The Buffalo Bills have been the NFL's highest spenders this offseason, but how do their moves in free agency stack up against other teams?

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando has put together grades for each team and ranks the Bills within the top third of the NFL, although they're not among Sando's best-performing teams in free agency.

Sando writes that the prices for running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Charles Clay "arguably were extravagant" and calls the Bills' approach "very high-risk."

ESPN NFL Insiders Bill Polian, Field Yates and Matt Williamson also weigh in with their takes.

PHOENIX -- The Buffalo Bills made a splash in the draft last offseason, landing receiver Sammy Watkins in what became the biggest trade of the first round last May.

Part of the fallout from the trade is that the Bills will have a considerably thinner draft class this spring, and unlike with Watkins last season, general manager Doug Whaley wants to keep the expectations low for his small haul next month.

"The way our team is now -- and maybe I'm just trying to get it out there -- our second-round pick, our third-round pick, they're going to be contributors," Whaley said at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday. "But there's not too many open spots for them to come in and start."

The Bills have an NFL-low two picks in the first 150 selections. The league average is 4.8 selections over that span.

"So when you look at our draft next year like, 'They didn't get anything out of those guys.' Our team is not going to be easy -- especially for the fifth, sixth and seventh round -- not only to make, but to contribute," Whaley explained. "Because we have depth on special-teams guys and we have depth across the board.

"That's good for us because our whole philosophy is to have young guys come in as depth, so two or three years from now -- if we lose free agents -- they've already been in the system, and then you're not counting on them to not have those rookie mistakes."

The Bills will have six selections in April's draft.

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Coach Sean Payton loves C.J. Spiller. He sees Spiller being great at screens, sweeps and inside runs, an explosive runner..

PHOENIX -- Bryce who?

Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan isn't willing to learn the name of Bryce Brown until the running back fixes a perceived fumbling problem, simply calling him the "fast dude" at the AFC coaches' breakfast Tuesday.

General manager Doug Whaley can see why Ryan might label Brown that way but said he wants his coaching staff to keep an open mind about the fourth-year runner, whom Whaley traded a 2015 fourth-round pick to acquire last offseason.

"It's a perception that's out there on him and this new coaching staff, they haven't worked with him, so they don't really know," Whaley said at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday. "They're just going off what they've heard from Philly, his fumbling problems, he had a fumble here.

"So I just implore them to say, '[You] have a clean slate.' Work with him. If he as a fumbling problem still, that's on him. But I think once they get to work with him they'll see."

Brown was only active last season when C.J. Spiller was on injured reserve. His most significant action (seven carries for 35 yards) came a Week 10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when Brown fumbled a would-be touchdown as he galloped towards the end zone.

"When you get tagged for being known for something, it's easy to get in this league and hard to live down," Whaley said. "He had one fumble last year. That was a big fumble, and in my opinion it was a hell of a play by the defender. It wasn't him carrying it out there. He was [holding the ball tight]. The guy came in and [dislodged the ball]. Made it right on the ball. If [Scott] Chandler covers it, no one's talking about it."

In his first two answers Tuesday about his backfield, Ryan listed Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon as depth options behind LeSean McCoy, but not Brown. The Bills were also interested in signing Bilal Powell this offseason, who played for Ryan and running backs coach Anthony Lynn last season in New York.

Whaley gave a high opinion of Lynn and believes he can teach Brown better ball security.

"It's going to be on Bryce, but I know Anthony Lynn is a very good coach," Whaley said. "And out of the 12 guys we interviewed, I think eight of them had Anthony Lynn as their running backs coach. So he's highly-respected in the league. And if anybody can get him out of that fumbling problem, it would be Anthony. So we're excited about that."

Bills to erect Ralph Wilson statue

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Late Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson will be honored with a life-sized statue erected at the stadium that bears his name.

The decision to commemorate the team's founder and Pro Football Hall of Famer member was the brainchild of new Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, and Wilson's widow, Mary, the team announced Wednesday. The statue will serve as a centerpiece in a newly established Founder's Plaza at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The announcement was made exactly a year after Wilson's death. His estate eventually sold the franchise to the Pegulas in October.

Kim Pegula referred to Wilson as an "icon" in saying the statue will honor the legacy of the man who established the Bills in Buffalo as part of the American Football League in 1959.


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Bills' Offseason Agenda

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
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Dan Graziano and Mike Rodak discuss what the Buffalo Bills are hoping to accomplish for the remainder of the offseason.

PHOENIX -- Call it a calculated spending spree, call it reckless. Either way, the Buffalo Bills have spent more than any NFL team this offseason.

The Bills have given out $91.5 million in guaranteed money in new contracts and restructured deals this offseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which is more than $11 million more than the next highest-spending team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Overall, the New England Patriots' competitors in the AFC East -- the Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets -- have spent $245.1 million in guaranteed money in the last two and a half weeks, which accounts for 22 percent of overall NFL guaranteed money handed out since free agency started.

Here are the Bills' deals this offseason ranked by guaranteed money:

RB LeSean McCoy: $26.55 million

TE Charles Clay: $24.5 million

DE Jerry Hughes: $22.15 million

WR Percy Harvin: $5.9 million

DT Kyle Williams: $4.5 million

FB Jerome Felton: $4 million

WR Marcus Easley: $2.2 million

QB Tyrod Taylor: $1.15 million

G Kraig Urbik: $300,000

DE Jarius Wynn: $250,000

PHOENIX -- Keeping their top-flight defensive line together is a priority for the Buffalo Bills, but doing so won’t be easy.

Even with Jerry Hughes now locked up on a five-year, $45 million deal, the team must now make an even bigger commitment to Marcell Dareus in order to keep him in town past this season.

