If the Buffalo Bills have taught me one thing during this 17-year playoff drought it’s that acquiring current player jerseys is customarily a bad investment. Whether it’s gathering dust in the closet, donated to Goodwill or you’re still sporting it today because you simply don’t give a shit—odds are astronomically high you’ve spent on at least one Bills jersey that seemed like a great idea at the time but rapidly depreciated into a garbage venture.
I’m referring to you—Terrell Owens, JP Losman, Leodis McKelvin, Donte Whitner, Paul Posluszny and Percy Harvin jersey holders among countless others. Sure, every team has flops that fans foolishly flop their hard earned money down for—it just seems to happen (far) more with Buffalo.
For me personally, I drew the line with CJ Spiller. I purchased his No. 28 and he seemingly overnight went from franchise back to irrelevant role player. At that point I swore off buying current player jerseys for good. I’d rather wait for a good player to retire before buying his jersey and sport his number forever. Nobody is will bust your balls at a tailgate when you have a Kelly, Thomas, or Talley jersey, but good luck going without ridicule in your No. 52 Zach Brown moving forward.
Instead I’m sticking to buying Bills caps, t-shirts, polos and hoodies. Those stand the time of time, my friends.
Still, I know there’s fanatics out there that simply can’t help themselves and will shell out big bucks each year for their current favorite Buffalo player.
If you must, I’ve compiled a power rankings list of the best current Buffalo Bills jersey investments. They’re based on popularity, projected production and probability your investment will last longer than a year or two at most.
(Not Ranked) Sammy Watkins & Tyrod Taylor: Despite being arguably two of the three most recognizable players on the team, the tenure for each beyond 2017 is iffy to say the least. Watkins didn’t have his fifth-year option exercised because the team isn’t convinced he can stay healthy. At this point if Watkins has a big year it’ll cost a ransom in free agency and/or franchise tag to ensure he’s back in 2018. Taylor’s basically on a second consecutive one-year audition. Sure, he’s the starting quarterback and as long as he plays well you’d think he’ll remain—but the Bills could very easily get out his contract after this season. I’d say there’s a minimum 50% chance buying either player’s jersey at this point is a one-and-done investment.
(10) Lesean McCoy: He’s perhaps the most talented player on the roster. However, he’s also a $9 million cap in 2018 and Buffalo can save $6.4 million by parting ways next winter, which it’s worth noting that by next season McCoy will be 30-years old. I’m by no means suggesting McCoy’s formidable on-field talent will deteriorate over the next year just because he’ll be turning 30—but unless the Bills take a major step towards becoming a legitimate contender now, it’s hard to fathom the Bills enduring a $9 million cap hit on a back for a 6-10 team going into his 10th season. If you already own a Shady jersey wear it proudly this year, but short of finding one at clearance rack price I wouldn’t buy a new one now.
(9) Eric Wood: He’s entering the final year of a four-year contract extension and will have been in the league eight years when becoming a free agent next year. That makes him a little long in the tooth, not to mention Ryan Groy is a lineman on the rise and can play center. On the plus side, what happens beyond this season doesn’t mean so much, as Wood’s been long established as one of the most popular players, and his endearing personality has earned his jersey staying power after he’s long gone—joining admired players like Fred Jackson and Eric Moulds.
(8) Kyle Williams: See Wood, but on a slightly higher level in terms of longevity and popularity. Fans adore Kyle and will wear his No. 95 long after he’s gone.
(7) Reggie Ragland: Because of his torn ACL as a rookie last year Ragland has yet to play a NFL down and is technically in a battle with Preston Brown for a starting job in camp this summer, but make no mistake about it—Bills fans will like Ragland. The guy, if healthy is a savage on the field. I can easily see him becoming one of the more identifiable players on the team this season. Only the palpable perils of re-injury and therefore becoming a “bust” keeps him from being ranked higher.
(6) Ronald Darby: With Stephon Gilmore gone Darby has a chance to become the marquee player in the Bills secondary. That can go either way as he looked like the next Darrelle Revis his rookie year and kind of sucked last season. He’s still got time and opportunity to prove his worth but is going into the third year of his rookie deal.
(5) Shaq Lawson: Buffalo’s first-round draft pick from just one year ago and a formidable talent, which means his jersey is one that has a chance to matter for fans in the years to come. Personally I’d wait to see if he improves on his two sack total over 10 games a rookie, although in fairness I think he’ll be better playing under Sean McDermott.
(4) Richie Incognito: The perfect jersey for every tailgater fond of parking lot fornication, drinking ass juice, playing dizzy bat and (of course) getting put through tables. He’s a party guy and still pretty good at playing football.
(3) Zay Jones: It remains to be seen if he’s up to task, but Jones will get every opportunity to become a household name and top jersey seller on this team. With Robert Woods gone and Buffalo’s failure to land Jeremy Maclin recently, Jones is almost certain to start right away and Watkins’ health anything but a sure bet, Jones can quickly become the team’s go-to receiver. He’ll be around for the next four years and hopefully longer.
(2) Micah Hyde: He signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bills during the offseason and the way his contract is structured, he’d have to be pretty terrible to not see at least four years of it. Hyde instantly becomes, by far the most accomplished member of the Bills secondary and his position versatility is something Bills fans will like. He’s also new and exciting to Buffalo, so his jersey will and should be a popular selection.
(1) Tre’Davious White: The Bills have a mixed recent history of first-round cornerbacks between McKelvin and Gilmore. McKelvin was likable and a strong quote. Unfortunately he wasn’t very good on the field. Gilmore was plenty talented but didn’t exactly endear himself to fans. Potentially White can have the best of both his predecessors. He’s talented on the field and extremely intelligent and likeable off it. As long as he does his job each Sunday I have no doubt he’ll quickly become a fan favorite. He’s almost certainly here for the long haul, so he’s a jersey worth jumping on—if that’s your thing.