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Bills continually plowing under bottom of roster, practice squad

By Tim Graham

To everything, churn, churn, churn ...

In hopes of maximizing personnel, the Buffalo Bills have been busy rototilling the bottom part of their roster and practice squad this fall.

Over the past nine weeks, the Bills have made 33 player transactions. Few were forced by injuries. Most were made simply to improve depth and bring aboard raw prospects.

"That's something that we're always trying to do because I believe development in this league is extremely important," Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "and that's the way that we can develop players, bringing players in and out and seeing which one sticks."

While the Bills are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, much of the focus has shifted to player evaluation for the future. That's why veteran running back Tashard Choice was cut, and former practice-squad player Ronnie Wingo will get a look-see over the final four weeks.

Marrone said he meets "constantly" with General Manager Doug Whaley and player personnel director Jim Monos about tweaking the roster with an eye toward the future.

"That's where sometimes those guys pop, and that's where they come from," Marrone said. "I think when you look at the situation that we're in, when I think you look at salary cap, I think that there are certain positions you need to develop. If you don't develop those positions, you're going to get in trouble from a salary cap standpoint and not be the best team you can be if you're relying on paying players at the highest price to play certain positions."

As you'll see below, the Bills regard some developmental positions more prominently than others.

In the final season with GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey, the Bills made 28 practice-squad signings or releases. That total does not include players who were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, only those who were added to the developmental squad or released outright.

After the 2012 Bills signed their eight practice-squad players at the start of the year, they didn't make another move for four weeks.

Under Whaley and Marrone, the Bills have made 25 practice-squad moves already. They've also patrolled other teams' taxi squads, plucking defensive tackle Stefan Charles and guard J.J. Unga for the 53-man roster.

After signing their original eight, the Bills made three moves in September, six in October and six in November. The Bills have made two transactions so far in December.

The Bills already have matched last year's number of practice-squad players promoted to the active roster. They've elevated five, most notably quarterback Thad Lewis.

Of last year's promotions, receiver Marcus Easley is the only one still on the active roster. Wide receiver Kevin Elliott is on injured reserve. Safety Mana Silva left the team without permission in training camp, but remains Bills property.

A breakdown of practice-squad transactions the past two years:


Final practice squad: running back Zach Brown, tight end Derek Buttles, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, tackle Adam Grant, defensive end Corbin Bryant, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, linebacker Brian Smith.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 28.

Moves by position: nine offensive lineman, five receiver, four defensive back, three tight end, three defensive tackle, two linebacker, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: defensive tackle Jay Ross, offensive lineman David Snow, receiver Marcus Easley, safety Mana Silva, Ross again after being cut and re-signed and receiver Kevin Elliott.


Current practice squad: quarterback Dennis Dixon, receivers Cordell Roberson and Tommy Streeter, tackles Edawn Coughman and Jamaal Johnson-Webb, defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, linebacker Jacquies Smith, cornerback Mario Butler.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 25.

Moves by position: eight defensive end, five cornerback, five guard, two quarterback, two receiver, two offensive tackle, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: cornerback Johnny Adams, quarterback Thad Lewis, cornerback Brandon Smith, guard Mark Asper, running back Ronnie Wingo.

The breakdown shows the developmental emphasis shifted to defensive end, from one move last year to a team-high eight so far this year.

Also interesting is that previous Bills management didn't bother with a developmental quarterback, but the new regime has placed an importance there. Good thing, because Lewis helped the Bills remain competitive when rookie EJ Manuel missed four games with a knee injury.

Jairus Byrd avoids trade talk, reveals both feet hurting him

By Tim Graham

ByrdMugPro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd declared he's focused only on playing for the Buffalo Bills and declined to address Mark Gaughan's trade report in this morning's Buffalo News.

Byrd also revealed he has plantar fasciitis in both feet and has been dealing with the condition since last season.

Byrd was limited in practice for a second straight day and his status for Sunday's season opener against the New England Patriots is uncertain.

So, too, is his long-term future with the Bills. Once again, Byrd declined to refute the notion he wants to play elsewhere. Gaughan, citing two league sources, reported today that Byrd's agent, Eugene Parker, is trying to work out a trade by the deadline.

Continue reading "Jairus Byrd avoids trade talk, reveals both feet hurting him" »

Bills, Jairus Byrd have relationship that badly needs patching up

By Tim Graham

Believe this: Jairus Byrd is not thrilled about returning to the Buffalo Bills on their terms.

There's no reason to doubt Byrd will enjoy playing football or that he'll bring the competitiveness that sent him to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons. I'll be surprised if Byrd's first comments to reporters don't include flowery remarks about the Bills.

But multiple sources tell me considerable animosity remains between Byrd and the front office and that the toxicity flows both ways over his franchise-tag saga.

A comment from Bills General Manager Doug Whaley on Wednesday suggested the club preferred to keep Byrd on the sideline for the season opener against the New England Patriots.

Continue reading "Bills, Jairus Byrd have relationship that badly needs patching up" »

Bills weren't expecting Jairus Byrd to sign today; 2014 franchise-tag clause not in deal

By Tim Graham

ByrdMugPITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley was telling the truth today when he said there was nothing to report about Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd's contract situation.

A source close to the situation told me there had been no substantive contract talks recently, and Byrd surprised the club today by agreeing to sign his franchise tender for $6.916 million guaranteed.

The Bills said they will comment on Byrd's contract Wednesday, the final day of training camp at St. John Fisher College. Byrd did not respond immediately to an interview request tonight. It's uncertain when he will report to the team.

An overlooked and likely reason for Byrd to sign today is the decision guarantees he will be paid for every game in the regular season.

