The regular season ended 10 days ago, but after a brief vacation Buffalo's coaching staff will be back at their desks continuing a job that's never over. The first step in the offseason process for the coaching staff is to complete player evaluations from the 2006 season.
Every man on the Bills' roster will be analyzed, scrutinized and dissected on tape and each position coach will put together a written evaluation on the players for which they're responsible. Those evaluations will then be used by the staff as they make their determinations as to what positions are capably filled and what positions could use an upgrade.
But the process is tedious and takes time due to the other responsibilities that arise in the offseason.
"It takes a good while particularly because we're not just doing that," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We'll get right into personnel evaluations and we'll start our free agency analysis. Then we'll do our cut-ups for half the day on each position. So it will take close to a month because we're not doing it constantly. There will be breaks in there due to travel to things like the Senior Bowl. It will take a while."
Nevertheless the player evaluations are an important first step in the process of laying out the team's offseason plan in terms of targeting players in free agency, the draft and trying to re-sign their own talent that could venture out into the free agent market.
Jauron believes the entire player evaluation process will be completed in a month.
"We'll have some general ideas before then, but once we finish the evaluation of our team the rest of it just plugs in," said Jauron. "That's the critical thing for us in making the right choices in pursuing other personnel. You have to know what you need to make your team better."
And while the Bills coaching staff and personnel department will have those needs effectively pegged, the best way to fill some of them quickly becomes the next question. However, Buffalo's hierarchy doesn't resign themselves to filling a position need through just one specific course of action.
For example, the offensive line is an area the Bills will likely address in some fashion this offseason. Knowing that it often takes young offensive linemen time to develop and play effectively in the NFL, some might think that Buffalo would look to plug in a veteran somewhere if they see it as a way to improve. Not necessarily.
"There are positions that take longer to develop and play," admitted Jauron. "That being said, we've all seen rookies at every position come in and play really productively. What we do is take the free agent market and analyze it, take the college market and analyze it, try to put them together and see how they fit, how the whole picture comes together. Some things, some positions may be deeper in the college draft and some may be shallower. We try to put it together that way rather than saying specifically that we want a veteran here for this job."
The Bills know with 32 other teams out there competing for the same talent their offseason plans must have contingencies. They also know that despite some of their best efforts to keep their own, the likelihood of re-signing nine unrestricted free agents is unlikely.
"We understand this business," said Jauron. "But I feel like we have a good start at it."