March 28, 2011 - 11:11 PM
Bills coach Chan Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix addressed several hundred suite owners and premium seat holders during the annual "state of the team'' event at the Buffalo Hyatt Regency Monday night.
After talking to the fans, Gailey and Nix met briefly with the media and Auburn QB Cam Newton was the dominant topic.
Heisman Trophy winner arrived Monday night, and according to some reports, had dinner with Bills coach Chan Gailey at a Buffalo restaurant. After taking a physical Tuesday morning, Newton will spend the day meeting with Gailey and the other coaches.
Bills General Manager Buddy Nix added that quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Christian Ponder of Florida State also have scheduled visits. Newton and Gabbert are projected top-10 picks. Ponder is expected to go in the second or third round, but the Bills coaches got to work with him at the Senior Bowl. Nix also hasn't ruled out a couple more quarterbacks visiting One Bills Drive.
Gailey and Nix said quarterback is not the Bills' biggest need because they have veteran starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. But both men said the team has to strongly consider grabbing a potential franchise quarterback if they think he's available with the third pick in the draft.
"Let me just say this to you, and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late,” Nix said. "Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."
Gailey echoed those thoughts: "I think what you’re trying to evaluate is if there is a guy at quarterback that you believe can be a franchise quarterback long term. You hope to never be picking three again and it’s your one opportunity to make that pick if that’s what you believe. If you don’t believe there’s a franchise quarterback for the future long term, we have other needs. It’s not like we don’t know we have other needs. We understand that. But you’re weighing what’s best for the franchise."
Nix joked to the fans that there's an unwritten rule that "it’s not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft discussions. Everybody does it, it’s accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it is the truth. Everybody tries to connect the dots.''
No doubt a lot of fans and media are trying to make a connection between the Bills and Newton. But just because Newton is in town doesn't mean he'll be playing here on Sundays this fall. The Bills bring in a lot of players they don't end up drafting. By the same token, they have drafted guys that never visited (Lee Evans for example).
Nix pointed out the Bills will be visiting with players at other positions, too. Outside linebacker Von Miller was in town recently and Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will be here at some point as well, according to Nix. Both players are top-10 prospects. Several national mock drafts that don't have the Bills taking Newton or Gabbert believe Miller or Dareus will be the choice at No. 3.
Meanwhile, Nix indicated he has a couple of pro day visits lined up this week. On Thursday, he's headed to North Carolina to see defensive end Robert Quinn and linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. Quinn didn't play last season due to an NCAA suspension for illegal dealings with an agent, but he's one of the top players in the draft and a likely top-15 choice.
On Thursday, Nix will be at Clemson to take a look at DaQuan Bowers, the No. 1-rated defensive end in the draft. Bowers is still recovering from knee surgery that reportedly caused him to fail some teams' physicals.
Nix said this is an important workout for Bowers, who was seen as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick before his knee issue was revealed.
"It's big for him," Nix said. "I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."