Did the Bills Get Value on Leodis McKelvin?

Updated: March 11, 2013
NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns

Leodis McKelvin’s new 20 million, 4 year contract is currently the source of much anguish among Bills fans who seem to only know McKelvin as one of the previous administration’s first round busts. And it is true, as Leo never really played up to the expectations set for him with the 11th overall pick in 2008.

But in order to evaluate this early decision, a little bit of context is necessary. Bills GM Buddy Nix is generally pretty straightforward (sometimes to his detriment) when discussing how the Bills do things. Regarding the team’s approach to negotiations with pending free agents, Buddy explained that basically they set a value for each player, and negotiate from that point. Nothing groundbreaking, but since the players agent essentially does the same thing and if the numbers are close enough the deal gets done, which is obviously what happened here.

Still, it seems like quite a bit to give a player that was never able to hold down a starting position in the Bills defense. We do know that Leo is still a great athlete, and most of his lapses were technique related. It’s possible that the Bills had faith in Pettine’s ability to get more out of McKelvin, having accomplished something similar by turning previous under performer Antonio Cromartie into one of the leagues better corners. Additionally, they certainly figured that at a bare minimum, McKelvin is one of the league’s top punt returners, and that alone minimizes the risk quite a bit.

But neither of those pieces of information offer any revelation, they’ve pretty much been the case Leo’s entire career. What the Bills likely figured was that the market for a potential starting corner would be more than 5 a year. Sean Smith and Brent Grimes will certainly be receiving larger deals, and both come with their own set of shortcomings. Once we see what kind of deals the rest of the corners in the league get this week, we’ll all be in a better position to evaluate whether the Bills did a good job with this contract or not. Just know that they needed corner depth: this wasn’t just about his punt return abilities.