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What they're saying: Bills moves in free agency

Buffalo Bills: Trading for RB LeSean McCoy

It seems far too obvious to ignore, so why overthink it?

Back in 2013, when the Philadelphia Eagles were leading the league in rushing yards and running back LeSean McCoy was gaining an NFL-high 1,607 of those yards, the Buffalo Bills finished second in the league in rushing that season.

Now McCoy comes off a year in which he totaled nearly as many carries (312) as he did the previous season (314) while gaining only 1,319 yards rushing. A rash of midseason injuries can be partially blamed for the drop-off in production.

But that was nothing compared to Buffalo's ground attack in 2014. The entire club totaled 1,482 yards on the ground, a mere 25th in the NFL. New head coach Rex Ryan knows what a good ground game can do, and he figures to get it from McCoy and his new lead blocker in fullback Jerome Felton, as well as Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown...and a little better play from the offensive line.

Buffalo Bills: B-plus

For the past four years, the Bills have used Scott Chandler in passing situations and Lee Smith in running situations. By adding Clay, they now have a tight end who is a better receiver than Chandler and a better blocker than Smith, and can do both parts pretty well. 

One reason Clay has become one of the better tight ends in the league is his hands. Out of 60 catchable balls thrown his way during the 2014 season, he dropped only two, the fifth-lowest drop rate in the league among tight ends. He was also a threat once he got the ball, making 12 defenders miss tackles on him last season, also good for fifth-best among TEs. Clay's biggest weakness is in pass protection, as he allowed six pressures. He also hasn't been much of a red zone threat in his career, with just 14 touchdowns since entering the league in 2011. With the additions of Matt Cassel, LeSean McCoy, Jerome Felton, Percy Harvin, Richie Incognito and now Clay, the Bills' offense should look very different and more exciting this fall. We'll see if that translates into a more efficient unit. 

No. 17 – Buffalo Bills

It's hard not to be fired up for Bills football in 2015. Love the LeSean McCoy acquisition. Love re-signing Jerry Hughes. How about adding a true fullback in Jerome Felton, too? Yep, Rex Ryan is fired up. That is, following the good six-hour cry he had after hearing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie signed with the Jets. That must be like your ex-fiancée deciding she wants to get married after you cancelled a $100,000 wedding. Not that I know anyone like that.

Speed kills

In addition to re-signing pass rusher Jerry Hughes, which was a great get for Buffalo's new head coach, Rex Ryan has shown that one of his top priorities is adding dynamic playmaking ability to the offense. He quickly traded Kiko Alonso for Shady McCoy, one of the shiftiest players in the league, then last week they inked Percy Harvin to a one-year deal.

Buffalo already has one of the best defenses in the NFL -- they're stacked -- but in stockpiling weapons on offense, the obvious hope is to balance the ledger a little bit and score more points. Harvin is a threat in the return game and has that home-run-hitting ability every time he touches the ball. However, he won't be relied upon to be "the man" in Buffalo, which means he'll likely see a lot of single coverage. That could be fun to see, though. He joins Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy as the Bills' offensive triumvirate, but don't forget about speedsters Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Even tight end Chris Gragg has some speed to run up the seam.

Additionally, it's being reported that the Bills are making a hard run at Miami tight end Charles Clay, who got the transition tag from the Dolphins. Clay would be yet another great and versatile weapon for Buffalo.

It all starts with the quarterback position, of course, but if EJ Manuel or Matt Cassell can improve in 2015, that could be a pretty interesting offense.

5. Buffalo Bills

Heat Index: 24

Net Change: 2.25 (16th)

Percy Harvin and LeSean McCoy turbo-charge the Bills offense, which won't matter much if Matt Cassel drives at 30 miles per hour with the right blinker on all season. Keep in mind that the Bills had little need for extra speed when C.J. Spiller (Saints) was in the backfield and Sammy Watkins and Marquise Goodwin were the receivers. But neither Spiller nor Goodwin could stay healthy. Then again, Harvin isn't exactly made of titanium.

The Bills are one of several teams that piled up a lot of trades and transactions but haven't moved that far from where they were in 2014. Da'Norris Searcy, Kiko Alonso and Scott Chandler lead the high-profile departures, and Cassel is probably a step down from Kyle Orton. Jerry Hughes' retention allows the Bills to do what they do best, and the McCoy-Harvin additions certainly make the Bills more dynamic, but with all of the McCoy and Charles Clay drama, the Bills are going from Point A to Point B the hard way.

