Over the next several days, all the bigwigs of the National Football League will descend upon Phoenix for the annual Owners Meetings. That means mostly every owner, general manager, and head coach will be in one place at one time.
They’ll get together to vote on issues raised around the league, and which changes to make. This year, it’s also about the potential move from Oakland to Las Vegas for the Raiders.
However, from a local angle, it’s as juicy an event as you’ll find. The Bills’ presence in Arizona will be quite prevalent through the next few days. Five Bills related things to keep an eye on as it all gets started:
1) Will Terry Pegula talk?
- There haven’t been a lot of occasions, really since Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the Buffalo Sabres, that the owners of both major professional sports franchises in Buffalo have spoken to the media at large. Along the way, there have been some radio interviews here, and a couple of one-on-one’s there… but the last time Pegula spoke with several members of the media was just after Rex Ryan was hired as the Bills head coach in 2015. Given everything that has gone on with the team: Rex Ryan’s release, the excitement of a new head coach in Sean McDermott, and now, all the intrigue surrounding the general manager of the team. It’s not a guarantee that Pegula will speak with the media while at the Owner’s Meetings, but if there was a time and a place for it to happen, it would be in Phoenix with all of the who’s who in the NFL in one place.
2) Whaley Watch
- With the most recent report from Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, it insinuated that there is at least a chance the Bills make a move to bolster the front office to make head coach Sean McDermott feel like he’s got one of his own on that side of the organization. Even language being used as though the relationship likely “isn’t built to last,” it’s drawn up a lot of thought as to the future of the Bills general manager. At this point, McDermott and Whaley are co-workers that both answer to owners Terry and Kim Pegula — and not to one another. McDermott was hired by the Pegulas and was their selection, even though Whaley was involved in the search. What makes it even more interesting was the decision on Tyrod Taylor. If it were Whaley’s full decision, I firmly believe that the Bills would more than likely have a new starting quarterback in 2017. After everything that happened at the end of the 2016 season with Taylor, and the outward resentment he showed for getting benched. McDermott was the key in bringing Taylor back, which makes what’s happening at One Bills Drive all the more interesting.
3) An extended chat with Sean McDermott
- Every year at the NFL Owners Meetings, coaches all over the league sit down with the media in a more casual, informal way than you’ll find anywhere else. It’s called the Coaches Breakfast, and it’s broken down into two days — one for the AFC, and one for the NFC. The AFC’s turn will be on Tuesday morning, and it gets going around 10:15 am EST. It’s normally an extended chat, so the Bills new head coach will get questions about nearly everything having to do with his team — whether it be the quarterback situation, the outlook post-free agency, and the upcoming NFL Draft just to name a few. Expect to see a lot of morsels of information from Sean McDermott come out on Tuesday morning while you’re at work.
4) Where may the draft priorities lie?
- This falls in line with a lot of what we’ll learn about during the AFC Coaches Breakfast on Tuesday. Now that the Bills are through the early stages of the offseason, the ultimate team building exercise is the NFL Draft… something that the Bills need to be better at. The entire 2013 draft class is gone. From 2014, the only one that has a firm starting job and standing within the team is Sammy Watkins, and even he has questions because of him coming at the cost of another potential starter because of the trade, and due to injuries. The Bills have two starting players from 2015 in Ronald Darby and John Miller, but after that the next closest thing to a contributor is Nick O’Leary, who will likely be on the roster bubble this summer. At this point, 2016 is too early to judge because none of the players have gotten enough time on the field to make a legitimate impact, though, the lack of an immediate impact can also be considered a strike. If you want to go even farther back, the Bills have only two starters remaining (Marcell Dareus and Cordy Glenn) from 2011 and 2012. Five drafts, five starters…. that’s it. For the Bills to be a competitive team in the long run, this trend needs to change — and trying to figure out the priorities of the team heading into late April will be a notable storyline.
5) How should Bills fans feel about the Raiders move to Las Vegas
Terry and Kim Pegula came to save the day when there was a legitimate concern by Bills fans over the future of the organization. They’ve invested millions of dollars in the city of Buffalo, and other than the performance of both the Bills and the Sabres, have been mostly heralded for the work they’ve done to rejuvenate the city. They have been instrumental in their efforts, and that can't be overstated. Keeping it all in mind, the need for a new NFL stadium in Buffalo might not be a pressing one to the eyes of all inside the city and area, but the NFL wants it — and has been outward in their desires every time the subject has come up. Considering everything that happened in Oakland, with Raiders owner Mark Davis essentially pulling the plug over not getting enough funding to build a new facility, it shows the ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ mentality in the NFL is a very real thing. It’s alarming that three well-established franchises uprooted themselves over the past two years, all due to the push back about having a new facility. I don’t think it will ever get to that point with the Bills or the Pegulas, because they know what the NFL expected of them when they were ratified as owners. However, it at least gives a second for pause to think about the NFL in a larger scope than just the here and now, with another storied franchise hightailing it for a new, flashier destination. It doesn’t seem right, but this is the new way of the NFL.