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Payne's Perspective: Bills Make Splash In Free Agency

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

A player to watch over the offseason is Michael Bush. Having him potentially land in a starting role for a team other than the Raiders (Cincinnati is a possibility) could result in him winding up as a top-10 running back. In the wake of Darren McFadden’s injury this past season, Bush finished 23 yards shy of the 1,000-yard rushing mark and added 37 catches for 418 yards in the passing game. If you take his stats from his last 10 games and pro-rate them to a full 16-game season, he’d have 1,342 rushing yards and 510 receiving yards. While he’s something of an injury risk, Bush is only 27 and doesn’t have a ton of mileage.

It appears as though we should know what jersey Peyton Manning will be wearing in 2012 by early this coming week. Would it surprise you to know that the Tennessee Titans are currently 20:1 to 50:1 in some places to win the Super Bowl? How much do those odds drop if they land Manning? Has he ever had an elite running back as good as Chris Johnson? The comparison to Edgerrin James isn’t close in my book. While I’m starting to tire of the Manning saga and where he lands, I find it interesting that instead of talking about Miami or Seattle, we’re talking about San Francisco or Tennessee. If the 49ers don’t land him, I hope they don’t make the same mistake the Jets did and throw money at Alex Smith as an apology. The last time I checked, these are men playing the game and if you try to sign a better player but don’t, no apology or monetary extension is necessary. If the 49ers do land Manning, wouldn’t they become the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl? I don’t have a preference on where Manning lands, but the scenario of him to Denver and Tim Tebow being traded into another starting role is intriguing.

The Peyton Hillis signing by the Chiefs was both a good and bad event in my book. I like it from a pure football standpoint, as $3 million for one year is good deal to land a guy who had 1,654 yards from scrimmage two seasons ago and is only 26. If I were Hillis, I would strongly look at firing my agent since there had to be a much more lucrative offer on the table over the last two seasons from the Browns. Hillis should provide a nice complement to Jamaal Charles as he returns from ACL surgery. The return from surgery has likely knocked Charles out of the first round of fantasy and now with Hillis comes the concern that he’ll lose goal-line carries as he did to Thomas Jones. With Hillis in the mix, would you predict over or under for Charles rushing for seven touchdowns this season? If your instinct is to go over, keep in mind that seven is his career-high for one season.

While the signing of Mario Williams is going to be the big story of the offseason for the Bills, perhaps equally as significant was re-signing Steve Johnson. Not only did the Bills lock up their leading receiver, they did so at a decent price. Here’s what Johnson signed for and his age compared to some other free agent wide receivers:

Steve Johnson (25) – five years, $36.5 million, $19.5 million guaranteed
Vincent Jackson (29) – five years $55.55 million, $26 million guaranteed
Marques Colston (28) – five years, $40 million, $19 million guaranteed
DeSean Jackson (25) – five years, $51.1 million, $15 million guaranteed
Laurent Robinson (26) – five years, $32.5 million, $14 million guaranteed
Pierre Garcon (26) – five years, $42.5 million, $21.5 million guaranteed
Robert Meachem (27) – four years, $25.9 million, $14 million guaranteed
Reggie Wayne (33) – three years, $17.5 million, $7.5 million guaranteed

What’s attractive about Johnson’s contract is the potential value it could have over the last two years. He may not have hit his prime yet and it would be difficult to find another receiver that’s had as good success as he has against star cornerback Darrelle Revis of the Jets. When you look at the AFC East, it’s probably a safe bet to predict New England as the favorite, but with the re-signing of Johnson and pickup of Super Mario, the Bills might not be too far behind. In comparison, the Jets have had a quiet offseason, signing Mark Sanchez to a three-year extension and the Dolphins traded away their best wide receiver, Brandon Marshall.

Speaking of the Dolphins, Miami looks like the destination for Matt Flynn. However, I wonder how they’re selling the team to Flynn, given that Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are the squad’s best wide receivers. A lot of analysts have Justin Blackmon going to the Rams with the sixth pick overall, but if they pass, do the Dolphins grab him with the eighth pick?

One of the players I targeted as a sleeper this season was Kyle Rudolph, but that went out the window after the Vikings signed John Carlson to a three-year deal. Before the signing it was thought Visanthe Shiancoe would be lost to free agency and Rudolph would be used as the team’s main TE target. If you put together those two players’ stats from last season, you’d have 658 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Given that Rudolph should be better in his second professional season, those stats could have been the floor and not the ceiling. However, with Carlson in the mix, it’ll be difficult to determine how much fantasy value any of the Viking’s tight ends will have this season.

How high should Brandon Lloyd be on draft boards this coming season? Keep in mind his stats from the previous two seasons:

2010 – 1, 448 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
2011 – 966 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns

While the numbers from last season don’t jump off the page, consider he was working with Sam Bradford, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. While knee-jerk reaction is to be bullish on him, keep in mind there’s only one football and plenty of mouths to feed in the New England offense. Tom Brady gets a small bump with the signing and now there’s an interesting debate as to who you’d rather have between him and Drew Brees next season. The backfield situation in New England is worth keeping an eye on, as Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen could have a lot of fantasy value if BenJarvus Green-Ellis leaves town.

With the departure of Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd will be viewed as a hot commodity and given the “sleeper” label for the upcoming season. However, don’t forget about teammate Vincent Brown, who should return good value as a late round pick. Brown took some time to get acclimated to the San Diego offense while dealing with leg injuries in 2011 and didn’t play until Week 3. He was then given a starting role when his teammates were bit by the injury bug and responded with back-to-back games of 79 and 97 receiving yards. His 17.3 yards per catch mark shows his ability to stretch the field and he should see a lot of single coverage playing with Floyd and Antonio Gates.