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Bills Beat Blog

By Joe Buscaglia
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Active Bills trade for QB Matt Cassel

The ink was barely even dry on the stories of the last trade the Buffalo Bills made, and now the franchise has made a move to acquire another piece on offense.

The Bills announced Wednesday that they have agreed to terms to trade for Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel and an "undisclosed draft choice" will come to the Bills, in exchange for "undisclosed draft choices" going back to the Vikings.

Cassel played the last two seasons in Minnesota and started a grand total of nine games over that span. In 2013, when he startd six games and appeared in a total of nine, he threw for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and had a 60.2 completion percentage. Last year, serving as the main backup for Teddy Bridgewater, Cassel started three games and threw for 425 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Throughout his career in Minnesota, Kansas City and New England, he has started a total of 71 games, with a career record of 33-38, while throwing for 96 touchdowns to 70 interceptions in all his career appearances. Cassel has one year left on his current contract, and is scheduled to have a cap hit of $4.75 million in 2015.

The move comes less than 24 hours after the Bills acquired running back LeSean McCoy from Philadelphia for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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In Bills' McCoy-Kiko deal, tie goes to the talent

You've likely been hearing the following statement get louder as each year passes:

"The running back position is being devalued in the National Football League."

By all means, that is true in the way that most teams have operated around the NFL, leading to a lot of movement for ball carriers across the league. They just don't have as big of a market as they once did once they've been in the league for a little while.

Then, the Buffalo Bills shocked the world and traded for the fantasy football darling, LeSean McCoy, in exchange for third-year linebacker Kiko Alonso. McCoy will turn 27 in July, and 28 has been earmarked as the year that sees the most significant decline in production for runners.

So why, then, did the Bills win this trade?

It's simple, really. It's football economics.

Running backs are thought to be a dime a dozen in the NFL, and while true, their dime a dozen brothers on the defensive side of the ball are linebackers. Don't get the message twisted, both these players are very talented ones that were coveted in league circles.

However, when push comes to shove and you have two players that play positions that are almost equally replaceable, the edge is given to the player that possesses the most talent. In this instance, McCoy is the more talented of the two — despite his age.

Alonso is a good player, and he'll fit in well with the Eagles high-flying defensive unit, but the trade was made possible by the depth the Bills have assembled at linebacker in Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown. Even if one of those two players were to suffer an injury, the ability to replenish the position without too much of a drop-off is there.

For the Bills, the talent gap between LeSean McCoy to Fred Jackson is much greater than Alonso to Bradham or Brown, which is why the trade just makes sense from a talent perspective. If you add in the fact that the defense primarily only has two linebackers on the field at any one time, the Bills couldn't get much more incentive to pull the trigger on the deal.

While it's true, the questions on McCoy's mileage in the NFL (going on his seventh season) and how much time is left will be issues, but the short-term benefits are there.

Make no mistake, this is a move for short-term gains. McCoy represents a significant upgrade at the position and with the likely importance placed on running the football, he could become the most important player on the roster in his first year on the job.

If you didn't believe it before with the hiring of Rex Ryan, or with the signing of the maligned Richie Incognito, believe it now: the Bills are going all in on 2015.

Now, if only they can find any ounce of average quarterback play, they can turn postseason dreams into a potential reality.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Report: Bills pull off blockbuster, trade Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy

The Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles have shocked the NFL world.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bills have agreed in principle to acquire running back LeSean 'Shady' McCoy, and in return, give linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles as compensation.

McCoy, 26, comes to the Bills with three years left on his current contract. He'll have a 2015 cap number of $11.95 million, and then subsequent cap hits of $8.85 million in 2016 and $7.85 million in 2017.

Over his six year career with the Eagles, McCoy has rushed for 6,792 yards, 44 touchdowns and a yards per carry average of 4.6. He has also accrued 300 receptions for 2,282 yards and 10 touchdowns to help in the passing game as well.

