Buffalo's front office and that of every other NFL club is trying to adjust on the fly and navigate a dramatically compressed and very hectic player signing period. From rookie free agents, to draft choices to veteran free agents, Bills GM Buddy Nix and his personnel staff have no time to waste in filling approximately 25 spots on what will eventually be a 90-man roster.
Nix is confident that they'll have a full squad of players for Chan Gailey and his coaching staff come Friday with the bulk of those roster vacancies expected to be undrafted rookie free agents.
The negotiating window for veteran free agents opened at 10 am Tuesday with the Bills able to talk to their own free agents as well as those out on the market.
Initially there was to be a short period in which NFL clubs would be able to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but with the players not approving the new CBA until Monday that option was wiped off the league calendar. Nix wasn't bothered by it.
"It is what it is and I don't dwell on that," he said. "We've said all along, tell us the rules and when to go and we'd be ready and we are."
The free agent market represents a bounty of talent to be had with several hundred players available. For Nix however, the club's approach to free agency remains unchanged despite being comfortably under the league's $120.3 million cap.
"The amount of money hasn't changed the way we think you've got to do it," he said. "We've said from Day One we're never going to be huge spenders in free agency. There are guys that come available, there will be waivers starting Thursday, guys cutting people; we always look to upgrade."
Nix did appear to drop a hint with respect to extending players that have performed for the Bills that may be entering the final year of their contract.
"We're in the business of production," he said. "If we've got a guy that's not producing, and we can get somebody better we'll do it. But if our guys are producing for us, we're going to spend the money on them. Our philosophy is still to draft them and develop them and win with them."
Two such players on the roster entering the final year of their deals are Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson. When asked specifically about the possibility of an extension for Fitzpatrick, Nix admitted it has been a consideration.
"Obviously, we've thought about him," he said. "Fitz has a pretty important position. But we'll deal with that at the (right) time and like I said, 'A guy that's producing is a guy we'll spend our money on.'"
The Bills will be spending money to sign their nine draft choices. Nix is hopeful with the new CBA that getting their picks under contract can happen sooner rather than later.
"To be honest with you, I think that it will be quicker and easier but it's all new ground for us," Nix said. "None of us have been through it. We've just got to play it out. I do think the shortened time will help us and there's not much advantage to holding out, really."
Nix is hoping to have all the draft picks signed by the weekend saying his staff will make every effort to get all nine to St. John Fisher on time.
Players that sign this week cannot practice until the league year begins on Aug. 4th, but that date could be moved up should the players recertify as a union and ratify the new CBA. Until then draft choices and free agent signees can only meet and work out on their own according to Buffalo's general manager.