[+] Enlarge Marcell Dareus
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThe Buffalo Bills will pay Marcell Dareus a guaranteed $8 million salary this season before he is set to hit the open market next spring.

On Tuesday, I asked general manager Doug Whaley if the Miami Dolphins’ six-year, $114 million deal with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has him concerned about the market for Dareus, and Whaley’s response was hardly subtle.

Whaley bent over, let out an exaggerated cough as if he had just swallowed Suh’s deal whole and then turned back to me.

"Phew. Yes, it does," Whaley said. "It does. It definitely does. Hopefully we don’t have to go to that level."

Another reporter asked how the Bills could handle another $20 million per season deal on top of their contract with Mario Williams, who will count approximately $20 million against the Bills’ cap next season.

"I know ... it’s scary," Whaley said.

Dareus isn’t yet on the level of Suh, one of the best players in the NFL, but at 25, Dareus is three years younger than Suh and has improved in each of the past two seasons.

The Bills will pay Dareus a guaranteed $8 million salary this season before he is set to hit the open market next spring.

A more palatable benchmark for the Bills could be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ deal with Gerald McCoy, which averages $14 million over seven seasons.

Part of the Bills’ decision-making with Dareus will be factoring in his behavior off the field. Dareus was arrested twice last offseason and has an ongoing case in Hamburg, New York, for street racing charges stemming from the second arrest.

"I think the maturity we saw this year has us feeling that unless he has a relapse soon, that we’re pretty comfortable that he’s taking that step for him as a professional -- to be more professional -- he’s taking those steps," Whaley said. "We’re feeling pretty confident."

PHOENIX -- The Buffalo Bills will pick up the $11.082 million fifth-year option on cornerback Stephon Gilmore this spring, general manager Doug Whaley confirmed at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday.

The fifth-year option is built into the contracts of first-round picks and can be exercised by a team prior to May 3 of his fourth season. Since Gilmore was among the top 10 picks in the 2012 draft, the amount of the option is equal to the transition tag at his position this offseason.

Gilmore's $11.082 million salary in 2016 is not fully guaranteed until the start of the league year next March.

Exercising Gilmore's option will give the Bills over $140 million in 2016 cap commitments, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The New Orleans Saints currently have an NFL-high $132 million in 2016 cap commitments.

The Bills could negotiate an extension with Gilmore over the coming year that could lower his 2016 cap number and keep him in Buffalo long term.

Rex Ryan, Bills 'stunned' that LeSean McCoy was available

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
10:00
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ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak says Rex Ryan spoke for more than an hour at the AFC coaches’ breakfast Tuesday in Phoenix -- twice as long as it took Buffalo to complete its trade for LeSean McCoy in early March.

2015 draft picks: Buffalo Bills

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
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The Buffalo Bills have six selections in the 2015 NFL draft, which will be held April 30 to May 2 in Chicago. Here’s a breakdown of the Bills' selections:

Second round: 50th overall selection

Third round: 81st overall selection

Fifth round: 155th overall selection

Sixth round: 188th overall selection

Sixth round: 194th overall selection

Seventh round: 234th overall selection

Note: The Bills did not receive any compensatory picks, which were announced Monday evening by the NFL.

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Sal Paolantonio and Mike Rodak discuss what they learned about the Bills during Day 2 of the NFL owners meetings.

PHOENIX -- With about $7 million in cap space remaining, according to NFLPA records updated Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills don't have much room to sign more free agents.

"We're at a point now that if we do anything, it's going to be just some minimum [salary] guys," general manager Doug Whaley said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We have to have room for our draft choices and we also have room for injury replacements during the season. So we're pretty much tapped out of the free-agent market."

But with a need for depth at linebacker, the Bills are keeping open the possibility of re-signing linebacker Brandon Spikes, who remains an unrestricted free agent.

"We're going to reach out to him and I'm going to call him when I get back," Whaley said. "Does it fit what we're offering and where he is in his career? We would love to have him back but again, it's got to be a fit on both parts."

Spikes played less than 50 percent of defensive snaps last season for the Bills and would undoubtedly remain in a part-time, run-stopping role if he returned to the Bills, who have Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown atop their depth chart at linebacker.

There has been little reported interest in Spikes, a former second-round pick in 2010, since he hit the free-agent market earlier this month.

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Bills head coach Rex Ryan discusses the process that led to acquiring running back LeSean McCoy, and his approach to the unstable quarterback situation.

Charles Clay excited to join Bills

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
4:54
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Charles Clay saw the Buffalo Bills as a team on the rise before he entered free agency.

When the Bills made the tight end one of their top free-agent priorities, Clay was eager to leave the Miami Dolphins to join a division rival.

The Bills' courtship of Clay lasted more than a week, but now that it has been completed, Clay is excited to be part of Buffalo's revamped offense.

"When you look at the organization as a whole, new owners, new coaching staff, a lot of moves made this offseason, I was kind of intrigued by it before I even took my visit," Clay said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters in Buffalo.

"I got the sense that they were a team on the rise."

The Bills made Clay one of their top free-agent targets. He traveled by private jet to Buffalo on March 10, the first day of the league's signing period, and spent several days in the area before signing a five-year, $38 million contract March 17.

The Dolphins, who had placed the transition tag on Clay, decided Thursday not to match the offer.

"I wanted to sign right away," Clay said. "At the end of the day, it worked out just how I wanted."

Clay started 47 games in four years with Miami after being taken in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He had 58 catches last season for 605 yards and three scores despite knee trouble that hampered him all season.

The Bills' hiring of former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan helped in their pursuit of Clay.

"I played against a Rex Ryan defense for the past four years. I know how tough it is to play against this defense," Clay said.


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