Bills Ownership

AFC East Notes: Bills, Pegulas, Brady, Jets

Terry Pegula and Kim Pegula met with Buffalo reporters today at their introductory press conference as Bills owners, and prior to the presser, the team also sent out a statement from the Pegulas with the caption “THE BILLS ARE HERE TO STAY!” (Twitter link). In both the statement and the press conference, the Pegulas expressed excitement about being able to keep the franchise in Buffalo and about being able to contribute to the legacy established by the late Ralph Wilson.

Here’s more on the Bills and the Pegulas, as well as a couple other AFC East items:

  • Terry Pegula has assumed a CEO role for the Bills, meaning Russ Brandon is simply the team’s president now, tweets Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
  • Pegula indicated at today’s presser that he hadn’t had a chance to consider the Bills‘ football operations yet, while Brandon expressed support for the job done by GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone. According to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (Twitter link), both Whaley and Marrone are good bets to be around for the 2015 season unless the team totally falls apart this year, an observation echoed by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
  • Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com wonders if the cap space being carried by the Patriots this season – and presumably into next year – is an insurance policy that could allow the team to consider trading Tom Brady. While Curran can envision New England dealing its franchise quarterback at some point, he doubts that it’s in the team’s plans quite yet.
  • Veteran interior offensive lineman Mike Brewster, who was waived by the Jaguars during preseason cutdowns to 53 players, worked out for the Jets today, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.

Pegulas Officially Approved As Bills Owners

The NFL’s owners meetings are underway in New York, and the group wasted no time in checking off one of the key items on the agenda. According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello (via Twitter), Terry Pegula and Kim Pegula have been unanimously approved by the NFL’s other owners as the new owners of the Bills.

While there were some hiccups during the bidding process for the Bills, it’s been smooth sailing for the Pegulas since their reported $1.4 billion bid was chosen as the winner several weeks ago. After the owners of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres were approved by the league’s finance committee last month, their approval by the rest of the NFL’s team owners was viewed as a mere formality, and now it’s official.

The Pegulas, who take over ownership of the Bills from the late Ralph Wilson and his family, are now eligible to represent the team during the rest of today’s owner’s meetings.

NFL Finance Committee Approves Pegulas

Prospective Bills owners Terry Pegula and Kim Pegula received unanimous approval from the NFL’s finance committee, the league’s executive VP Eric Grubman announced today, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (via Twitter). The Pegulas and the Bills reached an agreement last week for the owners of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres to become the new owners of the city’s NFL franchise.

Being approved by the league’s finance committee was the next step for the Pegulas in the process of formally becoming the new owners of the Bills. After receiving approval today, Terry Pegula delivered a brief statement indicating that until the NFL’s 31 other owners give final approval next month, he doesn’t consider himself an NFL owner, according to Graham (via Twitter).

Still, while the other owners will be tasked with taking that vote at the league meetings on October 8, it’s viewed as a mere formality at this point. The Pegulas have been considered the best choice for the Bills throughout the process, and it would take a drastic development at this point to derail them from officially taking over ownership of the franchise next month.

AFC Links: Bills Sale, Patriots, Manziel

Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group came up short in its attempt to buy the Bills franchise, and one key reason was its refusal to pledge to keep the team in Buffalo, reports John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. The clan’s bid was also uncompetitive, as the Pegula family ultimately won the team with a bid of $1.4 billion. But the Toronto group always stopped short of guaranteeing to keep the franchise in Western New York. Instead, per Kryk, it used coy phrases, writing in a statement that it “remain[ed] committed to working collaboratively” to keep the club in Buffalo. The team’s trust apparently read between the lines and deduced that Bon Jovi & Co. eventually planned to relocate the team to Canada. Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Save for Tommy Kelly, no player released by the Patriots as trimmed their roster to 53 made it on to another squad, writes Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who asserts that perhaps New England wasn’t as deep team as some thought.
  • Reiss also notes that Armond Armstead, who retired in July, received $54K from the Patriots as part of an injury settlement.
  • J.J. Watt‘s extension with the Texans, which pays the defensive end $16.5MM annually, and Richard Quinn‘s $14.25MM/year deal with the Rams sets the market for edge rusher extensions, tweets former NFL executive Ari Nissim, who notes that the next wave of deal for 2011 first-rounders will likely be in the $12-13MM range.
  • With Jordan Cameron inactive and Josh Gordon suspended, the Browns could roll a few packages centered on Johnny Manziel in Week 2, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

