Jay Skurski’s Bills Mailbag: Kyle Williams’ future, the new WR depth chart, T.J. Yates’ future and (gasp) ‘tank’ talk

The Buffalo Bills held a short practice Friday following their first preseason game.

A couple reporters were standing on the sideline having a conversation with team communications boss Derek Boyko when the topic of what we were going to write about came up.

Going to, of course, because once the trades of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby were announced, that became everyone’s focus. Quite frankly, I told Boyko, I could’t even remember what I was going to write about. Trades like the ones the Bills pulled off Friday happen so rarely that they naturally become huge topics, so it’s no surprise this week’s Mailbag deals a lot with them.

Let’s get to your questions:

Put it this way – I’d be more shocked by that than I was by the trades themselves.

Here is part of what Williams had to say Friday: “I know more than anything my attitude and my leadership and the way that I work can’t change because if it changes, guys change. And above all that, I trust Sean. So I’m going to do what I’ve always done, and I’m going to go out there and get ready to win.”

That doesn’t sound like a guy who is ready to quit on his teammates, does it? Bills fans should appreciate the time Williams has left. The Bills are lucky to have a leader like him in the locker room.

On the surface, the Bills look loaded with slot receivers. Anquan Boldin, Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones all might fit there best, but “they can all play outside, as well,” Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said Friday.

“That may be where they’ve been used. Jordan, on that team in Philly, the way they used him was a lot in the slot but you can see he can win outside. Again, I leave where they go and how they line up with Rick Dennison and Sean and those guys. He’s another great addition for us, though.”

Boldin, Matthews and Jones are safely on my next 53-man projection. After that, Beane may have given us a slight hint about the team’s thinking when he was asked Friday about who would be the deep threat in Watkins’ absence.

“We have different guys who can run,” he said. Rod “Streater, Walt Powell can run. We have some different guys. Who knows, there’s other way to add more speed. We’re always looking for talent. We play in a month, so the main thing is to have our roster set when we host the Jets September 10th.”


Thanks to his dynamite camp so far, Streater also gets a spot on my projection. After that, I’m going with Andre Holmes and Brandon Tate, for now. Holmes is on shaky ground because of drops. I’m also interested in acquiring a compensatory third-round draft pick for the loss of Stephon Gilmore, and to do that the team would have to release Holmes, defensive end Ryan Davis and guard Vlad Ducasse. Those three players figured into the compensatory formula and would be the easiest to move on from.

Sure they could. In that scenario, you’re giving the backup job to rookie Nathan Peterman right out of the gates. Will the coaching staff be ready to put that on a first-year player’s plate?

Yates had a rough first preseason game and hasn’t done much to impress during training camp, so I agree that if the Bills need move on, he might sit on the open market. Peterman, however, hasn’t really seized the opportunity that’s been there for him. While he looked better than Yates in the first preseason game, the same can’t be said for daily practice performances.

The other issue here is, who are you preserving on the 53-man roster by keeping just two quarterbacks? It’s not like the Bills are so deep that they’ll be cutting great players at the start of September.

Brady is the best football player of all time for my money, so it will be cool one day for me to tell my son that I got the chance to see him play in person. I’m also fascinated to see how long he can continue to play at a high level after turning 40 this summer.

So, yes, I hope he sticks around, but it has nothing to do with the Bills. I’m also not sure what gives Lou here the confidence that the Bills are suddenly going to have Brady’s number after dominance that’s coming up on two decades.

I wouldn’t agree that there is “no attention” given to Matthews’ acquisition, but it certainly has taken a backseat to Watkins’ departure.

That’s understandable, though. From the moment he was was drafted – because of how he was acquired – Watkins’ every move in Buffalo was under a microscope. Perhaps that had a negative impact on him.

Watkins was one of the few players on Buffalo’ roster who commanded national attention. He was always going to be judged, maybe unfairly, by the trade former General Manager Doug Whaley executed to draft him.

You’re right that Matthews is a good player. His numbers are better than Watkins’ across the board, although they came in more games played. Watkins, though, had superstar potential. Matthews doesn’t move the needle in that way.

In the coming days, you’ll hear more about Matthews – starting with this story by The News’ Tim Graham, who reached him Saturday for his first interview after the trade.

We’re projecting out quite a ways, but I absolutely believe the acquisition of all these picks is with an eye on drafting a quarterback in 2018.

A recent mock draft from CBS Sports had six quarterbacks going in the top 20 of next year’s draft. It’s being talked about as one of the best quarterback classes in recent memory. Of course, there is still a lot of time for that to change. For starters, all those quarterbacks have to put together 2017 seasons that solidifies their status as first-round prospects. Then, they all have to declare for the draft instead of returning to school.

The Bills aren’t expected to be top-of-the-draft bad, so if you figured they land somewhere between 10 and 15, they’d have to hope several of the teams ahead of them don’t need a quarterback. By arming themselves with six picks in the first three rounds, however, they seemingly have the ammunition to move up and get their guy.

Finding a franchise quarterback is the most important thing Beane must do. If that means surrendering some of those picks to move up and do just that – which certainly looks like it could be the plan – then he should pull the trigger. Exactly how much they would need to trade is too hard to say right now because of the above uncertainties.

It’s not tanking. I’ll direct you to my tweet from Friday.

What it looks like the Bills are doing is trying to stay competitive in 2017 while also giving themselves the flexibility to rebuild the roster – starting with a franchise quarterback, which is explained above – through the draft.

A quick back story: When I put the call out for questions for this week’s mailbag, columnist Jerry Sullivan retweeted it (thanks Uncle Sully!). Jim must have seen that retweet and responded to both of us. I have to say, I kind of wish Sully would have taken this one for his mailbag, because I’m struggling to understand the question.

I’m not sure who in “this city” is settling, Jim. The current front office is attempting to win now and rebuild through the 2018 draft. You can call that middling it if you’d like, but they’re not settling.

There may have been a time where it felt like the organization’s goal was simply to make the playoffs to end the drought, but that shouldn’t be the focus. Quite frankly, I believe the playoff drought is overblown. It’s not like fans have stopped buying tickets because of it. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t consume fans.

In simplest terms, the team is trying to stay competitive with an eye on landing a franchise quarterback than can one day provide that parade for Jim in 2018. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. But at least there is a plan in place. Let’s see if it works.

It’s “Kawika” by the way. As a University of South Florida graduate, I should know.

Anyway, a quick search for “Kawika Mitchell Bills Jersey” on eBay [dot] com shows four listings for $29.95. Another entrepreneur has one listed for $22, though. I say you undercut both and come in at $19.99. That’s almost enough to park your car at New Era Field.

Anyway, that’s going to do it for this week’s mailbag. Thanks as always for the question.

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