We’ve seen some success from rookie quarterback and head coach combinations in recent times but, with E.J. Manuel’s development disrupted by injuries throughout 2013, the Buffalo Bills didn’t enjoy the same results.
Head Coach Doug Marrone lost his defensive coordinator as Mike Pettine headed to Cleveland to become their new head coach, but the defense still has plenty of talent. They do have some holes on the roster, however, so keep that in mind as we take a look at the current projected starters based on who the team has under contract right now.
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– 2013 was a down year for C.J. Spiller, with that in mind we have him down as a solid starter. He can vault himself back up a bracket if he can get himself back to his 2012 form however. Back then he averaged 3.6 yards after contact per carry and forced 53 missed tackles, leading our Elusive Rating Signature Stat by some distance.
– With Scott Chandler currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent (see Buffalo’s free agents here), we have Lee Smith slotted in as the new starting tight end. Heading into his fourth season he has shown himself to be an able blocker but, with just 13 receptions in his career so far, we haven’t seen anything to suggest he can contribute much in the passing game.
– Defensively, the front seven for the Bills looks to be an area of strength, with six of the seven projected starters considered to be at least solid starters. Kiko Alonso had a fantastic rookie season in coverage, but still has some work to do against the run to elevate his rating.
– The team lacks a true free safety on the roster with Jarius Byrd scheduled to hit free agency. That would leave Da’Norris Searcy playing out of position so you would expect them to look to find a free safety through free agency or the draft.
– We currently have the Bills penciled in as a 3-4 defensively, but with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on board that is potentially up in the air. They have the personnel to run either currently, so free agency may give a better idea as to which way they are leaning.
2014 Cap Situation
With plenty of starters in place, the Bills projected $18.9 million in cap room looks fairly healthy. It allows them to be as aggressive as they want to be to fills their most important needs. They aren’t in as good shape as teams like the Oakland Raiders, but plenty of teams would certainly love to switch places with them.
The team has $3.1M tied up in backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, who suffered another concussion in the preseason and might not be able to come back from this one. That would push them over the $20M mark in terms of cap space but there doesn’t look to be much more in the way of savings to be made, with the biggest savings coming from players who are established starters, whom cutting would seem counterproductive.
Opportunities from the Roster
Speedster Marquise Goodwin showed some explosiveness on his 17 catches, averaging 16.6 yards per catch and could potentially unseat T.J. Graham as the team’s number three receiver if he continues to develop and Graham struggles again. Stefan Charles showed flashes of potential on 82 snaps in his first season after arriving from Canada, including recording five defensive stops in the regular season finale, and could force his way to a greater role on the defensive line with a strong offseason. Linebacker Ty Powell, a seventh-round pick a year ago, saw 82 snaps in the preseason and just 15 in the regular season. While that’s not enough to judge a player on, he performed well enough that he’s worth keeping an eye on this offseason as someone who could potentially step up as a role player. They added tight end Tony Moeaki in December and if he could rekindle his pre-injury form could start, but it’s been so long since we’ve seen him at his best that it’s hard to say how much he can contribute.
Projected lineups by team:
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