AFC East Notes: Bills, Hackett, Dolphins

Terry and Kim Pegula shared equal ownership of the Bills upon buying the team in 2014, but the heart attack Kim suffered in June 2022 has brought a belated update to that status. A February 2023 Terry Pegula filing led to Kim being ruled incapacitated and her husband serving as her guardian, according to The Athletic’s Tim Graham (subscription required). Kim Pegula is not expected to be back with the Bills, Graham reports. Days after the ruling, Laura Pegula — Terry’s daughter from his first marriage — represented the Bills at owners meetings. Soon after, Terry transferred a “small percentage” of the team to Laura to comply with NFL rules regarding succession planning, Graham adds.

While this is an obviously concerning update regarding the health of Kim Pegula, 54, Graham indicates many Bills employees are in the dark about her prognosis and Laura Pegula’s role. Each May, teams are required to have succession plans in place. Previously, Kim was set to act as Bills principal owner as a bridge to the couple’s children; Terry is 73. The succession setup may soon become an issue. Bills employees had assumed tennis prodigy Jessica Pegula, Kim’s oldest child and the WTA’s No. 5-ranked player, and her husband, Taylor Gahagen, would eventually run the team. Jessica wrote a Players’ Tribune piece about her mother’s condition in February 2023, informing the public Kim had suffered brain damage from the heart attack. Months after that column, Graham reports Gahagen had been removed from his position as Bills director of corporate development and Laura had been given an equity stake in the franchise.

Remaining in place as CEO of the Bills and Buffalo Sabres, Terry Pegula has not answered questions publicly about the team since 2019. This update certainly calls into question, particularly in light of how the Broncos ended up being sold, the 11th-year owner’s succession view. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Nathaniel Hackett believes, despite reports the Jets attempted to have some his power stripped this offseason, Robert Saleh still has full confidence in him as OC. “I don’t know what those reports are and I don’t know where their sources came from,” Hackett said, via SNY. “I know what happened with us. It was great. We had a lot of conversations, got to talk to a lot of different people. It’s that simple. It’s already been addressed. … We had a lot of changes, so we were talking to a lot of people.” No known change to the Jets’ offensive plan came about this offseason, though the team has added some new position coaches. Aaron Rodgers has stumped for Hackett on many occasions, and the duo’s relationship from their Green Bay days is largely why the embattled play-caller remains in place. After a rough year as Broncos HC and losing Rodgers four plays into his debut as Jets OC, Hackett joins Saleh and GM Joe Douglas on the hot seat.
  • The Dolphins will pick up $18.5MM in cap space June 2, after the funds from the Xavien Howard cut become available. The team will not look to free agency to make immediate upgrades, per Mike McDaniel. The third-year Dolphins coach said (via’s Adam Beasley) the team — which lost key starters like Howard, Christian Wilkins, Robert Hunt and Jerome Baker this offseason — is “not on the hunt” for FA help.
  • Bills right tackle Spencer Brown will not participate fully in OTAs due to undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Sean McDermott said (via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg). The Bills battled injuries at many positions last season, but they were healthy along their offensive front. Brown, who has been the team’s primary RT starter since his 2021 rookie year, played all 17 Buffalo games in 2023.
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