Out goes Alonso, who was the runner up for defensive rookie of the year honors in 2013. He missed the entirety of the 2014 season due to a torn ACL. In his rookie year, Alonso had 159 total tackles, four interceptions, two sacks and one forced fumble.

The move to acquire McCoy spells the end for C.J. Spiller's tenure in Buffalo, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Spiller told NFL Network shortly after the trade news broke that the Bills called him to thank him for his services.

McCoy will turn 27 in July. According to Schefter, the trade will not be official until the new league year begins on March 10 at 4 pm.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Fit for Bills? TE Jermaine Gresham

Since the offseason has taken shape, quarterback has been the topic of conversation on the mind of mostly everyone in Buffalo. However, coming in a close second for a position the Bills have admitted that they need to add to is one that has been neglected for years.

It seems the Buffalo Bills are finally going to address the tight end position with more than just a waiver wire pickup, or a fourth-round pick (Shawn Nelson, 2009). While there are some names available that many have grown accustomed to over the past couple of years, where might the Bills strike in free agency?

While not the flashiest add, one player that the Bills could have interest in is former Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham:

His Background
- One of the top tight ends available in his draft class, Jermaine Gresham was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Bengals hoped with his 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame that Gresham could develop into one of the next big things at tight end. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition, but what they did get was an every down player that proved to be indispensable for the team throughout numerous trips into the playoffs. Over his five-year career, Gresham has caught an average of 56 passes for 544.4 yards and just a shade under five touchdowns per season. He never truly took the game over as a pass catcher, but Gresham turned himself into a fierce blocker and an outright weapon in the run game. At 26 years old, the tight end still has years of his prime left in the tank.

How He Fits Buffalo
- He isn't the home run addition at tight end some might be hoping for, but if the Bills are looking for an all-around tight end that adds to the passing game, they can do much worse than the consistent Gresham. His hard-nosed style and appetite for run blocking would be right up the alley of new offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Rex Ryan, who are both looking to establish the run in 2015. The tight end is as tough as they come and doesn't back down to any assignment in front of him.

Joe B.'s Take
- The Bills would likely add more to the position, but Gresham could be a cost-effective option at tight end if they swing and miss on the upper-echelon of free agents like Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron or Charles Clay. Buffalo absolutely should take a swing on one of the top three, simply because they can add an element to the passing attack that doesn't currently exist on their roster. Gresham wouldn't be a big step up in pass-catching, but he is more of an all-around player than Scott Chandler. He would be a suitable Plan B if all else fails.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Fit for Bills? QB Jake Locker

The Buffalo Bills have one of the most unenviable tasks of the offseason. They must find suitable competition to be the starting quarterback for them in 2015, without a first-round draft pick, in one of the thinnest quarterback classes over the past few years, and with a free agent class that doesn't offer a particularly inspiring option.

Even though all of that is true, the Bills must sign a player to line up under center and serve as direct competition for former first-round pick EJ Manuel.

Who might be some options to fill? Let's take a look at unrestricted free agent Jake Locker:

His Background
- Once upon a time, Jake Locker was all the rage around college football and amongst draftniks. Following a successful junior season, Locker was pegged as the favorite to be the top overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. As the season carried on, his game at Washington was increasingly picked apart and the previous coat of shine from the preseason had been dulled. In the end, Locker ended up being the eighth overall selection in the draft, and the Tennessee Titans' future at quarterback. He couldn't get on the field much in his rookie season, but the shackles were removed in 2012. He started 11 games, with a shoulder injury that kept him out for five games sandwiched in the middle of the season. He came back in 2013 and showed some signs of progress, before succumbing to a hip and knee injury that kept him out for two games. Upon his return, just three weeks later Locker suffered a foot injury that ended his season. In 2014 with a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt, Locker got the go-ahed to start the season as the top quarterback. He started four of the team's first five games, and then a hand injury forced him to miss the next six games. He made it back to start for an injured Zach Mettenberger in Week 15, but left the game early with a shoulder injury and was placed on Injured Reserve. Over his career, Locker has completed 57.5-percent of his passes for 4,967 yards, 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He also has 644 career rushing yards and five touchdowns.

