Here’s the grim news for Buffalo fans: In a season in which the NFL is on an historic offensive pace, with 17 quarterbacks on pace to throw for 4,000 yards and 37 receivers on track for 1,000 yards, the Bills are woefully behind the league trend after four weeks.
The Bills are last in net passing, yards per play, sacks allowed and third-down conversion rate. They’re 31st in scoring with 50 points, ahead of only Arizona, and 31st in total offensive yards with 220.8 a game, more than 100 yards worse than 25 other teams.
This could be the worst offense in franchise history, with no receiver in the top 80 in the league in yardage and quarterback Josh Allen leading the team in rushing with 116 yards, never a good sign. LeSean McCoy leads the running backs with 85 yards. That’s a 340-yard pace for the NFL’s fourth-leading active ground-gainer. The fewest rushing yards gained in a season by the Bills’ team leader was Ronnie Harmon with 485 in 1987.
So it appears that the Bills, who are 1-3 heading into Sunday’s home game against the Titans, are bottoming out, destined for a high pick in the next draft. During his Wednesday press conference with the local media, Sean McDermott emphasized developing players and talked about his young team, a transparent nod to the future.
That being the case, what’s the point of keeping veteran players on a dysfunctional offense? It’s stunning to consider that three of the four biggest hits on this year’s salary cap are member of this pop gun attack: Tight end Charles Clay ($9 million); McCoy ($8.95 million) and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin ($8.459 million).
Benjamin, a bust as a No. 1 receiver since being acquired in a trade with the Panthers last year, will almost surely be gone after the season as a free agent. McCoy, who is 30 and past his prime, is on the books for a $9 million hit next season. So is Clay.
None figures into McDermott’s long-term “process,” so general manager Brandon Beane should do everything in his power to move them by the Oct. 30 trade deadline. That’s less than four weeks away, a day after the Bills host the Patriots in a Monday night game.
The Bills aren’t likely to get much in return for those three, not with GMs around the league knowing they’re looking to trim the roster. McCoy has a $6,175 million base salary next season. Clay also has another year on his deal at a base salary of $4.5 million.
McCoy is also under the shadow of a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, Felicia Cordon, who claims that McCoy was involved in a July home invasion in which she was robbed and beaten while living in a house owned by the Bills star. On Tuesday, Cordon amended the suit in a Georgia court, claiming that McCoy had physically abused her.
Cordon also said she had been contacted by other women who claimed to have been physically abused by McCoy, who is also involved in a custody suit with the mother of his 6-year-old boy.
So teams might be reluctant to take on McCoy’s remaining salary, plus his off-field issues. But if a contending team suffered a serious injury to a top running back, it might be willing to take the risk for a player of McCoy’s ability. Jacksonville could be a destination if Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury, which will sideline him this Sunday, lingers much longer.
Whatever the case, Beane should shop his overpriced offensive stars. Sure, it would further deplete the supporting cast for Allen, but how much worse could it get? Benjamin has gone through the motions at times and been on an emotional edge all season. The sooner the Bills get him out of Buffalo, the better. They gave Carolina a third- and seventh-round pick to get him last season. He wouldn’t fetch close to that now.
Beane and McDermott earned the trust of their fans by breaking the playoff drought last year — despite shipping out Sammy Watkins and Marcell Dareus, among others. Moving underachieving veterans won’t rankle Bills fans. The more reasonable fans have probably accepted that the team will be bad, giving the Bills a very high draft choice.
The Bills need drafts assets after giving up much of their currency to move up for Allen, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Zay Jones. The roster is thin. They need an influx of young talent to built a base of talented guys in their first contracts, which is how a team makes a serious championship run in the NFL.
McDermott was asked on Monday if he felt he had enough talent in his wide receiver room. He said yes. On Wednesday, he was asked the same question about his running backs. Again, he answered in the affirmative. What was he supposed to say?
There’s talent, but the offense is a disaster. McCoy is off to the worst start of his career. He’s talking like a team guy, but he has aspirations for the Hall of Fame. If this offense continues to drag down his numbers, he’ll be looking to go somewhere else, where he can perhaps start putting up the sort of rushing numbers to which he’s been accustomed.
The Bills should be shopping him aggressively. Even if it’s a fifth-round pick, it’s an asset. A fifth-rounder can turn into a star. Kyle Williams went in the fifth round. So did Tyreek Hill. What do they have to lose at this point?
They’re a pathetic offense with McCoy, Benjamin and Clay, in a season in which NFL offenses are flowing at a record pace. How much worse could it be without them?