Sunday, February 27, 2011

Newton or Merriman - What Lights Your Fire?

Bills fans, what would you rather have? Cam Newton as an unproven rookie, or Shawne Merriman as his former Pro-Bowl self?

Now it may seem like an odd question to a non-Bills fan, but for many Buffalo fans it it highlights a bigger question. What will have a bigger impact on the Bills now, and in the future (two separate issues)?

For years the Bills rarely snagged a high profile free agent. Yes Terrell Owens comes to mind, but that was the rare exception. The Bills, historically conservative, would rarely pursue expensive proven free agents, let alone free agents coming off an injury (again, Marcus Stroud being a rare exception).

When the Bills claimed Merriman off the waiver wire I, like many Bills fans, was amazed and excited. Why? Because the Bills showed some courage and took a gamble that could potentially pay high dividends. Also, the move showed a commitment to immediate improvement rarely seen in the past.

Never mind that the rumor mill said Shawne didn't want to play in Buffalo, had no interest in re-signing with the Bills, and re-injured his leg and was lost for the season after 10 minutes of practice (sigh, the life of a Bills fan). The second surprise, Merriman signing a Bills contract, was almost as exciting as the waiver claim.

I don't care about the reasons why he signed with the Bills. I only care that he did sign and now has the chance to resurrect his career as a Buffalo Bill. A few years ago I saw Merriman, in Pro Bowl fashion, almost single handedly beat the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. When the dude is healthy, and not dreaming of LA starlets, he can be a game changer.

So back to the original question. Who would you rather have on your team next season Cam Netwon, the untested rookie, or Shawne Merriman on the comeback trail?

I choose Merriman. The Bills have a serviceable QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick that has proven he can win (even when surrounded with little talent, a new coaching staff, and while implementing a new offensive scheme).

A driven, fiery, game changing linebacker would have an enormous impact on the Bills. I've been following Merriman on Twitter, he seems focused on his rehab and motivated to prove his critics wrong. Heck, at 75% of his former self he'd still be the best linebacker on the Bills next season.

So, while fans wildly obsess on the NFL Draft, and what the Bills will do with the 3rd pick overall (as well as a high 2nd round pick), I'm much more interested in the Shawne Merriman saga.

Yes, I get the need for a "franchise" QB - but not the thought that it must be with the 3rd pick this year. Sure, Cam Newton may turn into an NFL phenom (or not), but the Bills need lots of quality players, mostly on defense.

So, I'd pass on Newton (sorry, I couldn't resits), stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick, draft some defensive beasts and pray the Shayne Merriman pays off.

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