How He Fits Buffalo
- If you look at Locker as just a quarterback rather than one with the proclivity for injuries, his skill-set fits Greg Roman's offense, arguably better than any of the other options. In his time in San Francisco, Roman utilized read-option whether it was with Alex Smith or with Colin Kaepernick, and Jake Locker could be used in the same mold. While his accuracy is less than stellar, he possesses the ability to throw a pretty ball with his incredibly strong arm. Locker's pocket presence and getting out of the pocket properly when pressure is felt is an asset, which could be a characteristic the Bills are looking for after a year of poor offensive line play in 2014.

Joe B.'s Take
- Of the remaining options in free agency, Locker is the only player a front office member should be 'pounding the table' for. Still only 26, the former first-round pick only has 23 starts to his name, and he actually showed signs of improvement in the starts over 2013 and 2014. There are clear examples of games that Locker, quite frankly, just didn't have it (see: Cincinnati in 2014). However, if the Bills are looking for the lesser of the evils, and for the quarterback that could be the biggest hit of those available, it's hard to look anywhere other than with Locker. The injuries are of course an issue, and should be considered for contractual purposes. Also, be prepared, he is not a perfect player, and likely will never be anything but average. However, with where the Bills are in terms of the rest of their roster, average will suffice in a bid for the playoffs.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills decide against using franchise tag

The Jairus Byrd drama from two years ago will not be duplicated at One Bills Drive. The National Football League deadline for teams to use the franchise and transition tags on impending unrestricted free agents has passed, and the Buffalo Bills declined to use either option.

Bills GM Doug Whaley confirmed the decision with a very brief statement:

"We have chosen not to use the franchise or transition tags this year."

Of the players set to hit the open market on March 10, the only name that might have garnered some consideration for the franchise tag was defensive end Jerry Hughes. Hughes, 26, is coming off back-to-back seasons that he amassed 10 sacks and is the highest-ticket unrestricted free agent from the Bills roster in 2014.

If the Bills would have applied the franchise tag to Hughes, they would have owed him a fully guaranteed $14.813 million for 2015 if the two sides could not strike a longterm agreement. Buffalo originally acquired the defensive end in a one-for-one trade (for Kelvin Sheppard) with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 offseason.

In addition to Hughes, the other notable free agents coming from the Bills roster are running back C.J. Spiller and safety Da'Norris Searcy. Teams can begin to contact the representation of unrestricted free agents starting on March 7, leading to the beginning of the free agency on March 10 at 4 pm when players can start to officially sign with other teams.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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No More McCown; QB picks Browns over Bills

The Josh McCown derby is officially over, and the Buffalo Bills are without the veteran quarterback that they so coveted. The Cleveland Browns announced on Friday night that they had agreed to a free agent contract with McCown, spurning the Bills' offer.

The Bills started the courtship process of the 12-year veteran quarterback last week ahead of the 2015 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. After his two-day visit in Buffalo, he met with both the Chicago Bears and New York Jets at the Combine, and then traveled to Cleveland this week to meet with the Browns. 

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the 35-year old McCown signed a three-year contract with the Browns to compete with Johnny Manziel for the starting quarterback job. He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the month after accruing a 1-10 record in 2014. In his career, McCown thrown for 61 touchdowns to 59 interceptions.

The Bills still only have two quarterbacks on the roster: former first-round pick EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. The official start of the NFL Free Agency Period is set for March 10 at 4 pm.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Report: Bills in contract talks with QB McCown

A week after the Buffalo Bills initially brought the apple of their free agent quarterback eye in for a visit, it appears the two sides are entering the next phase of a potential partnership. According to one report, free agent quarterback Josh McCown and the Bills are getting a bit more serious.

Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News reported Thursday morning that the Bills and McCown have started to discuss the financial aspect of a potential contract, and if all goes well, a deal could be struck as soon as Friday. The free agent quarterback was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the month, and has since visited with the Bills, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns.

