From 2006-2009 the Buffalo Bills drafted 10 players in the first or second round of the NFL draft. Of those 10 players drafted there are only two players currently under contract for next season, Eric Wood and Leodis McKelvin, three of those players were cut before their rookie contracts were up. Over the past decade the Bills have become notorious for wasting early draft picks by either not re signing them once their rookie contracts expired, trading them away before they could reach their full potential or just drafting players who end up being a bust.
The mindset has changed in recent years and the new regime have given Bills fans reason to think that the culture around Ralph Wilson Stadium is different. Since 2010, the first year Buddy Nix took over as Bills GM there have been nine players drafted in the first or second round, eight of them are currently starters and contributed significantly last year. These numbers are a refreshing sign that the franchise is headed in the right direction, but if the Bills front office and coaching staff really wants to prove to the fans and the players that they have truly turned the corner and winning is their number one priority they must re-sign Pro Bowl safety Jarius Byrd. Byrd has already made it known that he wants to be paid like the best safety in football and the best he very well might be.
If the Bills did not re-sign their best player the message they would send to the roster, the fan base and any potential player who is thinking about signing there in the future would be that they are not serious about winning as they claim to be. The concept of teams over paying for players in professional sports is real and it happens, but in the case of the Bills there would be no plausible way to explain not re signing Byrd.
Granted Byrd has the choice of whether or not he wants to return to the Bills and play another season which might not result in a playoff birth, but showing and proving is what it is all about in this league and the Bills need to show Byrd that they are willing to exhaust every possible option to resign him and in the process it means that they will be also proving themselves that they indeed are serious about winning. In 2007 the San Francisco 49ers signed corner back Nate Clements and gave him an eight year 80 million dollar contract that at the time made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, five years late they were playing in the NFC conference championship, six years later they were playing in the Super Bowl. The Bills are headed in the right direction and are set up to have success sometime in the near future, but it is up to the powers that be to make sure that they stay the course and see this plan all the way through.
Lawren Hightower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ell_aych