Bills win and lose in Moulds trade

By Connor Byrne  |   Thursday, April 06, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Buffalo Bills
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On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills finally took receiver Eric Moulds out of limbo and traded him to the Houston Texans for a fifth-round pick in this month's draft. After the Bills and Moulds were unable to agree on a contract restructuring this offseason, he began bickering and seeking out a new team to play for. Philadelphia and Houston emerged as the frontrunners, but the Eagles eventually dropped out of the race. Thus, the Texans were only competing against themselves for the 32-year-old's services.

In ten seasons with the Bills, Moulds, a former first-round pick in 1996 from Mississippi State, caught 675 passes to go along with 9,096 yards, and 48 touchdowns. He emerged as the second best receiver in team history behind the franchise's all-time leader in receptions, Andre Reed. Throughout his career in Buffalo, Moulds dealt with below-average passers such as Todd Collins, Billy Joe Hobert, Alex Van Pelt, Rob Johnson, Kelly Holcomb and J.P. Losman. Still, he managed to be a legitimate threat in the Bills' receiving corps, despite the fact that Buffalo hasn't really had any big-time players to go alongside him other than Peerless Price for one year and the young Lee Evans.

Despite Moulds' great accomplishments in a Buffalo Bills uniform, his attitude manifested itself as a problem last season. He got into an argument with receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and head coach Mike Mularkey in a December loss to the Miami Dolphins, and that resulted in a one-game suspension. Once that happened, the writing was on the wall that Moulds' days in Buffalo were numbered. The fact that he bleated about Losman, a first-year QB, all last season demonstrated that he isn't the leader that some have made him out to be. For a veteran to undermine a young player's confidence is definitely irresponsible and self-centered. Now Moulds will go to Houston and maybe do the same to the young David Carr if things don't go well.

Bills GM Marv Levy did the right thing in trying to retain Moulds' services, but it was the receiver's inability to budge on a contract retooling that ultimately ended his time in Buffalo. He was due to count roughly $10.8 million against the Bills' cap next season, so Levy had to do something. In trading Moulds the Bills take a $5.3 million cap hit, but they also save $5.5 million. That gives them over $14 million in cap space to pursue other players on the open-market, or wait until next season's free agency period to sign big-time players.

Without question, the way Moulds handled the ordeal with the Bills over the past couple of months was fairly unprofessional. It seemed like every day he would have a personal advisor or agent come out and demean the Bills and their contract offers in any way possible. Ironically, the contract Moulds signed with the Houston Texans, a worse team than Buffalo, isn't necessarily that huge. Moulds ended up agreeing to terms on a four-year, $14 million deal accompanied by a signing bonus of $5 million. It's more than he would have made in Buffalo, but not by that much.

Buffalo ends up winning in this deal because they rid themselves of a major problem in the locker room, but they lose at the same time because of the production that Moulds has put up. Although he's in a period of declination, Moulds still caught 81 passes last season. However, his ability to be a deep threat has gone the way of the VCR, as he averaged just 10.1 yards per catch last season. As a matter of fact, Moulds' yards per catch averages have reduced in every season since 1998.

The real problem the Bills are faced with right now is at the starting receiver position opposite soon-to-be third-year man Lee Evans. Josh Reed, Andre' Davis, Sam Aiken and Roscoe Parrish are all contenders, but none have done much of anything in their careers. In all honesty, the four of them seem like slot receivers at best. With the Bills' unappealing list of quarterbacks, it would be in the best interest of Levy to find a starting-caliber player who can catch 70 or more passes per season. Unfortunately for the Bills, that type of player is nowhere near the free agent market right now. A solution in the upcoming draft may be Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, but that's another topic for another day.

Without doubt, Moulds leaves behind a lot of positive memories of Buffalo, and the fans of the city mostly think highly of him, but his true colors shone through in this situation. Moulds went from aspiring to play for a Super Bowl contender to playing for a Houston team that has the No. 1 pick in the draft. No disrespect to Texans GM Charley Casserly, who's doing a fine job of building the young franchise, but they're nowhere near contending for anything except third-place in the AFC South.

Then again, the Buffalo Bills aren't exactly contending for anything either, outside of third-place in their own division.

--Connor Byrne can be reached at cbyrne@realfootball365.com.
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