In one season with Tampa Bay, McCown went 1-10 as a starter and passed for 2,206 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He signed as a free agent with the Buccaneers after a successful season as Jay Cutler's backup in Chicago. When Cutler was injured, McCown threw for 1,829 yards and 13 touchdowns to just one interception in eight games of work.

The 35-year old McCown will be entering the 13th year of his career.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Buscaglia: NFL Mock Draft #1

As the NFL offseason starts to shift into its next gear, the rumors circulating around the 2015 NFL Draft are only just beginning.

Unlike most years, the Buffalo Bills do not have a first round pick and will have to wait patientily -- pending a trade up in the order -- until the evening of Friday, May 1 to make their first selection. Holding the 50th overall selection, how might the 49 picks before them pan out?

Here is the first of many looks at a mock draft. Of course, please remember that this mock draft, and all mock drafts, are for entertainment purposes only.

Round 1
1)  - QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
- He is the best quarterback available in this draft. As long as the off-the-field stuff checks out, he should be the first player selected on April 30.

2)  - DE Leonard Williams, USC
- Ken Whisenhunt has a certain type of quarterback that he likes, and Zach Mettenberger is that guy. Instead, Leonard Williams enters and tries to live up to his weighty expectations established throughout the year.

3)  - DE/OLB Dante Fowler, Florida
- Speed, size and a local appeal make this a home run pick for Gus Bradley and David Caldwell.

4)  - WR Kevin White, West Virginia
- The most impressive wide receiver from the NFL Combine has the tape to match. The Raiders need a big time target for Derek Carr.

5) **TRADE  (from WSH) - QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
- Jimmy Haslem does what Jimmy Haslem wants, and no GM in his own building will stop him. 

Cleveland gets: 5th overall, 69th overall, 5th round pick
Washington gets: 12th overall, 19th overall, 43rd overall

6)  - DE/OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska
- After losing out on Mariota, the Jets settle in on Geno Smith in 2015 and try to revamp the defense as much as possible.

7)  - DE/OLB Shane Ray, Missouri
- The Bears are switching to a 3-4 base defense, which means they need some personnel that suits it. Ray will help out from the outside linebacker spot when they are in traditional looks.

8)  - DE/OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky
- Speed kills, and the Falcons need a pass rusher. Dupree has risen quite a bit.

9)  - DT Danny Shelton, Washington
- The Giants do need an offensive tackle but can't pass up the value of Shelton here, in hopes he can form a powerful tandem with Jonathan Hankins.

10)  - OT La'El Collins, LSU
- The Rams have a perpetual problem on the offensive line, so they add yet another one to the mix.

11)  - WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
- A bit of a luxury pick here, but the Vikings do need a top target for the ever-improving Teddy Bridgewater.

12)  (from CLE) - S Landon Collins, Alabama

13)  - DE/OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

14)  - OT/G Brandon Scherff, Iowa
- The Dolphins could go with a wide receiver, but they still have some glaring weaknesses on the interior of the offensive line. Scherff can start inside, immediately.

15)  - WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

16)  - CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

17)  - OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
- There were some thoughts of taking a running back here, but drafting Clemmings can move D.J. Fluker inside as a mauling, power-run guard.

18)  - WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
- The lack of talent at the wide receiver position in Kansas City must be addressed this offseason. They can't depend solely on tight end Travis Kelce and the aging Dwayne Bowe.

19)  (from BUF via CLE) - OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (FL)

20)  - CB Jalen Collins, LSU

21)  - DT Malcom Brown, Texas

22)  - OT Andrus Peat, Stanford

23)  - DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
- Regardless of who the Lions re-sign of their defensive tackle group, they are likely going to need another starter in there for 2015. Goldman fits that mold.

24)  - DE/OLB Eli Harold, Virginia

25)  - OT D.J. Humphries, Florida

26)  - HB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
- The first running back of the draft goes, and he breaks the first-round running back curse. If Justin Forsett doesn't re-sign, the Ravens will need to look to youth for their running needs. Wide receiver was also a consideration here.