Pegulas Reach Agreement To Buy Bills

2:46pm: The Pegulas’ winning bid was worth $1.4 billion, a record figure for an NFL franchise, tweets Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, adding that there were a total of five bidders for the team.

1:48pm: The Bills have officially announced that an agreement has been reached with the Pegulas, who will be the next owners of the franchise. That parties will submit the agreement for approval in advance of the NFL’s owner meetings in New York a month from now.

8:42am: A tentative agreement between the Bills and Terry and Kim Pegula as been reached, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, who reports (via Twitter) that an official announcement on the sale of the franchise should come later today. We heard last night that the Pegulas, who also own the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, were closing in on a purchase of the Bills after the deadline for binding bids had passed.

While there were reports that other suitors were in the mix, the only bidders for the Bills confirmed publicly were the Pegulas, Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group, and Donald Trump. Trump was never viewed as a viable candidate for approval by the NFL’s 31 other owners, and Bon Jovi’s group – which included the Rogers family and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum – was plagued by issues throughout the process. The Toronto group faced skepticism about its intentions for keeping the Bills in Western New York, and had difficulty getting its bid up to a suitable figure with Bon Jovi acting as the potential controlling owner (meaning he had to have at least a 30% stake in the club).

It’s not clear yet what the amount of the Pegulas’ final bid was, though Graham indicated last night that it looked like it would be a “record sale” for the NFL. Reports on the round of initial bidding pegged the offers from the various suitors anywhere from about $800MM to as high as $1.3 billion, but there was plenty of conflicting information, and the final bids may have been even higher.

In any case, John Kryk of the Toronto Sun indicated last night that Morgan Stanley, the investment bank heading the sale of the Bills, would consider more than just a dollar figure when evaluating the prospective owners. Whereas there were many question marks surrounding the other bidders, the Pegulas were viewed as the most likely candidates to close the deal immediately and to receive approval from the NFL.

Although an official announcement on an agreement between the Pegulas and Bills may come soon, the Sabres owners won’t officially take over control of Buffalo’s NFL team until the league’s owners formally vote on the issue. That’s expected to happen at the NFL’s in-season meetings in October. Before the sale process reaches that point, the agreement will also require initial approval from the league, which should happen at some point this week.

Terry Pegula Closing In On Buying Bills

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is on the verge of purchasing the Bills, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link), who hears from a source that the sale process is “moving quick” now that binding bids have been submitted. The Buffalo News’ Tim Graham (via Twitter) also reports that a decision should happen soon, perhaps even overnight, and that it sounds like it will be a “record” sale. A league source tells Graham that he’d be “shocked” if anyone besides the Pegulas ended up buying the team (Twitter link).

As we noted earlier tonight, bids to purchase the team had been received from Pegula, Donald Trump, and Jon Bon Jovi‘s Toronto-based group. While it’s not clear if any other suitors submitted final bids before today’s deadline, Pegula has long appeared to be the frontrunner, despite attempts to drum up interest from other parties. With one sports franchise already in Buffalo, the Sabres owner is extremely unlikely to attempt to move the Bills, which was a concern with some of the other potential bidders, including Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group.

