Each Friday Buffalobills.com lead journalist Chris Brown will answer a handful of popular questions that he receives in his inbox from Bills Backers to stay in touch with the fans throughout the offseason. If you have a question you'd like to have answered in Fan Friday just e-mail Chris at Askchris@bills.nfl.net. Here's the latest installment.
1. What is the deal with Lee Evans? He seems like a Buffalo guy but he doesn't seem eager to extend his contract. Will he leave if Losman does? I've heard some rumors that he wants to go where Losman does so he can catch deep passes which he did not see much of from Edwards. I feel he will like this year's offense a lot more since the recent acquisition of James Hardy to draw some protection away from him and to Hardy, Parrish and Lynch so he can get open easier.
CB: As he stated this week an offer has been extended to him by the Bills, but things are in the very preliminary stages. I think this is a pact that's going to take some time to broker. But Evans should not be criticized for how he's handling this. When you think of all the other NFL receivers and the way they act publicly with respect to getting a new contract, Evans has been a model citizen. I think the rumors you heard are just that… rumors. As for the offense even Lee admitted that Hardy could make his life easier particularly in the red zone, so hopefully this offense can show him some encouraging signs and convince him this is where he should spend the next portion of his career.
2. I've noticed that most people are expecting Leodis McKelvin to win the starting corner role over Jabari Greer. McKelvin is clearly a talented individual, but I've grown attached to Greer. As I followed training camp last year, I could see that he was a playmaker. He was snatching interceptions left and right, and there was even a comment from a coach about not being able to keep a guy who shows he can make plays off the field. Then the regular season rolled around... and they kept him off the field. Because of injuries, he eventually got on the field, and all he did was make plays. Every time I watched the Bills, Greer kept popping up, whether it was breaking up a pass at a crucial moment, snatching a pick, or forcing a crucial fumble. It seems like we've all forgotten. How long does it take for a guy to prove that being 5'11" doesn't matter if he is making plays?
Do you think Greer is a legit starter? Is he going to lose his hard fought starting role before the season even begins?
CB: I think Greer will be facing some stiff competition, but I think he went a long way toward proving himself a capable starter at the NFL level. There's no question he can run with just about any receiver in the league, but Leodis McKelvin was the 11th pick in the draft. He's expected to contribute early. That doesn't mean he will definitely beat out Greer for a starting role, but he'll be breathing down Jabari's neck. Will James should not be discounted either. Jabari realizes this, but his work ethic is strong and he's committed to being even better this year. He has looked good through this first week of OTAs. I think he's ready for the challenge.
What happens when the Bills make the playoffs? Now that the Bills are playing in Toronto are they obligated to play any playoff games in Toronto?
CB: The Bills are only obligated to the terms set out in the agreement with the Rogers group which is one preseason game every other year and five regular season games each year of the five-year agreement. There will be no playoff games in Toronto as I understand it.
Have the Bills begun contract negotiations with any of their draft picks (McKelvin and Hardy especially)? Obviously, the earlier you begin negotiations, the better chance you have at having your players signed before camp and less risk for a hold out. Am I right?
CB: In all likelihood McKelvin and Hardy will be the last two players to sign. Buffalo typically addresses the contracts of the later draft picks because those deals are usually less complicated in nature. The top picks are usually harder because the term of the contract is longer and there are more escalators and incentives knowing there's a strong chance they'll be on the field early in their careers. I'll have to check, but I would anticipate that contract negotiations for some of their seventh rounders, of which there are three, will be ramping up soon.
5. Could you talk about depth along the O-line. It is such an important position and it seemed like it was one of a few positions on the field we seemed to dodge the injury bug last year. Last year the same O-line started almost every game, which was wonderful, but I would like to know about how some of the youngsters behind Peters, Dockery, Fowler, Butler and Walker are progressing. We all know a bit about Preston (who knew he was such a good golfer!), McCaskill and Chambers, I would like some information about the other guys we have on the roster right now. I have heard a lot about Bell as a long term project and I was just wondering about everyone else.
