Is Jerry Hughes Worth What He Wants From The Buffalo Bills?
The Buffalo Bills for the 15th season in a row failed to make it to the postseason, but this year is different from most of the others. For the first time in a long time, there is a definite sense of optimism within the organization and the fans. The team was an outside shot to make it to the playoffs until Week 16 against the Oakland Raiders. The Bills defense, which was ranked 4th in the NFL, simply had a bad game. They allowed 347 yards to an offense whose passing ranked 26th and a running game that ranked 32nd. The two weeks prior to that, they ended Peyton Manning's consecutive touchdown streak of 51 games despite losing to the Denver broncos and held Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to 13 points, incuding sealing the win with Mario Williams' strip/sack which became a safety. This year made even the most skeptical people look at Buffalo as a legit NFL team and the best threat to soon take New England's six years and counting hold on the AFC East. Rex Ryan coming over has given the Bills even more attention, whether for better or worse, but that's a whole different story. Or is it?
Jerry Hughes has been stellar for the Buffalo Bills his last two seasons. racking up a total of 19.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Not too shabby, especially considering he is playing with three amazing defensive lineman in Mario Williams, who had 14.5 sacks along with Marcell Dareus, considered to be one of the top interior lineman in the game and Kyle Williams. While some may say Hughes benefitted from playing alongside those three, Hughes is currently only 26 years of age, and could very well still have his best years ahead of him. With his free agency status looming, Hughes scoffed at the idea of taking a little less money to stay with Buffalo, clearly seeking to optimize his potential payday. With players risking serious injury and the guaranteed money not always looking great, you can't really blame this young man for thinking about his future.
If Rex Ryan does change the defensive set-up from 4-3 back to his 3-4 setup, this brings up some questions as to how Hughes will be used and how effective he can truly be. If he is a rush only linebacker, does he then not become an every down player? This could also affect his decision to stay or sign with another team. I have faith that Ryan will take an already potent Bills defense and turn them into the bullies he projected during his press conference. As impressive as this defense is, it was still without Kiko Alonso, who was great as a rookie, totaling 87 solo tackes (159 in all), 4 interceptions, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Now with a whole season of recovery, he will undoubtedly be able to contribute the same, if not more, to this defensive unit. Preston Brown was a pleasant surprise, making a combined 109 tackles. Nigel Bradham had a combined 104 tackles, nearly combining his production in both the 2012 and 2013 season and also seven pass deflections. Brandon Spikes did well, though his numbers were down slightly, with a defense such as this, not everyone is going to have 100 tackles, and his enthusiasm has been contagious.
Even with a shift in defensive alignment, there would be no reason to believe Rex Ryan couldn't still maximize output from Jerry Hughes. Even without a lot of quality players, the New York Jets were still 6th in the NFL in points allowed. Ryan has to be thrilled with what he has currently inherited. The only reason Buffalo would have to not sign Hughes is an outside chance for them to convince Darrelle Revis to jump ship and reunite with his former coach whose game plan has vaunted him to the short list of shutdown corners, even earning the popular moniker "Revis Island." Darrelle only had two interceptions in the 2014 regular season, but did have 14 passes defensed and has increasingly shut down his side of the field with every game. While Revis is back to form, there is no way the Bills can afford him, keep Hughes and upgrade the offense, which is a top concern for Buffalo. And with there not being any free agent quarterbacks to throw money at, might as well keep this defense intact.
Before money can be brought up, the biggest question is where Hughes will fit in with the 3-4 scheme. If Rex can convince him that his snaps will not decrease and he will be every bit as effective, then keep him and give the man his money. Someone is going to give Hughes what he wants, might as well be somewhere he is proven to work out. Jerry Hughes is definitely a high motor, fiery personality. A coach like Ryan will feed that fire and build the bully identity. If this doesn't work out and Hughes bolts, then you would find a formidable, less costly replacement that fits better and use the money to go after Julius Thomas, a tight end that would be a great security blanket for whoever the quarterback will be and to compliment Sammy Watkins. Many are assuming it will be E.J. Manuel, but in all likelihood, someone will be brought in to keep him on his toes. For once, the Buffalo Bills will have an offseason that will be scrutinized with increased pressure to build upon the pieces in place and make it to the illusive postseason.