. Both rookie wideouts have made progress, but having them play important roles right away is probably not going to happen unless there’s another injury at the position.

6. Hi Chris-
I always like to look ahead to the draft, and I was wondering if you had thoughts on the Bills’ biggest needs.  Perhaps you could shed some light on the impending free agents, etc.

Michael
Bethlehem, PA

CB: I don’t like discussing draft needs during the season because one major injury could change the whole draft picture for the Bills (e.g. Kevin Everett). So I’d prefer to wait until the end of the season on that.

As for impending free agents, the unrestricted ones are as follows, Kirk Chambers, Angelo Crowell, Melvin Fowler, Jabari Greer, J.P. Losman, Duke Preston and Jason Whittle. As for restricted free agents on first glance I have John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Corey McIntyre and George Wilson.

7. Dear Chris,
 
During the game against St. Louis I was thinking they might put Omon in to finish off the clock (no sense in letting Lynch or Freddy get hurt), however I noticed he was inactive.  With Barnes also out for the game who would carry the ball if Lynch or Jackson went down?  Only 2 RB’s on game day seems a little risky.  Thanks again for all your hard work.
Sincerely,
Travis Van De Water
 
CB: I don’t know this for sure, but the most likely candidate in my opinion would be Josh Reed. He was recruited by LSU as a running back before being transitioned to receiver. So I would be willing to bet he would be the emergency running back option if both of the top two backs succumbed to injury in a game.

8. Hey Chris,
 
Have you heard any talk of a possible trade with KC for Tony Gonzalez?  I hear chatter on the message boards, but don’t know if there it trully any legit talk going on.  I believe he has 3-4 good years left, and would be an outstanding addition to our offense.  Your thoughts?
 
Jason
“Bills fan in Kansas”

CB: The trade rumors have surfaced due to an NFL Network blog on Gonzalez from a few weeks ago. Could he be traded? Sure, for the right price. What that price is would likely be a high draft pick and probably another as the Chiefs are looking to rebuild. I don’t know if you can get one of the highest-paid tight ends in the game for anything less than a 2nd and a 4th round pick.

Jeremy Shockey, who came with behavioral baggage and an injury history, got the Giants a 2nd and 5th round pick from the Saints.

Gonzalez is one of the most durable tight ends in the game, so I think it would take at least that much compensation and probably more. Despite the price it would cost to land him, his base salary is pretty palatable. He’s only slated to make $1M in base salary this season before it jumps up to $4M in 2009, $4.5M in 2010 and $5.75M in 2011. Now $17 million of his salary was guaranteed when he signed a five-year extension in Jan. of 2007, so some of that base salary might be guaranteed.

If I’m the Chiefs I’d consider it knowing how much help they need at several positions, but Gonzalez is still very productive and the biggest help in taking attention off the Chiefs’ run game.

As for whether the Bills are interested, I think any team would be interested in adding Tony Gonzalez to their roster. I just think the cost to land him would scare a lot of teams off along with his age 32. Teams often fear paying a big price for a player that could be close to hitting the wall and not getting the proper return on their investment.

Buffalo’s most likely answer for that position could be in the draft with Missouri’s Chase Coffman. At 6’6”, 245 the guy is a mismatch in the passing game. He’s also got good bloodlines with his dad a former NFL tight end for the Green Bay Packers. Waiting to address that position further would be worth it if they can land this guy in late April.

9. I am curious about the release of Darian Barnes, as are many others.  How badly was his foot injured and how long until he would be 100%?
 
McIntyre looks to be a hard nosed guy that would work well with April and the ST forces, based a couple interviews I read when he was a Falcon.
 
Any other reason than injury to move away from Darian???
 
Thanks,
Bryan Vince

CB: I didn’t get the feeling from Darian when I asked him about his foot that it was going to be a lingering problem. I doubt his foot was why he was released. I just think they were looking for a more versatile special teams fullback. Yes, Barnes spent time on the kick return unit, but I think Barnes was a fullback first and a special teamer second. McIntyre from what I understand is equally good in both areas. He made his bones on special teams and can play on all four units. This was a way to upgrade special teams and not really lose anything at the fullback position. I don’t think injury played a role at all in that move.

10. It seems to me that for the last two weeks our offense is “cold” in the first half. They struggle to find a rhythm. Have the coaches considered going with the no huddle for the first series of a game?  Especially in a game like the Chargers. It might get Trent in the zone and throw off the defense.
 
I’d call Dick personally and suggest this but I misplaced his number.
 
Best,
John

CB: Good one John. I think what you’ve suggested is a great idea. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it sooner rather than later. It wouldn’t shock me if the Bills are waiting to use that for some of their more important AFC Conference games. I don’t know that, but I wouldn’t mind seeing that myself in light of the slow starts we’ve seen at times this season.


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Posted in Inside the Bills