After final cuts on Aug. 31, teams are allowed to request a two-week roster exemption for players returning from a contract standoff. Players can't play and do not get paid if they don't count against the roster.

Therefore, had Byrd reported right before the regular season began and the NFL had granted the Bills' roster exemption, then Byrd would've missed paychecks of $406,823.53.

The collective bargaining agreement is not clear about what would happen had Byrd reported right before final cuts. An exemption ruling in the Bills' favor could've been costly. 

The source also told me Byrd's contract is the straight-up franchise tender and does not include a provision that would prevent the Bills from placing the franchise tag on him again in 2014. If the Bills were to do that, however, the commitment would be for $8.29 million guaranteed.

The CBA stipulates a second franchise tag be at a price 120 percent of the previous year's number.

Bills sign estranged safety Jairus Byrd to franchise tender

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- I guess that escalated quickly.

Nine hours after Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said there was "Unfortunately, nothing new to report" on Jairus Byrd's contract situation and the club hoped the two-time Pro Bowl safety would be signed before opening day, the Bills announced they signed Byrd to a one-year contract.

A statement from the Bills said they signed Byrd to his franchise tender. That would be a one-year deal guaranteed at $6.916 million.

The Bills could sign Byrd only to a one-year contract because they failed to reach a multiyear agreement before the July 15 for franchise-tagged players to do so.

Byrd is coming off a fantastic season in which he led the Bills with five interceptions and four forced fumbles. He tied for the team lead with two fumble recoveries.

He finished fourth in tackles with 76, making him the team's top-returning tackler. The first three -- linebacker Nick Barnett, safety George Wilson and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard -- are gone.

Whaley commented earlier today on what Byrd was missing while the Bills continued to learn new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's system.

"A lot of it's just installation and the mental part of it," Whaley said. "It's a new system. It's an intricate system, and safeties do make a lot of calls. So he's missed that and a lot of just the tempo of practice.

"So he's going to have some ground to make up, but he's a professional. I know he'll come in here ready to work and try to contribute as soon as possible."

Nigel Bradham calls marijuana possession 'bad decision'

By Jay Skurski

Nigel Bradham spoke in measured tones this afternoon regarding his recent ticket for marijuana possession.

Bradham was stopped at 2:01 a.m. Saturday along Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda for a window-tint violation, according to a report in the Tonawanda News. The officer who pulled Bradham over detected a strong scent of marijuana, the report stated, and Bradham eventually produced a bag with the banned substance.

Bradham was issued two tickets, one for marijuana possession and another for illegal tint on his window.

"It's a legal issue. It was a mistake on my behalf," Bradham said this afternoon at St. John Fisher College. "I just don't want to be a distraction. That's the main thing."

Bradham said he regretted his actions.

"Oh, yeah, most definitely. It's a bad decision," he said.

The matter is currently being reviewed by the NFL, according to General Manager Doug Whaley.

"There will be some kind of conduct," Bradham said, acknowledging the likelihood of some kind of disciplinary actions, "but we'll keep that between us and the team as far as that. We'll see what happens."

Bradham, a second-year linebacker out of Florida State, has started the first two preseason games.

"Pretty much just trying to stay focused on what we have going on here at training camp, practice and being focused in meetings and everything," Bradham said. "Obviously, I had a matter that happened to me. I mean, I have to abide by the rules. I know that."

Doug Whaley says 'nothing new to report' on Jairus Byrd contract

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley indicated today they're no closer to signing safety Jairus Byrd.

"Unfortunately, nothing new to report," Whaley said with a sigh after the Bills held a walkthrough at St. John Fisher College.

There's a widespread belief Byrd will report to the Bills in time for opening day, when players start to get paid.

"We hope he gets in here before the season opener," Whaley said, "but only he can tell us on that one."

Continue reading "Doug Whaley says 'nothing new to report' on Jairus Byrd contract" »

Doug Whaley: Bills don't condone Nigel Bradham's actions

By Jay Skurski

PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley met with reporters this afternoon to address the situation surrounding linebacker Nigel Bradham.

The Tonawanda News reported Monday that Bradham was issued an appearance ticket in the Town of Tonawanda for marijuana possession after being pulled over at 2:01 a.m. Saturday along Sheridan Drive.

"We take these situations seriously. We don't condone these actions," Whaley said. "It's something that's unfortunate and we'll deal with it as it comes."

Whaley said the case is being reviewed by the NFL as a violation of the league's personal conduct policy.

Continue reading "Doug Whaley: Bills don't condone Nigel Bradham's actions" »

Bills add a pair of O-linemen before first camp practice

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- One day after Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said he probably wouldn't fill any of their roster openings before the start of training camp, the Bills have added a pair of offensive linemen.

Interior lineman Antoine Caldwell and tackle Tony Hills are on the team.

The Houston Texans drafted Caldwell in the third round in 2009. He was a spot starter for them at center and guard for four seasons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Hills in the fourth round in 2008. He has played eight NFL games for the Steelers, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. He made his lone start last year.

Bills say they'll be patient with Jairus Byrd's absence

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Don't get your jockstrap in a bunch over Doug Whaley's comment the Buffalo Bills "have been in contact" with unsigned safety Jairus Byrd.

Whaley's quote almost immediately became a headline on the team's website, but Whaley didn't say when the "contact" occured, and he didn't say what "contact" consisted of.

Was it a lengthy discussion with numbers exchanged yesterday?

Did a carrier pigeon drop a rolled-up note on Byrd's lawn in June?

"Again, we're not going to do anything in public or in the media," Whaley said today at St. John Fisher College. "Just know that we have been in contact and the lines of communication are open."

Continue reading "Bills say they'll be patient with Jairus Byrd's absence " »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |