Monday, the number of unsigned rookies in Buffalo dropped to zero.
Almost two months after Cordy Glenn became the eighth rookie player to ink a deal with the Bills, T.J. Graham followed suit and signed on the bottom line for the next four years.
That gives Buffalo no more paperwork to worry about, meaning they can now turn their attention to the impending training camp starting up later this month on July 26th.
Graham, for whatever reason, had been holding off on making his deal (though the rookie wage scale pretty much assured him a $3 million/four year deal), but he missed no time in OTAs or mini camp, logging a lot time with the first offense as Steve Johnson continued to heal from offseason groin surgery (he still projects to be ready come training camp).
Without any real deep threat on the team the last few seasons (does T.O. count?), Buffalo has been touting Graham as a field stretcher since trading up to take him in the Draft.
He's got the speed (4.39 40-yard dash) from his years running track at NC State and he put up great stats on the field in college, pulling in 99 for 1,453 yds and 12 TDs in 46 games.
He's also a return threat, utilizing that same speed to put up an ACC-record 3,103 yards with 4 TDs off kicks (he averaged 22.7 per kick return, 9.5 per punt overall).
At 5'8", around 190 pounds, Graham's a leaping receiver with great hands and shifty route-running skills that could become a big distraction for opposing defenses, freeing up the other receivers on the field.
As Chan Gailey really, really likes to run multiple receiver sets (see last season), as well as utilize TE Scott Chandler to further muddy protection strategies, Graham may not get big numbers his first season, but will definitely do some assisting work for the others on the field, from Johnson to C.J. Spiller.
On an offense that likes to spread their opponent's defense horizontally, this will now give them the added weapon of being able to spread them vertically as well, pulling defenders from short coverage to keep tabs on Graham when he's on the field.
And if they don't, T.J.'s work so far in practice has shown he can catch balls at the pro level as well as in the NCAA. A 40-yard dazzler of a pass from Fitzpatrick hit Graham in stride the first day of OTAs back in June, giving coaches and players a glimpse at what the future could hold for the young receiver in Buffalo.
To his credit, this contract dispute truly created no distraction for T.J., from his work learning the Buffalo playbook to developing a chemistry working with his team. He's been playing without a paycheck for several weeks now, but a pretty sweet signing bonus puts an end to all that and should put even more spring in his step come camp (it's valued around $680,000, though the Bills don't release contract figures themselves, as per team policy).
With the 90-man roster now finally set (the Bills are just the 13th NFL team to get all their rookies signed thus far), the real competition for spots begins and we wait for who'll be the newest casualty cut from a Buffalo roster that looks deep with talent on both sides of the ball (but most especially at receiver... and defensive line).
There's a lot of good, talented players in Western New York right now, beyond just the 2012 rookie class, and the thing of it is... if you can trust reports... they all seem to want to play in Buffalo, are actually happy to be there. It's been a long time since the Bills were a purposeful destination for talented young (and even some veteran) players, so to hear that many on the team are excited, hopeful, and expecting to win some games is music to fans' ears.
You have to go back to 2004 to find Buffalo's last winning season. Their last playoff game was in 1999. To have even the whisper of a successful season drifting around the Bills in 2012 has brought a new look to this team, a swagger of purpose that will hopefully last past opening day against the Jets.
Now that they're sporting a complete set of shiny new rookies, the team seemingly has all the pieces it needs to truly compete (as long as they can stay largely healthy, that is).
They may not be winning the Super Bowl this season, but the Bills may not be looking up from below .500 again in 2012. It's what I like to call "The Season of Potential" in Buffalo, and now that all the players are ready (and most are healthy), let's see what they can really do with all that talent.