Incognito brings Buffalo grit, baggage

The Buffalo Bills made a splash in the deep end of the offseason swimming pool by controversially signing 10-year pro guard Richie Incognito to a one-year contract Saturday.

Incognito didn’t play at all during the 2014 National Football League season and was last on the field for the Miami Dolphins in Week 9 in 2013.

He was suspended by Dolphins for misconduct related to the treatment of his teammate Jonathan Martin. The 2012 All-Pro guard’s suspension was lifted on Feb. 4, 2014, but he was unable to find a team that wanted him until Buffalo called.

His deal is worth up to $2.25 million, if he dresses for every game and participates in 75 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps.

The move looks like it could be a major help to the Bills offensive line, if he can return to his 2012 All-Pro form. But it could also cause problems in Buffalo’s locker room.

I would be lying if I said the move didn’t leave me with mixed feelings. Even more troubling than the bullying incident was Incognito’s reported conduct at the Dolphins’ 2012 annual celebrity golf tournament. A May 18, 2012, Aventura, Fla., Police Department report accused Incognito of simple battery, depicting Incognito drunkenly, sexually harassing a female volunteer at the tournament.

I understand that people make mistakes and he has served his suspension, but I still question his character.

The main reason I feel open minded to the management decision is because of the leadership displayed by center Eric Wood. The fifth-year center has asserted himself as  the leader of the offensive unit and would not allow for a player to become a cancer in his locker room.

People should be given a second chance, or I guess a third chance in Incognito’s situation, but he should be on a very tight leash. If he causes even the smallest of problems for Buffalo, he should be cut immediately.

Buffalo’s newly signed coach Rex Ryan seems to be one the most likeable coaches for players and seems to be able to get his men to buy into his system. Incognito better get in line or it will be a short stay in snowy Buffalo.

Signing Incognito, coupled with Chris Williams coming back from injury, will allow the Bills to cut ties with guards Erik Pears and Kraig Urbik, who each had dismal 2014 seasons in Western New York.

The move will also allow second-year pros Cyril Richardson and Cyrus Kouandijo the chance to continue to learn the position behind seasoned veterans.

The main problem for the Bills offense has been a shaky line that fails to protect its quarterback on a weekly basis. EJ Manuel wasn’t given a fair chance because he never had a chance to be a pocket passer. Mainly because the pocket was deflated before he could take a three-step drop.

The move will also open more holes for a dynamic backfield of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller — if he remains with the team — moving forward.

Signing Incognito shouldn’t deter the organization from trying to get more depth for the offensive line in the draft because his time in Buffalo could be limited.

The Bills also need to focus on possibly taking a quarterback for the future that Ryan can believe in, like Baylor’s Bryce Petty or Mississippi States’ Dak Prescott in the second round.

Inking Incognito was a solid move from a win-at-all-costs coaching mentality, but the Bills need to be careful with how they let the move affect the teams’ leadership. If they can make Incognito a role player rather than a leader, they should benefit from his grit and tenacity.


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