The Ralph Wilson trust running the Bills were reported to be looking for several criteria with their selection of a new owner, as opposed to just accepting the highest bid, according to John Kryk of the Toronto Sun.┬áKryk mentions the “certainty of NFL approval” and the ability to close the deal immediately were the two critical factors that differentiated Pegula from the other suitors. Trump’s previous involvement with the USFL, and the inevitable speculation about Bon Jovi’s group moving the team to Canada clearly made Pegula the candidate with the smoothest sale process.

Assuming Pegula’s bid is declared the winner, he would likely be officially approved as the Bills’ owner during the league’s in-season meetings in October.

Extra Points: Rice, Bills Ownership, Injuries

The NFL has informed teams that any contract with Ray Rice will not be approved until further direction is provided from Roger Goodell, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Additionally, Rice will not be eligible to play north of the border, either, as the CFL will honor the NFL’s suspension, according to Sportsnet’s Arash Madani (via Twitter).

Here’s some more miscellaneous news and notes:

  • Bids to buy the Bills are in from Terry Pegula, Donald Trump and Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group, reports the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham (via Twitter). He adds multiple sources believe the process could be wrapped up as soon as Wednesday. As of yesterday, Pegula, who also owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, appears to be the favorite to land the winning bid.
  • Titans linebacker Zach Brown will miss the rest of the season because of a torn pectoral, reports Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. Zaviar Gooden, another athletic linebacker, is expected to replace Brown in the starting lineup.
  • Bears center Roberto Garza sustained a high ankle sprain yesterday, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). With Garza sidelined for an undetermined period of time, the Bears will turn to free-agent acquisition Brian De La Puente at center.
  • Redskins defensive tackle Barry Cofield will also be sidelined by a high ankle sprain, says Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).
  • The Patriots worked out running back Daniel Thomas, quarterback Brock Jensen and tight ends Evan Wilson and Brian Wozniak, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link).
  • Yates also reports a couple more running back tryouts: Chris Rainey (Cardinals) and Lache Seastrunk (Packers).
  • Jason Fitzgerald at OverTheCap.com identifies players entering crucial stages of their contract who helped or hurt their stock on Sunday. Fitzgerald highlights Broncos tight end Julian Thomas, who recorded 7-103-3 in a win over the Colts, noting Thomas or teammate and free agent-to-be Demaryius Thomas “should be able to jump into a new offer” since the team can only franchise one of their pass-catching stars. At the other end of the spectrum, Fitzgerald says Redskins pass rusher Brian Orakpo was “non-existent “on Sunday. Furthermore, Orakpo’s reputation as someone who disappears in games could prevent him from getting the type of mega deal he seeks in free agency.

Terry Pegula Frontrunner To Buy Bills

In a full-length piece, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com expands on his report from several days ago that Buffalo Sabres’ owner Terry Pegula is the clear favorite to buy the Bills. As La Canfora writes, Pegula “has expressed a willingness to confidants to do whatever he has to do to get the team,” even if the NFL is able to find another bidder for the club and create something of an “auction scenario.” Such an auction could push the price tag further above the current estimate of $1.1 to $1.4 billion, but Pegula is apparently prepared to handle that type of increase.

Because he intends to keep the team in Buffalo beyond 2020–when the Bills’ stadium lease expires–Pegula certainly enjoys a great deal of public support. Fortunately for Bills fans, the Toronto-based group formerly led by Jon Bon Jovi, which would be hoping for a relocation to Ontario at some point in the future, has faced a number of internal struggles and is no longer a viable candidate. La Canfora does note that a move to Toronto may still be in the best financial interest of the team and the league, but “there are numerous options to exhaust in New York before reaching that point.”

Formal, binding bids for the team are due in the middle of this month. Once they are in, the trust of late owner Ralph Wilson will determine a winner, and the league’s other 31 owners will vote to determine if the winner will indeed become the new owner of the Bills. La Canfora expects that vote to happen during the league’s annual fall meetings, which will take place October 7-8 in New York.

