Bills Rumors

AFC East Notes: Newton, Tua, Fins, Bills

The Patriots made a big splash last night when they signed former league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year contract. The assumption is that Newton will be the team’s starting signal-caller, but Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says the Pats made no promises in that regard. Still, while there is technically an open competition between Newton and second-year pro Jarrett Stidham, it would be stunning if Newton did not win the job (video link). Garafolo also points out that Newton still has to pass a physical, but the Patriots are confident he will do so.

Garafolo also passes along a fun fact (via Twitter): New England is the third team in NFL history to lose one MVP and sign another in the same offseason. The 2000 Dolphins parted ways with Dan Marino and brought in Thurman Thomas, and the 2005 Cardinals bid farewell to Emmitt Smith and signed Kurt Warner.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the belief that he will be the franchise signal-caller the team has been seeking for the past 20 years. He may not start right away, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes the southpaw will be put into the starting lineup at some point this season. While the 2020 Dolphins should be an improved squad over last year’s iteration, Miami is still probably at least a year away from playoff contention, so the team will have no reason to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for the entire campaign.
  • Miami is set at the LG and C spots with Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, respectively. Beyond that, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins are still undecided as to whether second-round rookie Robert Hunt would be a better fit at RG or RT in 2020. If Hunt gets a shot at RT and performs well, that could bump 2019 starter Jesse Davis back to the interior or to the bench. Meanwhile, Michael Deiter will compete for the starting RG and backup C slots.
  • In the same piece linked above, Jackson notes that the Dolphins are working out WR Gary Jennings in the slot — where he thrived in college — and on the outside. Jennings was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2019, but Seattle waived him in November and Miami scooped him up. He played in just one game for the ‘Fins before getting hurt, but his draft pedigree and upside will give him a good chance to make the club as the fifth or sixth WR.
  • In a minor trade last summer, the Bills acquired OL Ryan Bates from the Eagles in exchange for DE Eli Harold. Philadelphia subsequently cut Harold, but Buffalo hung on to Bates, who was active for nine games. Per Adam Caplan of InsideTheBirds.com, the Bills view Bates, a 2019 UDFA, as a viable right tackle, guard, and center, so they expect him to be a key backup in 2020 who may take on a bigger role down the road.
  • Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, meanwhile, views Bates as a potential trade candidate. Buscaglia also looks at a few other players that the Bills could put on the trade market, a list headed by WR Robert Foster and TE Jason Croom.

Bills To Stick With Matt Barkley As QB2?

Since debuting in 2013, Matt Barkley has just seven starts to his credit. Although he’s largely unproven, Bills head coach Sean McDermott says he’s “very confident” in the quarterback “for a lot of reasons,” as Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle writes.

[RELATED: Owner Says There’s No “Financial Pressure” On Bills]

Some have wondered whether Barkley is a reliable safety net for Josh Allen, in the event that the Buffalo starter gets injured or contracts COVID-19. Injuries and illnesses aside, there are plenty of question marks about Allen as well. The former first-rounder won ten games for the Bills last year and took them to the playoffs, but his career 56.3% completion rate leaves a lot to be desired.

Barkley, meanwhile, has gone 2-5 in his starts. For his career, he has a 58.8% success rate on throws with ten touchdowns against 21 interceptions. His last start came in 2018, a solid showing and victory over the Jets. Last year, he popped in for two games and lobbed three INTs with zero TDs.

In addition to Barkley, the Bills also have Jake Fromm on hand. The fifth-round pick out of Georgia was once viewed as a high-caliber prospect, but his performance slipped over time and tanked his stock. Fromm completed just 60.8% of his passes in 2019, which doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Davis Webb, the former Giants third-rounder who has never appeared in a game, is also on the offseason roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Terry Pegula: No “Financial Pressure” On Bills

Yesterday, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula fired the GM of their other sports franchise, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. In so doing, Terry Pegula cited his need to make the Sabres “leaner,” which naturally led to some concern from Bills fans that the financial situation of their owners would have an impact on the fortunes of the football club.

But as Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic writes, Terry Pegula downplayed any such fears. “First off, there is no financial situation,” he said. “I don’t know where that rumor started. … [W]e don’t have any debt on our oil and gas business. We need to do better moving forward in the sports business like every team is going to do have to do. … Talking about the Bills right now, there is no financial pressure that’s negative on the franchise.”

Terry Pegula implied that the lack of fans in the stands is much more harmful to an NHL club than an NFL team, which is true and which could be why he says he does not have any financial worries about the Bills. However, Fairburn cites an April report from Tim Graham of The Athletic in which Bills head coach Sean McDermott, among others, were said to be worried that the issues with workplace culture the Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment were facing could impact the Bills’ own culture.

Similarly, if there is any belt-tightening on the Bills’ side of the Pegulas’ operation, it could impact McDermott and GM Brandon Beane first. Both men have two years remaining on their current contracts, and extension talks for McDermott were supposed to be on the table this offseason. COVID-19 has delayed the start of those negotiations, but with the HC market trending upwards, it remains to be seen whether the Pegulas will be able to make a competitive proposal when the time comes.

