The very first item on your to do list should be getting Jairus Byrd signed to a long term contract. I know contract negotiations are typically handled by Jim Overdorf, Senior Vice President of Football Administration, but this is one where you need to step in and speed the process along.
Byrd was designated with the franchise tag which means he would have a one year contract for just over $6.9 million for the upcoming season. Byrd had yet to sign the tag and that means he isn't attending the voluntary off season workouts. With a new coaching staff in place, its important for Byrd to be on hand for as many off season workouts as possible. Add in the fact that Byrd is the best play maker on the defensive side of the ball and it means this is one negotiation that shouldn't' be allowed to drag on into the summer.
Byrd and the Bills are said to be about $2 million apart which would mean the Bills are likely offering $7 million a year and Byrd is seeking $9 million. Doug, my advice to you is "show him the money." I don't say this for just any player by the way. The team made the correct call in letting Andy Levtire walk in free agency even though it opened up a sizable hole at left guard. There was no justification to pay Levite the kind of money he ended up getting from Tennessee.
Byrd on the other hand, led the Bills in interceptions last season including picks that helped put the Arizona and Miami(home) games into the win column. His 18 INT's in the four years since he entered the NFL is third best. Byrd is the only Bills draft pick since 2002 who ended up being voted to the Pro Bowl.
With Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine installing a more aggressive, blitzing philosophy on defense, the Bills need to make sure a player of Byrd's caliber with his range and ball skills is in the fold for the long term.
Byrd is likely looking for a contract larger than the one given to free agent Dashon Goldson by Tampa Bay. He signed a 5 year deal worth $41.25 million, 22 of which is guaranteed. Just tell Ralph Wilson to sign the check and move on to the next item on the list.
That would be bringing in some help via free agency for positions of need. The afore mentioned left guard spot looks downright scary to me even though your predecessor said the team would be just fine with the guys currently on the roster. I'm not as comfortable as Buddy Nix was with the likes of Sam Young, Colin Brown, Keith Williams, David Snow, Chris Scott and Zack Chibane.
The guard market is pretty thin but Brandon Moore is still available. Yes he's 33 and the Bills aren't fond of bringing in 30 plus year old players from the free agent market but he would only be a stop gap at the position. Moore also brings plenty of experience and durability, having started 142 of his 144 career games. Moore also has a working relationship with Doug Marrone who once was Moore's position coach with the New York Jets. A physical blocker, Moore can certainly help with the run game.
As long as you are looking at the market, how about signing a veteran cornerback? You might answer the team did that when Leodis Mckelvin was re-signed but consider me unimpressed. I think you're in good shape with Stephon Gilmore as your number one corner but after that, there are tons of questions. Aaron Williams was wisely moved to safety. I like what I saw of Ron Brooks last year in the pre season and his injury shortened regular season but we are talking about a guy with 9 games of experience. Justin Rogers has been up and down in his brief Bills career and that leaves you guys like Crezdon Butler and TJ Heath.
See if you can get Sheldon Brown or Quentin Jammer to come and play for your price. Again, we are talking about players over 30 years old but no one is getting a long term deal. Brown is 34 and has 11 years of NFL experience and 26 interceptions in his career. Jammer is also 34 and has 21 INT's over his 11 seasons in the NFL. You can always ask Buddy Nix to put in a good word for the Bills since he was in San Diego when Jammer played for the Chargers.
Once you get all of that accomplished, you can go after something on your 2014 list of things to do, sign Eric Wood. The starting center will be a free agent after the coming season. I won't say I'm not concerned about his injury issues. Wood has yet to play a full season in his 4 year NFL career. He's missed 17 games out of 64. But he's the anchor of the line literally and figuratively and has the right amount of nasty you want up there. Wood should be one of the leaders going forward as the franchise attempts to snap the LONG playoff drought. If for any reason you aren't completely sold on extending Wood, just take a look at your depth at center. On second thought, don't, because you might give Wood a blank check.
There really isn't anyone else who has an expiring contract, that is worth extending before the 2013 season plays itself out although you should keep Scott Chandler in the back of your mind, if he comes back healthy and is productive. You don't really have any other offensive minded tight ends on the roster. While you're at it, put "get a pass catching tight end" on your 2014 list of things to do.
In the meantime, make sure you spend some serious quality time with your new head coach since the GM/Coach relationship is a critical one and paramount to the team's success. I know Russ Brandon says all decisions are collective ones but you are the leader of the football operations and people will take their cue from you, so its time to step up and take charge. During the press conference announcing your promotion to the job, you mentioned your previous employer, the Pittsburgh Steelers, simply didn't accept losing. Its up to you to instill that attitude throughout a Bills organization that has seemingly accepted losing for the past 13 years. Good luck and if you need any other advice, you know where to find me.