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The incredible outcry from every direction about the Buffalo Bills’ re-signing of Leodis McKelvin is deafening. It’s also entirely expected, as any move this team had made with him would have been.
They can’t win; people find it in themselves to demolish them no matter what they may do. They bring back McKelvin for four years but give him what is deemed ‘starter money’ so everyone and their brother chooses to take issue with it. I’m fine with that – personally, I don’t care if the guys on my favorite teams make twenty million or twenty cents, but to each their own – it’s at least a stance. I can see both sides of the coin with McKelvin. He struggled mightily throughout the majority of his rookie deal with the team, yet at other times he looked like the player we expected to see when Buffalo took him with the eleventh overall pick in 2008. We have a tendency to remember the bad, though, and I get that.
To put it lightly, the kid is streaky. It seems to be almost all mental. Physically, Leodis McKelvin is an absolute freak. In the return game, he cuts through the opposition with speed, patience, and necessary moves. In coverage, he is routinely stride-for-stride with his man and rangy in his zone. It’s his decision making, his timing when the pressure is on and the ball is heading for him that more often than not does him in. Even when he was at Troy, McKelvin was praised for his top-notch footwork, closing ability, and coverage skills while quietly being torn down for his wishy-washy ball skills. It’s something that, you’d have to imagine, could be coached out of him if anyone were to devote some time to it. Regardless, the tools are there. The ability is there.
If the team ignored the young corner’s expiring deal and let him hit the free market, they would have been crushed all the same, and rightfully so. Time and time again, they flat out refuse to continue developing their highly selected players, letting them walk and chalking them up as a lost cause when they command more than a 22 year old makes. I’ll never understand that mindset, and it’s utilized often. If you’re comfortable enough with someone to take them with a high draft pick, comfortable enough to start them, and comfortable enough to keep them on the team through offseasons and trade deadlines as they progress into a higher caliber player than they were when you got them, why not be comfortable enough to give them a raise? Why be comfortable enough to let them walk away sans compensation?
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The only time in recent memory that this situation has come up and I’ve actually agreed with the team in their tactics is, well, just now. Yesterday, offensive guard Andy Levitre hit the open market and became a free agent. He has been far and away the team’s best lineman since being taken in the second round of the 2009 draft, starting every single game in the process. Between injuries and inconsistencies from others in his group, Levitre had often been asked to shift around and take on different responsibilities for the team which led to him playing all five positions across the line. Versatility, durability, and all-around talent made him one of the top available players and because of that his asking price was incredibly high. Shortly after the signing period opened up yesterday, Levitre signed with Tennessee for close to eight million dollars per year. In this case, I’m alright with the team following their model of letting players walk.
If it was just Levitre, they might be okay. You’ve got a reasonably cheap pair of tackles and the other guards aren’t pulling in a king’s ransom, but center and 2009 first round pick Eric Wood’s contract is up next year and he’ll likely command his own fruitful deal. Not to mention, another of 2009’s selections, Jairus Byrd, just got franchise tagged and will be taking up a sizable chunk of cap space very soon.
The point is, we will all too often turn whatever we can into a negative situation – tear it apart and complain about it for the sake of… what? Readership for some, a conversation starter for others – but most often, it seems completely natural and unavoidable. Just check out the main circles on Twitter – a lot of the key players and enjoyable names in the Buffalo blogosphere take joy in jumping down the throats of the local media for never turning in a positive story – most of them people I like, at that. How many of those same people would raise a fit about being fed garbage if Jerry Sullivan or Sal Maiorana went to their editors this week about how the Sabres are on the up and up – how the Bills are just a player away? These guys are paid to cover the teams that their employers cover and, unfortunately, those teams are not very good.
This happens with every shift, every decision either team makes. We over-evaluate every little thing to a point where we can’t accept something as beneficial to the club and it’s getting old. The Bills have a whole new regime in place – new coaches, new president, and new decision makers. If only for this year, pretend that you don’t know a thing about these guys. Pretend because you don’t. Pretend because it’s enjoyable to have hope – because it’s fun to like things. Brandon, Marrone, and company weren’t brought on to steer a sinking ship further down, so give them the benefit of the doubt for at least this season. Whatever they do (or don’t do) this week in free agency, throughout the month, and into the summer, ease up on your curmudgeonly ways. I’m ready to like watching my teams again, and with a little cooperation, that might be possible for all of us.