 

Latest On Doug Marrone, Bills’ Front Office

2:39pm: A league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the cause of the heated exchange between Marrone and team officials was the Bills’ decision to sign Kyle Orton so late in the preseason to a contract that suggests he may see playing time this season. As Florio points out, for Buffalo to have a good season, E.J. Manuel will likely need to play well, and bringing in a highly-paid veteran backup a week before the season begins may not be the best approach for building his confidence.

2:06pm: According to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Bills head coach Doug Marrone was recently involved in a “loud verbal altercation” with various members of the team’s front office, including director of player personnel Jim Monos. La Canfora reports that the incident between Marrone and Monos resulted in general manager Doug Whaley and team president Russ Brandon to get involved as well.

La Canfora continues by writing that Marrone has clashed with a few players during the preseason, and that the coach and the front office disagree about the value of certain players, and how they’re being used — that includes guard Kraig Urbik, whom the club reportedly shopped as trade bait recently. According to the CBSSports.com scribe, Marrone also has a “strained relationship” with Monos, and told team execs to “go ahead and fire me” during the aforementioned verbal spat.

While La Canfora’s report seems damning, a pair of Bills beat writers have suggested it may not be entirely accurate. Per Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (via Twitter), a source says Monos wasn’t even present for the reported altercation, and that Marrone’s “go ahead and fire me” comment was made over beers at another time, and was being laughed about in a matter of minutes.

Meanwhile, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 has a response from Marrone himself, who indicated that the report is “very much” overblown.

Hey, did we have a discussion? Absolutely. I confirm that absolutely,” Marrone said. “Are we great? We talk every day, three times a day. We talk about a lot of things. We’re competitive and I couldn’t be happier with those guys, I really couldn’t. And then the thing about Jim is great, too, because I was one of the ones that recommended Jim to come here. So there’s a lot of things in that that I think I’ll probably catch a lot of heat on from my friends because it’s just not true.

It makes sense that Marrone would deny, or at least downplay, any tension between him and the front office, so it’s hard to know exactly how much truth there is to La Canfora’s initial report. With expectations on the rise following the addition of wideout Sammy Watkins this offseason, another last-place season in 2014 might mean Marrone’s days in Buffalo are numbered, regardless of whether or not there’s friction amongst the team’s ranks.

As La Canfora notes, it’s also possible that a shake-up could be in the works when the sale process is finalized and the franchise’s new owners take over. However, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula continues to look like the clear-cut favorite to buy the team, and La Canfora hears that a Pegula win would make it less likely that the franchise is overhauled immediately.

East Notes: Bills, Giants, Jets, Cowboys

Although a report last week suggested that the Toronto-based attempting to buy the Bills had parted ways with lead bidder Jon Bon Jovi, that’s not exactly the case, says John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. According to Kryk, Bon Jovi never left the group, but he and his partners remain “highly pessimistic” they’ll be able to buy the franchise. With final bids due a week from today, sources tell Kryk it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bon Jovi’s group disbanded before that deadline, but for now they continue to consider whether or not to submit a final bid.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Six players are auditioning today for the final two spots on the Giants‘ practice squad, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Per Graziano, former Ball State wideout Willie Snead will be among the players in attendance, and we heard yesterday that offensive lineman Adam Gettis would also be working out for the team.
  • Jets GM John Idzik continues to say he has no regrets about the Jets’ approaching to fortifying the cornerback position this offseason, even after the release of the team’s only notable free agent signee (Dimitri Patterson). Seth Walder of the New York Daily News has the details and quotes.
  • Appearing on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones weighed in on Dez Bryant and Kyle Orton, suggesting that not having a contract extension in place by Week 1 wouldn’t be a distraction for Bryant. Jones added that Orton expressed some interest in continuing his career with the Cowboys before the team released him, but that Dallas had opted to go with Brandon Weeden as its backup instead (links via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
  • Earlier today, we rounded up some comments made by Tom Brady on his future with the Patriots and the team’s decision to trade Logan Mankins.