Of course, underlying this entire discussion is the looming issue of the Bills’ future in Buffalo. Last June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it very clear that the Pegulas will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills where they are, and he reiterated those sentiments earlier this year. Though the Pegulas may not be feeling any negative financial pressure with respect to the Bills right now, it’s hard to say if that will change when — or if — they decide to build a new stadium.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Sign RB Zack Moss

The Bills have officially signed third-round running back Zack Moss, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Per the terms of his slot, Moss will earn $4.6MM over the course of his four-year deal.

Moss could have gone much higher 2019 draft, if not for season-ending knee surgery. Before he went under the knife, he racked up 1,096 rushing yards off of 179 carries, good for an average of 6.1 yards per attempt. When he came back last year, he went off for 1,400 yards with a 6.0 ypc average.

Moss’ knee checked out well in a pre-draft exam and the Bills believe that Moss is ready to be a difference-maker at the pro level. In Buffalo, Moss will team with Devin Singletary to form a 1-2 backfield combo.

With Moss officially in the fold, the Bills have now wrapped their entire 2020 draft class. Here’s the full rundown, via PFR’s tracker:

2-54: AJ Epenesa, DE (Iowa): Signed
3-86: Zack Moss, RB (Utah): Signed
4-128: Gabriel Davis, WR (UCF): Signed
5-167: Jake Fromm, QB (Georgia): Signed
6-188: Tyler Bass, K (Georgia Southern): Signed
6-207: Isaiah Hodgins, WR (Oregon State): Signed
7-239: Dane Jackson, CB (Pittsburgh): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Zimmer: Plan Was Not To Trade Stefon Diggs

The Vikings’ starting lineup will look considerably different this season. After the team kept signing its core members to extensions over the past few offseasons, it dismantled some of that nucleus this year. While the exits of Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and Trae Waynes were noticeable, none of Minnesota’s moves registered like the Stefon Diggs deal.

Diggs is Buffalo-bound after the Vikings traded him for a package of picks headlined by this year’s No. 22 overall selection, which became LSU wideout Justin Jefferson. Despite entering another offseason near the salary cap, and with Diggs having created some distractions during his Twin Cities stay, Mike Zimmer said the team was not intent on trading its talented wideout.

Honestly, Diggs did not have to go,” Zimmer said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (via NFL.com). “We really didn’t have any intention of trading him. Quite honestly, he put out a couple tweets, and there were some things going on there. But Stefon worked extremely hard. He practices like crazy. He wants the ball — like all receivers do.

Really, what happened was, Buffalo came in and gave us all those picks. And we were up against it in the salary cap. So we just felt like we could save some money, get a bunch of picks, maybe get a young receiver like (Jefferson) that we got. So, I wish him well. He’s a good kid. He worked hard for me.”

The Bills sent the Vikings 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks and a 2021 fourth-rounder for Diggs, who is signed to a $14.4MM-per-year deal through 2023. This haul ended up being similar to the one the Seahawks sent the Vikings for Percy Harvin seven years ago. Seattle dealt first-, third- and seventh-rounders for Harvin in 2013, and the Vikings used the top pick to draft Rhodes. This time, Minnesota used the top acquired asset to fill the void created by the receiver trade, and Jefferson will be tasked with filling Diggs’ spot alongside Adam Thielen.

Buffalo discussed Diggs with Minnesota before last year’s trade deadline, and the Vikings were believed to have softened their asking price when the teams talked again in March. Diggs missed practices last season and was believed to be dissatisfied with his role, leading to trade rumors. This and Diggs’ pre-trade tweets suggesting he was not long for Minnesota notwithstanding, Zimmer did not characterize the five-year Viking as a major problem.

Really, if you said somebody was a pain in the butt, you probably wouldn’t say him,” Zimmer said. “I’ve been around way worse guys than him. I hope he has a great career and finishes up strong.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York To Allow Training Camp For Pro Sports Teams, Effective Today

Effective today, professional sports teams will be permitted to being training camps in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). Naturally, teams will also have to follow appropriate health protocols, Cuomo says. 

[RELATED: Latest On College Football’s Plans]

Cuomo’s announcement gives the Bills the greenlight to hold training camp in Pittsford, NY on the campus of St. John Fisher College. This also opens up a potential avenue for the Jets and Giants, who ordinarily hold their camps in Florham Park and East Rutherford, New Jersey, respectively. For the last couple of months, teams in hotspot states like New York, New Jersey, and California have been weighing alternate sites in states that have lifted their restrictions. If New Jersey continues to stay on lockdown, the two Meadowlands teams may see a move to New York as an easier and more cost effective solution.

On the whole, it’s an encouraging sign for the NFL, professional sports, and the country as a whole. Soon, we could see restrictions eased in even more NFL-hosting states.

Starting June 1, the NCAA will allow voluntary activities for Division I football and basketball. The NFL is moving in a similar direction and plans to play things by ear, in accordance with their phase-by-phase program.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In NFL Transactions History: Bills Release Richie Incognito

Two years ago, the Bills moved on from their bizarre saga with Richie Incognito. They released the offensive lineman from the reserve/retired list, paving the way for him to play for another team. At the time, no one knew whether the veteran would get that opportunity. 

