Set the clock back six years ago to the 2006 offseason. The Bills were coming off a disappointing 5-11 2005 campaign and the supposed franchise quarterback of the future J.P. Losman went 1-7 before losing his starting duties to journeyman Kelly Holcomb. A team that showed such promise in 2004 fell flat on their collective face, struggling mightily on offense and underperforming on D. Heading into the 2006 draft the hierarchy of team needs went defensive tackle, wide receiver, rush end and in the back of some people’s minds quarterback. The draft featured two of the most exciting players in college football history in Texas Longhorns QB Vince Young and USC running back Reggie Bush. Heading up to about a week before the draft Bush almost seemed like a lock to hear his name being called first overall by Paul Tagliabue to earn the right to call himself a Houston Texan. About three days before the draft then Texans GM Charley Casserly shocked the world by announcing that the team had agreed to terms with NC State defensive end Mario Williams, effectively making him the first overall selection of the draft. Bush followed at the second pick to the Saints and Young followed suit as the third selection to the Tennessee Titans.
Fast forward to present day and the Bills current roster now features those first and third overall picks. Williams and Young have taken completely divergent paths to land in Western New York but their presence on the 2012 roster represents something much more than having two former top five picks dawning the red, white and blue. I’m probably beating a dead horse here but Williams is the biggest free agent the Bills have landed in franchise history and is arguably the most significant defensive acquisition since Reggie White left Philly for the Packers. Signing Young will likely be the last big name roster move the front office makes this offseason but don’t downplay its significance. Sure it’s nowhere near the level of Williams and Young likely won’t even battle for a starting job but his signing represents the front office’s commitment to winning now.
The writing was on the wall going into the offseason. After a fever pitch start the team did what we’ve become so accustomed to them doing for the past decade: disappointed. After Ryan Fitzpatrick took a shot to his ribs from London Fletcher, he and the entire offense just weren’t the same. Adding Young doesn’t take away Buddy Nix’s or Chan Gailey’s confidence in Fitz. It merely serves as an insurance policy for the worst-case scenario. The front office clearly doesn’t trust Tyler Thigpen’s abilities to take control of the O in the event that Fitzpatrick were to go down (God forbid). This is the type of move that winning teams make, adding depth at a non-need position to create more competition and having a more talented option in the event that something goes awry.
This move represents the culmination of an offseason where the front office addressed the most pressing needs (pass rusher, offensive line) while adding talented depth in the process. Sure you can make the case that the offense could use another playmaking receiver (sorry T.J. Graham) but for all intents and purposes this has already been the most successful offseason in recent memory. The additions of Williams, Mark Anderson and Young via free agency and a draft class loaded with talent and value put the Bills in prime position to make a serious playoff push in 2012.