27)  - DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA

28)  - C Cameron Erving, Florida State

29)  - ILB Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL)

30)  - DE/OLB Danielle Hunter, LSU
- A young player with explosive athleticism. He could rise even higher than this as a pass rusher.

31)  - WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri

32)  - WR Devin Funchess, Michigan
- Devin Funchess could be Bill Belichick's newest toy. He could become the move tight end the Patriots have been searching for to pair with Rob Gronkowski, and he has some wide receiver versatility.

Round 2

33)  - OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M

34)  - G A.J. Cann, South Carolina

35)  - DE Mario Edwards, Florida State
- Edwards is a big body and he can move. If he ever hits his potential, the Raiders could have a young and feared pass-rushing group with him and Khalil Mack.

36)  - OT Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State

37)  - CB Byron Jones, Connecticut

38)  - CB Marcus Peters, Washington

39)  - NT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma

40)  - OLB Shaq Thompson, Washington
- The Giants will probably look at Thompson as a swiss army knife option that they can play at either safety, linebacker or in rushing the passer. Just because he didn't meet expectations at the NFL Combine, don't expect teams to jump ship on him and his versatility.

41)  - CB Ronald Darby, Florida State

42)  - HB Todd Gurley, Georgia

43)  (from CLE) - DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

44)  - HB Jay Ajayi, Boise State
- The Saints featured a power run game quite a bit last season with Mark Ingram. Now that he's a free agent, the Saints could look to the draft to address the position, and Ajayi can provide that power mentality they're looking for. Not only that, he can be a three-down player and not force Pierre Thomas or anyone else on to the field.

45)  - G Laken Tomlinson, Duke

46)  - TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
- Vance McDonald has been a disappointment and Vernon Davis really struggled to be a big piece of the offense last year. They could start grooming his replacement in the athletic Maxx Williams.

47)  - WR Devin Smith, Ohio State

48)  - HB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

49)  - ILB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

50)  - HB Tevin Coleman, Indiana
- The two other names considered at this slot were Oregon offensive lineman Jake Fisher and Miami (FL) tight end Clive Walford, but neither could provide the potential impact that Tevin Coleman might be able to do in his first season in the league. Despite the running back position being a deep one, the Bills won't hesitate to select someone that fits their running style, and Coleman is exactly that. He's falling a bit at the moment due to an injury, but he has all the potential to be an every down running back for whatever team he plays for.

Round 3

81)  - TE Nick O'Leary, Florida State
- To spare you from having to scroll through 30 more names this early in the draft process, we'll skip straight to the Bills pick at 81st overall. The Bills are said to be in the market to add multiple tight ends, and not many offer the kind of package that Greg Roman and Rex Ryan may want than Nick O'Leary. As a tight end, he is limited athletically which means he will never stack up with the Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham's of the world. But what he does offer is an every down presence, one of the most consistent tight end targets in college football over the last three years and an incredible presence in the red zone. O'Leary is as smart at beating a defense as they come, and he shows up in clutch times. With a hard-nosed type of playing style, Rex Ryan will surely love what O'Leary brings to the table.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Sources: Bills are not in pursuit of QB Bradford

Since the offseason started and head coach Rex Ryan was hired, the Buffalo Bills have made it their mission to find a quarterback to compete with former first-round pick EJ Manuel for the starting job. Although one report indicates that the Bills may be in pursuit of one quarterback, sources to WGR Sports Radio 550 refute that notion.

A Yahoo! Sports report from Tuesday afternoon that the Bills were in pursuit of St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford via trade, but sources to WGR says that the notion is not real and the Bills are not currently attempting to acquire the quarterback.

Bradford is entering the final year of his contract with the Rams, and the team has publicly stated their allegiance to him as recent as last week at the NFL Combine. reported last week that Bradford's agent had received permission to seek a trade.

Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News initially refuted the Yahoo! Sports report.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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