Incognito, a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the league’s best guards, made headlines for all the wrong reasons throughout his career. In 2013, he was alleged to have bullied and disparaged Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin, which prompted Martin to leave the team and the NFL to suspend Incognito. After missing half of ’13 and all of ’14, he returned to the league with the Bills.

On the field, Incognito continued his excellence. He played every single snap for the Bills in 2015, earned a fresh ~$16MM deal prior to 2016, and graded out as one of the league’s best guards in 2017. The advanced metrics showed that Incognito was elite throughout those three years in Buffalo – he placed No. 2, No, 7, and No. 12 in the league in each of those seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.

Then, things turned once again. In March of 2018, Incognito agreed to rework the remainder of his contract, cutting his base salary in half. Weeks later, he fired his agent via Twitter. Then, Incognito retired, citing health issues and dissatisfaction with his deal.

It pisses me the [expletive] off,” Incognito said. “The contract and all that pissed me [off] and all that, but (retiring) has nothing to do with that.

The Bills placed Incognito on the retired list on April 12, 2018. On April 15, 2018, he requested his release. Then, on May 21, 2018 – about six weeks after Incognito announced that he was done with football – the Bills granted his request. Two days after that, Incognito caused a scene at a gym in Florida and told police that he believed he was being tracked by FBI agents for his possession of secret NSA documents. One psychiatric hold and a few months later, Incognito was arrested at an Arizona funeral parlor for threatening employees who refused to cut off his father’s head, which he wanted for research purposes.

Most in the football world figured that would mark the end of Incognito’s career, but Jon Gruden gave him another chance to play last year. Towards the end of another strong season, the Raiders inked the veteran to a two-year, $14MM deal, set to begin this fall.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Latest On Bills DL Ed Oliver

Ed Oliver will continue to participate in the Bills’ offseason program, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). Meanwhile, the defensive lineman is facing charges for gun possession and driving while intoxicated following his Saturday night arrest.

[RELATED: Bills’ Ed Oliver Arrested On Gun, DWI Charges]

The Bills plan to let the legal process take its course, Pelissero hears, though it’s not immediately clear how the league office will proceed. Ideally, the Bills would like to have last year’s No. 9 overall pick on the field in 2020. Oliver showed serious potential with five sacks in his rookie year and he’s slated to take on an even larger role now that Jordan Phillips is out of the picture.

Last year, Phillips led the team with 9.5 sacks, but the Bills allowed him to walk in free agency knowing that Oliver could keep the pressure on. If Oliver’s availability is in doubt, the Bills may have to explore some out-of-house options for the front seven. For now, they’re projected to start Oliver, Mario Addison, Star Lotulelei, and Jerry Hughes on the front four. Meanwhile, they’ve got Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler, and Harrison Phillips among their backup options for the interior.

In other Bills news, GM Brandon Beane says he did not have any interest in a Sammy Watkins reunion this year. Watkins’ account may be slightly different, but in any case, the Bills are mostly set at wide receiver now that they have former Vikings superstar Stefon Diggs on board.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Epenesa, Patriots, Jets

In January, defensive end A.J. Epenesa looked the part of a top-15 pick. But, after a shaky combine performance, his draft stock crashed. That worked out just fine for the Bills, who managed to land the Iowa standout in the second round.

It was a mistake,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said (via Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.com). “This guy is a better player than the 54th pick in the draft, but time will tell. I think the Bills did a hell of a job and I’m happy he’s there.”

For now, Epenesa will play behind bookends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison (he may also see some extra snaps on the defensive line if Ed Oliver‘s Saturday arrest keeps him off the field in the fall). In the not-too-distant-future, the Bills see Epenesa as a starter who can make a difference on the edge and even feature as a 3-technique tackle in certain packages. Epenesa is disappointed about being left hanging on the phone last month, but he says he’ll use that as extra motivation on his NFL journey.

I feel like I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder and give myself a little extra motivation. I was number 54; there were 53 people picked in front of me,” Epenesa said. “Yeah, it gets me fired up and I want to be able to go out there and prove to people that they shouldn’t have doubted [me].

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is out of his walking boot, according to NFL.com’s Mike Giardi (on Twitter). Sanu joined the Patriots via midseason trade with the Falcons last year, but an ankle injury in his third game with New England hampered him throughout the year. The veteran went under the knife earlier this year and now appears to be on track for a healthy return. Sanu is under contract for one more season at $6.5MM, a reasonable sum considering his ability. In theory, they could cut him, but it would be a surprise since they gave up a second-round pick for him less than a year ago.
  • The Jets have serious interest in free agent cornerback Logan Ryan, but as of late last week, they have not put a formal offer on the table for him, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY hears. Meanwhile, the rival Dolphins may be a surprise suitor for his services. For his part, Ryan says he’d be down to join Gang Green…or any NFL team besides the Titans.