It's not like an army of contractors rolled up to One Bills Drive the last few months to re-do the entire roster. But it's close.
Just like the old "Extreme Makeover-Home Edition" TV series, the Bills roster has undergone a substantial overhaul. And with the players returning to One Bills Drive for the first time Monday to begin offseason conditioning, it's time to take a look at the Top 9 Changes to the Bills Roster in the offseason.
1. NEW FACES UNDER CENTER
There's only one returning QB who spent the 2014 season on the roster - third-year man EJ Manuel. Jeff Tuel returns after spending last year on the practice squad. But there are two new intriguing QB candidates, both veterans. Matt Cassel has extensive experience playing with the Patriots, the Chiefs and the Vikings in his 10-year career. And Tyrod Taylor goes into his fifth year looking to build on his resume after spot duty with the Ravens.
2. NEW CORPS AT TIGHT END
The top two tight ends on the roster are gone. Scott Chandler, who caught 100 passes and totaled five touchdowns in the last two seasons left for New England via free agency. And blocking specialist Lee Smith is now an Oakland Raider.
One of the biggest additions to the roster this offseason was the signing of transition free agent Charles Clay from Miami's roster. Over the next few months, we should get a better idea of how new Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman plans on molding Clay into the versatile offensive weapon the Bills think he can become. Third-year player Chris Gragg will get a chance to get important practice reps in the offseason workouts and intriguing tight end MarQueis Gray, who had flashes during the final five games of last season, will also get a healthy dose of work.
3. A DYNAMIC ADDITION AT RUNNING BACK
The Bills paid dearly to get RB LeSean McCoy from Philadelphia, and they plan on using him as their "bell cow" back, according to Head Coach Rex Ryan. C.J. Spiller is gone but Fred Jackson returns for his ninth season in Buffalo. With McCoy getting the bulk of the workload, it will be interesting to see how the Bills apportion the snaps among the rest of the backs, Jackson, Anthony Dixon, and Bryce Brown.
4. NEW EMPHASIS ON THE FULLBACK SPOT
The Bills didn't have a true fullback on the game-day roster for the final six games last season. But the fullback is back under Greg Roman. And free agent signee Jerome Felton has been added to lead the way for McCoy and the other running backs. Felton and UB product Corey Knox are the only two listed at the fullback position, but look for Boobie Dixon to get some work as a short-yardage and blocking back as well.
5. EXPLOSIVE PLAYMAKER ADDED TO WR CORPS
There's only one new name of consequence at the wide receiver spot. But it's a big one. Veteran Percy Harvin brings six years of spectacular playmaking to a position group that already boasts some dynamic playmaking talent-Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
6. INCOGNITO BRINGS NOTORIETY TO O-LINE
Three years removed from his Pro Bowl year, veteran guard Richie Incognito has already been penciled into the starting lineup at guard. He's been out of the NFL for a year and a half after his involvement in the Dolphins locker room issues of 2013. He joins a Bills offensive line that's looking for improvement in 2015.
7. SHUFFLED DECK AT LINEBACKER
It remains to be seen how the new Bills defensive scheme will impact players designated as defensive ends and linebackers. Some of last year's DEs could be this year's OLBs. But the Bills enter the offseason workouts without some key linebacking talent from last year. Kiko Alonso was traded, Keith Rivers is now a Dallas Cowboy, and Brandon Spikes may or may not return.
8. BIG JUMP FOR SECOND YEAR PLAYERS?
Hall of Fame Coach Marv Levy insists the biggest improvement for NFL players comes between their first and second years in the league. To that end, there are a couple of 2nd year Bills who have a chance to become important pieces of the roster in the next few months.
Sammy Watkins established himself as one of the top rookie WRs in the league in 2014. Now he's got a chance to jump up to an elite level performer, especially if the Bills get more effective quarterback play.
The three offensive linemen selected in the 2014 draft, Seantrel Henderson, Cyril Richardson, and Cyrus Kouandjio, all have a chance to find a spot in the 2015 lineup. Henderson looks to build on the experience gained from starting all 16-games last season. Richardson started four games last year, and Kouandjio is determined to rebound from a disappointing rookie season. He's spent the majority of his offseason at the LeCharles Bentley Offensive Line Camp in Arizona, sharpening his skill set.
At linebacker, it's not a stretch to say second year ILB Preston Brown may have what it takes to become a Pro Bowl caliber player. And with his athleticism and size, Randell Johnson, Buffalo's 7th round pick in 2014, could develop into a player to watch this offseason.
9. TIME IS NOW FOR FUTURES SIGNINGS
As soon as the 2014 season ended, the Bills got to work locking up some young prospects who spent last season on their practice squad, including a couple of players with local ties. TE Chris Manhertz played basketball at Buffalo's Canisius College, and he's a major project. But with depleted numbers at the tight end spot headed into offseason conditioning, Manhertz has a chance to earn some important practice reps eventually.
Canisius High School product Jimmy Gaines showed enough last year to stick around as a 2014 practice squad player. He'll push for a roster spot with backup reps at linebacker and extensive special teams work.
And the Bills added an intriguing young WR prospect in early February, when they claimed WR Justin Brown off waivers from the Steelers. Brown was Pittsburgh's 6th round draft choice in 2013 out of Oklahoma. He played in eight games for the Steelers last year and caught 12-passes. What he brings to the Bills is size at the WR spot. At 6-3, 209 pounds, Brown represents one of the Bills tallest targets at the position.