CB: Well beyond Kirk Chambers, who is the favorite to reclaim the third tackle role again this year, there is converted tight end Matt Murphy and waiver pickup Patrick Estes. Estes is also a former tight end, but he's almost 6'8" and very long in the arms and legs. Murphy appears to have better feet, but will need to put on more weight. Nevin McCaskill is coming along and as I wrote in a story last week, he's getting some time at center now in addition to guard, a position he played in high school. Christian Gaddis is another center prospect that the coaches are high on. He was on the practice squad last year. He's a quiet, but tough and physical pivot man that is intelligent. Rookie Robert Felton is versatile, but needs to get stronger and Bell is young in the game with a lot of upside. I think if Gaddis really has a strong training camp he could convince the Bills they may have a future answer at center in 2009. Murphy or Estes could challenge Chambers this summer, but they both need more polish.
I heard Joe Horn is looking to get out of Atlanta…what would you think of the idea of bringing a veteran like him into Buffalo to play on the other side of Evans and let Hardy begin his career learning while splitting time at #2 with Horn and being used in the red-zone? I wouldn't imagine it would take a whole lot to get him from Atlanta. A late draft pick might be enough…? It might be a crazy idea but with how young our team is, maybe bringing a guy like Horn in would really help us.
CB: I don't see Horn as a viable option for the Bills because his body is really starting to break down. Injuries are catching up with him and being available on Sunday is important in an offense looking for consistency. Horn would only stunt Hardy's growth in my opinion.
7. There is one question that has been on my mind this whole off season, in which I haven't heard anything about, and that is Fred Jackson. We all know he had an unexpected breakout year last year and showed that he can be very helpful as a back up to Marshawn, especially receiving out of the backfield. I think that he showed that he could be another weapon the bills could use, and he opened up more options. What I don't understand is why the Bills drafted another RB in the draft, and why nothing has been said about Fred this offseason. Do you think that he will still be #2 behind Marshawn, and will the bills continue to use him in there game plan?
Dustin, Crawfordsville, IN.
CB: I don't think you have to worry at all about Fred Jackson's status on this team. The offensive staff recognizes him as a reliable asset for their attack. He proved it last year. He's currently getting reps with the first team in the OTA setting behind Marshawn Lynch. I think there may even be some occasions where they're lined up in the backfield together this year, which would give opposing defenses fits. I think his role will be bigger than it was last year and he will be used a lot coming out of the backfield on swing passes and such. If anyone needs to worry about Xavier Omon it's probably Dwayne Wright. That's who Omon will push this summer.
8. Do you think Dick Jauron and the Bills will go out and make another trade this offseason? They improved a ton since December, but they still are lacking at the center and tight end postion. Do you see any that the Bills would try to trade for?
CB: I don't anticipate them wheeling and dealing with another club at this point to be honest. Perhaps they pick up a veteran to address a position they feel doesn't have enough depth after watching the talent they have on hand in OTAs. Beyond that I think most teams are close to having their roster set at this point.
9. I remember Dick Jauron saying last year that Ryan Neill made the team based on his long-snapping abilities, and not because our depth was shallow at the time at DE. However, it was painfully clear that Neill's poor snaps on punts had huge effects on two of our most crucial games last season (against the Browns and the Giants). Do you know if the staff is looking to upgrade the long-snapper position, or at least bring in competition for Neill during training camp?
CB: The team made a commitment to invest in Ryan Neill as a long snapper last season. I think they made that decision knowing last year he still wasn't the best that they believe he will be as a long snapper in this league. In Neill's defense his two poor snaps were in the worst of weather conditions possible, a blizzard with howling winds and a snow-covered field (Cleveland) and driving rain/snow and gale force winds (Giants). As for competition the team doesn't look like they'll be adding anyone to the mix. Right now Duke Preston is the backup snapper with practice squad fullback Jonathan Evans also taking a crack at it. At this point there is no one on the roster superior to Neill in my opinion.
10. Hey Chris,
Any chance, despite a troubled past, that the Bills would consider making a low-ball offer (low-risk) for Odell Thurman? From a talent standpoint, he has skills, but I realize he needs to get on the field first. Your thoughts???
Jason, Wichita, KS
CB: I don't anticipate the Bills pursuing him. A couple of suspensions does not help his cause. Plus I think the Bills are pretty happy with their linebacker depth right now behind the three starters, and they've already made a free agent investment in Kawika Mitchell.