Like the Jets', the Bills' offseason plan will snap into focus if they replace their old guy/young guy quarterback platoon with something more Mariota-like. But there is only one Mariota to go around, so get ready for lots of handoffs, screens and defense beneath the Patriots canopy in the AFC East. 

Up-to-the-second AFC playoff seedings:

1) Indianapolis Colts
2) Pittsburgh Steelers
3) New England Patriots
4) San Diego Chargers
5) Houston Texans
6) Buffalo Bills (unless the Jets get Brees, in which case NYJ would be the favorite in the East ... and maybe the AFC) 

Rex Ryan

Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan is clearly turning the Bills into the paradigm of what he expects a team to be. **I wrote on this** following their big move to acquire LeSean McCoy, but following moves like bringing in quarterback Matt Cassel just underscore the point. 

Yes, Ryan isn't the general manager, but to advance the old Bill Parcells saying: He's doing the cooking, and if he isn't doing the shopping, too, he's at least helping out with the shopping list, because these are his kind of ingredients. 

Note that this is all very different from saying the Bills will have a great season because of these moves. No, right now, Ryan is just a winner because he's clearly getting the type of players he believes he needs to succeed.

LeSean McCoy

Things were not working with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Let's be clear: Running back LeSean McCoy (now with the Buffalo Bills) was putting up huge rushing numbers, but Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn't trust him in the passing game or on the goal line, and the two of them just didn't see eye to eye. 

Now, McCoy goes to the Bills, where the blocking certainly won't be as good as it was in Philadelphia, but he'll have every opportunity to get touches from offensive coordinator Greg Roman and thanks to the game-management style of head coach Rex Ryan. 

Good move for the Bills? Time will tell, but it should be great for McCoy. 

Buffalo Bills

Key Losses:

The Bills have been active around the free agency window in 2015, securing players by extension, new contract or trade.

S Da'Norris Searcy
LB Kiko Alonso
RB C.J. Spiller
TE Scott Chandler
G Erik Pears

Key Re-Signings:
DE Jerry Hughes* *

Key Additions:
WR Percy Harvin
QB Tyrod Taylor
RB LeSean McCoy
QB Matt Cassel
FB Jerome Felton
TE Charles Clay

It's an offseason of change in Buffalo as new head coach Rex Ryan moves north from the New York Jets, bringing with him former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The personnel moves started with a bang as young linebacker Kiko Alonso was flipped to the Philadelphia Eagles for RB LeSean McCoy who brings big-play potential to Buffalo's offense.

The questions for McCoy surround his ability to play behind a lesser offensive line after clearly **benefitting from a strong unit in Philadelphia**, and whether or not he'll fit Roman's more preferred power scheme. It may end up working well for McCoy as he danced a bit too much last season and a more structured running attack may be just what he needs to get back on track. Losing Alonso could prove costly down the road as he was very impressive as a rookie, particularly in coverage where he graded at 13.1.

Percy Harvin brings another versatile skillset to the mix, as he's capable of affecting the game whether lined up out wide, in the slot or even the backfield. He is perfect for a team with average to subpar quarterback play as he can be the target of "scheme" plays that take pressure off the QB and allow him to make plays in space. His presence combined with McCoy and the addition of TE Charles Clay will provide matchup issues for opposing defenses.

The biggest signing for the Bills is likely the re-signing of DE Jerry Hughes who has quietly emerged as one of the league's most underrated pass rushers. He finished at 9.7 overall last season and his return keeps one of the league's strongest defensive lines intact.

Finally, the Bills added Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to compete with E.J. Manuel. None of the three inspire confidence, but with no first-round pick, a "bridge" year is needed at the position and that's where expectations should lie with this trio. 

Key Additions: WR Marcus Easley (re-signed), WR Percy Harvin, DE Jarius Wynn (re-signed), FB Jerome Felton, DE Jerry Hughes (re-signed)

Key Losses: RB C.J. Spiller, S Da'Norris Searcy

The Bills may be on the verge of signing free agency's biggest prize—tight end Charles Clay—if the latest frothing over Miami's former sixth-round pick is any indication. Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reported the Dolphins "expect" Clay to sign with Buffalo; if that happens soon, it'll cap a nice first week for the Bills.

Until that happens, however, it was just OK.

The Bills managed to retain defensive ends Jarius Wynn and Jerry Hughes, which will be key to maintaining a fourth-ranked defense from a year ago.

Signing Percy Harvin was a nice upside move, giving the Bills another serious weapon if he can stay healthy. If only they had a quarterback to get those weapons the ball consistently.

While the trade for running back LeSean McCoy was made official with the advent of the new league year, it was announced a week before free agency hit. It was a great move, but it didn't factor into the grade. 

Grade: B

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