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Carucci Take2 Bills Mailbag: Optimism on imminent stadium announcement and draft priorities

WGRZ Bills/NFL Insider Vic Carucci takes questions about when a new stadium deal could be announced and about what the Bills' most pressing draft needs.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Editor's note: The video above was published on Feb. 17, 2022.

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

Jerry: With the end of March deadline fast approaching, when will we hear a new stadium agreement has been reached?

Vic Carucci: Hearing all of the positive public talk from the governor and others connected with the talks, as well as the “any-day-now” messaging I’ve received in many private conversations, I’m fairly confident we’ll have a stadium agreement announced well before the end of March.

Everything I’ve heard is that government and Pegula Sports & Entertainment representatives remain on track to reach the finish line, particularly with Kathy Hochul fully understanding strong Western New York support for her gubernatorial campaign largely hinges on securing the long-term future of the Bills in Buffalo. And make no mistake, the only way this thing happens is with the state forking over the vast majority of the projected price tag of $1.4 billion (meaning something likely north of $1.1 billion).

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II have done their respective parts to apply pressure on government entities with recent media comments referencing 2023 expiration of the Highmark Stadium lease and Highmark’s useful lifespan due to expire in about five years. Though I think there are some tough issues still being tackled – not the least of which is which parties are responsible for what percentage of inevitable cost overruns – far too much time, cost and effort have gone into the process to think it would yield anything other than the construction of a new stadium for the Bills to occupy well within that five-year window.

Craig Connock: How can people not clearly see the benefits to a downtown stadium? Downtown hotels, bars, and restaurants are dead. No business travelers are here anymore. Pegulas should understand this. Their own restaurant couldn't survive.

VC: In my case, you’re preaching to the choir. I’ve been on record as saying a downtown stadium would have far greater ability to benefit the community as a whole rather than simply providing the Bills with a more updated home.

But that ship has sailed. The new stadium will be in Orchard Park. It won’t have a dome, but the majority of seats will have some sort of canopy like coverage. That isn’t the way I’d have done it, but it isn’t the worst compromise.

Kevin Kresse: When it comes to offensive line vs defense, seems like a tough call re top priority. Defense failed miserably two years in a row w KC in playoffs. How can team not make coverage top priority? Or defensive pass rush? But JA must be protected. Where are you on this decision?

VC: Defense should again be the No. 1 offseason priority, whether it’s the line or the secondary. Given that the Bills’ top two picks in 2021 – defensive linemen Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham – are players who should make increased contributions this season, it would seem to make sense that the emphasis would likely be on enhancing the secondary.

I believe Brandon Beane will remain true to his core philosophy of staying true to the Bills’ draft grading, and based on the analysis of this year’s prospects, there’s reason think he will find solid DB or D-line value at pick No. 25.

I’d also expect some attention to be given to the offensive line, though I don’t view it as a problem area. The shortcomings in the run game can be corrected through scheming and the direction of new O-line coach Aaron Kromer, who has a history of getting blockers to play with greater physicality.

bigrick: It's being overlooked in a bunch of mocks, but wouldn't it be wise for Bills to use a pick on a QB, so we don't continue to have a revolving door behind Josh?

VC: I wouldn’t necessarily hate the idea, but I still think we’re early enough in Allen’s career to avoid making quarterback any sort of draft priority. Again, if the Bills’ draft board were to indicate a particular QB would be a strong value choice at some point, the team would figure to have the luxury of selecting him.

This isn’t viewed as an especially strong quarterback class, so I doubt there’s the sort of depth that would entice the Bills to select one in the first few rounds for future consideration. Perhaps that would be something to do in 2023 or ’24.

Ed Helinski: The Bills seem to have done well selecting No. 1 picks and several have reached or are approaching 5th year options. How many No. 1 picks can a team realistically carry for 5 years and beyond, or when does having all these good, big money players become a financial nightmare?

VC: The whole point of the fifth-year option is to provide time to determine whether to make the long-term investment that goes with a major contract extension. You’re effectively kicking the can down the road before ultimately deciding you either have a transformative player worthy of first-round status or that it's time to cut your losses.

Either way, the option is a tool to help with the management of your salary cap. There will always be tough decisions, because remaining under the cap isn’t optional. Every team would consider having an abundance of “good, big-money players” to be a good problem.

John Jarzynski: Do you see the Bills bringing in more speed either at RB or WR on offense?

VC: I don’t see any particular need for the Bills to add speed at running back or receiver. For that matter, I don’t think the Bills are lacking for much of anything on offense.

Offense was not the reason for their failure to go beyond the divisional-round of the playoffs. That was on a defense that, once again, failed them miserably in the postseason.


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