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Carucci Take2 Bills Mailbag: Is putting a new Bills stadium in Orchard Park a missed opportunity?

You’ve got Buffalo Bills questions. I’ve got answers. Let’s do this.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — IMD asks: With a current need for a new convention center, hockey arena and football stadium, won’t the proposed Bills 60,000-seat open-air stadium in Orchard Park end up being a huge missed opportunity for Western New York and downtown renaissance, and a failure of local leadership when looking back in the future?

Vic Carucci: Not building a multi-use facility as part of a broader plan that includes construction of a new convention center does look like a missed opportunity.

However, I do understand why the Bills are proposing that another open-air stadium be built across the street from the current one in Orchard Park. The biggest reason, of course, is cost. The $1.4 billion price tag to replace Highmark Stadium is, by most estimates, about $1 billion less than the cost of putting a new stadium downtown. And that might not even factor in the cost of any sort of dome.

There also is something to be said for having a new stadium in the same vicinity as where the Bills already have their headquarters, and then leveling and/or repurposing the existing stadium with an eye toward making the team’s current footprint even larger. There would be ample room to create opportunities to draw fans and sponsorship partners to training camp practices and a variety of offseason events. Additionally, putting the new digs downtown would leave behind substantial questions about what to do with the old stadium.

That said, I can’t help but wonder whether the various factions involved in the negotiations, especially those within state and county government, would use their creative thinking to the fullest and consider every possibility to get maximum value from the project.

I understand the focus being on solidifying something well before the 2023 expiration of the Bills’ lease with the county and removing even the tiniest doubt about their long-term future in Western New York. Still, it would make absolute sense to show at least some patience while examining ways to find untapped (or lesser tapped) revenue opportunities that could bring benefits beyond merely keeping the Bills in WNY.

It would make sense for downtown to be a significant part of that discussion.

Ed Helinski asks: In your estimation, which cut player should have made the Bills roster?

VC: I probably have a decent amount of company in thinking that tight end Jacob Hollister should have stuck. By pretty much all accounts outside of the team, he performed well enough in training camp and the preseason to have earned a spot.

I thought the fact he was a former teammate of Josh Allen at Wyoming would work in his favor. But it seems that joining the Bills as a free agent might have been at least somewhat less attractive to the team’s decision-makers than keeping him over either of the two tight ends they drafted, Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney.

Sean McDermott gave a strong endorsement of Knox’s place on the roster Thursday when he said, “In Dawson, we’ve seen improved play, really, through spring and now through training camp, whether it be the run game or the pass game. And I think Josh (Allen) would say the same. (Knox) has seen an increased level of trust from Josh in the tight end passing game. I believe Dawson’s best ball is ahead of him.”

Evan asks: What do you think the Bills’ divisional record will be this season. Will they go 6-0 again? If not, who will ruin the one-year streak and why?

VC: I could easily see the Bills sweeping the AFC East for the second year in a row.

Besides having the makings of a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they also possess more talent than the other teams in the division, to go along with superb coaching.

The Miami Dolphins would seem to be in the best position to potentially scratch out a win against the Bills, but I can’t say I’m expecting it.

I have even a harder time seeing the New England Patriots or the New York Jets, with each starting a rookie quarterback, presenting much in the way of a challenge, at least through the early part of the season.

Josh McCarty asks: If John Brown doesn’t get signed to some team’s 53, any chance both sides would consider a reunion on the Bills practice squad?

VC: I don’t see that happening. At one time, Brown was a No. 1 receiver for the Bills. It’s hard to see him embracing the idea of returning as a practice squad player. If he took that route to NFL employment, it would likely be with a different team.