Buddy Nix is changing the blueprint in Buffalo
March 5, 2012 2 Comments
The Buffalo Bills announced a 5 year contract extension for WR Stevie Johnson today. Johnson will get paid $36.25 million over the contract that will keep him in Buffalo through his 31st birthday. Johnson’s 5 year agreement comes a few months after the Bills signed both QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and DT Kyle Williams to 6 year contract extensions. They also signed starting RT Erik Pears, K Rian Lindell and LS Garrison Sanborn to 4-year extensions last month. Last season they extended DE Chris Kelsay and SS George Wilson to multi-year deals as well. Why is this news? Because the Buffalo Bills have long been notorious for not keeping their players beyond their rookie contracts.
Astoundingly the Bills have signed only 1 first round pick to a second contract since 1997. That was WR Lee Evans who was traded to the Ravens two years into his 4 year extension. 11 players – RB Antowain Smith, CB Antoine Winfield, DE Erik Flowers, CB Nate Clements, T Mike Williams, RB Willis McGahee, QB J.P. Losman, SS Donte Whitner, DT John McCargo, RB Marshawn Lynch, and LB Aaron Maybin – were all cut, traded, or signed away in free agency after being drafted in the first round by the Bills. Their track record hasn’t been too much better with players that were late round picks that they developed on their own either. Late round gems like CB Jabari Greer and DT Pat Williams were lost in free agency. T Jason Peters, a perennial Pro Bowler in Philadelphia now, was traded away when the Bills would not meet his salary demands. Long story short is that this has been a franchise that has been spinning their wheels for over a decade.
That’s why Stevie Johnson’s re-signing was significant. As mentioned before, Stevie is the 6th starting player re-signed by the Bills since Buddy Nix took over as GM in early 2010. There were 6 starters in the Bills starting lineup last opening day with contracts expiring at the end of the year. Only two, T Demetrius Bell and TE Scott Chandler, remain unsigned. Buddy Nix said at his introductory press conference on New Year’s Eve in 2009 that he wanted to “draft ’em, develop ’em, and keep ’em here.” So far he has been true to his word.
For the first time in what seems like ages the Bills won’t enter draft weekend simply trying to fill the holes that they opened up by losing players in the off season. It’s all about building depth, which is what good teams do on draft day. It’s something that the Bills haven’t done in over a decade. Now they can also go into the summer and start negotiating with the next batch of pending free agents which includes RB Fred Jackson, G Andy Levitre, and FS Jairus Byrd. They no longer have the stigma of a team that doesn’t keep their players. They no longer have the stigma of a team that doesn’t go the extra mile to build a winning team. Will it finally start equating to wins in Buffalo? Maybe, maybe not. One thing that is certain is that they seem to be up there swinging and it’s definitely better to go down swinging then to go down looking.