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Kelly And Lofton Are Hall Finalists

Jim KellyThe highlight of a non-busy off season week is the news of two former players being finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Kelly and James Lofton are among the 15 finalists for induction. We take a look at that along with our take on other issues in this week's edition of the week in review:

Kelly and Lofton join Bill Parcells, L.C. Greenwood, George Allen among others as finalists for the Hall of fame. The list of inductees will be announced on February 2nd at a 12:30pm press conference. They must take four members and up to seven. Jim Kelly said his nomination (along with Marv Levy's induction last year) proves that history is looking fondly at the four Super Bowl appearances by the Bills. He said people realize that the feat will never be accomplished again. Our Take: Kelly is right and this is his best chance at getting in as it will get harder for him once Marino and Elway are eligible. The only thing holding him back is the fact that this is his first time on the ballot. Lofton has the stats but with three wide receivers among the finalists he may not make it this year. It's sad to see that Ralph Wilson isn't a finalist after being one the past two seasons.

The Bills did sign three players this week as they added wide receivers Reggie Allen and Scott Keys as well as Safety Chad Sears. Allen was with the Bills practice squad early in the season before an injury forced him off the team. Keys was with the Eagles during training camp last summer and Sears is a division II product. Our Take: The Bills need to fill out an 80 man roster for training camp so low level free agent signings are normal this time of year. It's nice that they are giving Allen another shot after his tough break early this season. Sears will help with the struggling safety position.

The biggest off season decision is probably what to do with Sam Cowart. His agent has made an offer to the team that would make him one of the highest paid linebackers in the league. The Bills would jump at re-signing Cowart if the injury factor wasn't an issue. It appears both sides aren't far apart on salary or bonus. The structure of his signing bonus appears to be the main hangup that may land Cowart on the open market. Both sides want to do a tiered bonus system, it is the payoff that is different. The Bills want to give him some of his bonus now, some after he passes his physical and the rest after next season when he proves he can play healthy for a season. Cowart feels he shouldn't need to "audition" for his signing bonus and wants some when he signs, some when he passes his physical, and the rest when he makes the regular season roster. The Bills could use the franchise tag on him as well keeping him in a Bills uniform for one year at about $4.7 Million. Donahoe doesn't like using the tag but he hasn't ruled it out in this instance. Our Take: We understand both sides position on this, Cowart hasn't proven he can stay healthy so why give him a huge bonus, on the other hand, he is one of the best backers in the game and deserves to be paid like one. That means in this instance the franchise tag seems to be the best option. They must keep him, and this would give them the time to see if he's healthy without committing to a long term deal. His agent also isn't adverse to the use of the tag like many other agents are.

Tom Donahoe and Gregg Williams met with Owner Ralph Wilson last week to discuss the completed season and the course of action for next year. Donahoe spoke about some of the issues in a radio station interview last week. He said he expects the team to be in the market for some second tier free agents since the salary cap situation is not in dire straits. The club is currently finishing off evaluating the coaching staff and compiling the list for the expansion draft. Five players must be exposed and Donahoe said he will let the players know that are left unprotected but some players will be on the list because they are unlikely to be taken. Our Take: The expansion list should be easy to compile since there are many players that could go on the list for one reason or another. The second tier free agents should be good enough to help this team out tremendously without killing the cap. Any decisions on the coaching staff fall on Coach Williams but he is expected to bring all his coaches back. That is probably the right move since the team did show improvement and changing coaches and/or schemes at this point could impede further progress.

Ralph Wilson weighed in on the coaching staff issues saying there wouldn't be any changes, he also said he really liked the play of Travis Brown in the finale against Miami. Our Take: The coaches staying is the right move like we said above, the owner's endorsement of Brown may mean the handwriting is on the wall for Rob Johnson.

Director of Football Operations Tom Modrak was in the news this week. First, he is recovering from bypass surgery. He hopes to be back in action for the Senior Bowl later this month. He is also being courted by the Washington Redskins for their open GM position. Our Take: Modrak is a top notch front office guy and his stay in Buffalo is expected to be a short one, we just hope he stays for the off season, the club needs his draft expertise.

Tom Donahoe said that the team's cap situation is much better than last off season. Donahoe figures the team will be about $8 Million under the cap when free agency period begins in March. Our Take: This is good news but the team will be careful since they don't want to get back in the same cap jail they were in last year. They are not totally out of the woods yet but a smaller purge than last year will leave them in great cap shape next off season.

With the attention turning to the draft Chris Mortensen feels that the team will go after one of the two top QBs in the draft, Joey Harrington or David Carr. Other sources figure the Bills will go for a defensive linemen or trade down. Our Take: We think the Bills should take a franchise QB if available otherwise they should trade down since their is plenty of talent at defensive line, offensive line and Safety to be taken later in the first round. The extra picks received in a trade would be fantastic for a team with many needs.

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