When the Bills take on the Vikings this weekend in the Ralph they will have an old friend lead them onto the field one more time. Takeo Spikes returns to Orchard Park to do something he was always good at; getting the crowd hyped up and excited for football. The Bills brought Spikes in from Cincinnati and signed him to a six year deal worth about 32 million dollars back in 2003. Tom Donahoe thought he found the defensive leader the team desperately needed as Spikes made an immediate impact during week one as the Bills went on to crush the Patriots 31-0. The team only ended up winning six games that year, but it seemed as though they were building something with Spikes in the middle of it. He was a huge part of the Bills last real shot of making playoffs in 2004 recording 96 tackles, three sacks, and five interceptions. The Bills won six in a row before losing a heartbreaker to the Steelers in week 17 at home costing the Bills a playoff berth. I can still remember how disappointed Spikes was following the game as I listened to the postgame interviews during the long ride home. Even in defeat he still sounded like the leader he always was. Sadly, Spikes would only play three games in 2005 after tearing his right Achilles’ tendon during a home loss to the Falcons. I can still see #51 lying on the field holding his ankle and knowing he would never be the same. Spikes played one more year with the Bills before being traded to the Eagles in 2007. To this day, I firmly believe Spikes would some way still be part of the Bills organization had he never went down in 2005. I am looking forward to tipping my cap to TKO from the stands come Sunday. He was truly a class act.
In thinking about Takeo I immediately start thinking about the free agents. Spikes was one of the first really big defensive players the Bills went after following their incredible run in the 90’s. Before Spikes came to town the Bills had missed the playoffs four years in a row and the team was looking to strengthen a young and inexperienced defense. The Bills brought in a number of big names that year to help out including Sam Adams and Lawyer Milloy. These moves seemed too good to be true at the time, but we all know how it turned out. Both Adams and Milloy would only last three years in Buffalo and the Bills would go on to lose a number of solid defensive starters to the market during that time. Two of those starters ended up on the Minnesota Vikings who obviously saw something in Antoine Winfield and Pat Williams that the Bills did not. Had Donahoe committed to signing the players the franchise drafted or brought up instead of seeking quick fixes to a growing problem the outlook of the team may have been completely different. The Bills have clearly struggled to make good draft choices during this current playoff drought (Eric Flowers 2000, Mike Williams 2002, JP Losman 2004, John McCargo 2006, Aaron Maybin 2008, EJ Manuel 2013*), but what has been even more concerning is the loss of talent to free agency. The Bills have served as a farm team to the rest of the league since Winfield left for Minnesota back in 2004. He was followed by Pat Williams (Vikings), Nate Clements (49ers), Willis McGahee (Ravens), Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks), Jason Peters (Eagles), Donte Whitner (49ers), and Jairus Byrd (Saints). Looking at all of these names only makes you wonder what other teams would have done to keep some of these players on the roster. It will come as no surprise if the Bills lose out on the services of CJ Spiller following this year considering he has played a small role in what the Bills are trying to do this season. Throw in the fact that Adrian Peterson may not be in Minnesota next season and how well the Vikings did acquiring Winfield and Williams in the past, believe it or not they may be taking a good hard look at CJ come Sunday.
I am not saying he is headed to the Twin City or that the Bills need to sign CJ at all costs. He like many of the free agents the Bills have lost over the last ten years will want big money and will most likely get it. What I am saying is that the franchise needs to take advantage of the few good moves they have made and do it soon. Signing Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes should be a top priority right now. Hughes is coming off of a 10 sack season and already has four this year. The Bills traded Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts for Hughes which has turned out to be a steal of a deal. Those types of moves don’t happen around here too often. Hughes was a first round pick in 2010 the same year the Bills took Spiller. Dareus was drafted by the Bills in 2011 and has been solid in the middle next to Kyle Williams ever since he arrived. Losing Spiller would be a tough pill to swallow, but inking Hughes and Dareus would certainly soften the blow. Keeping the defense intact should be something the organization is focused on considering they won’t have a pick in the first round next year anyway. Other than last week’s disappointing loss to the Patriot’s, the defense has played very well holding teams under 70 yards rushing per game. Throw Kiko in there with this squad to cover a tight end once in a while and you might have something really special next year. The Bills need to find a way to sign at least two of the three soon before the rest of the league figures out how good these guys are. I think you figured out who I want to keep. I just hope CJ joins that group after a big game this weekend.