NFL Free Agency: Player Value vs. PR Value

Arthur Moats, the Buffalo Bills’ Walter Payton Man of the Year, will become an unrestricted free agent in March.

With the season complete for most NFL teams, their attention has turned to free agency. The Buffalo Bills have nine players set to become unrestricted free agents in March, none more important than All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd.

But, perhaps, none is more interesting than Arthur Moats.

Yes, Arthur Moats, the outside linebacker that started the first 12 games of the 2013 season but only played three defensive snaps in the last four games of the season, according to the Buffalo News.

In a season wrap-up, Bills reporter Mike Rodak wrote that the Bills “must upgrade” from Moats and fellow outside backer Nigel Bradham.

In another season review article, the author suggested that Moats — with his $1.35 million annual contract — was one of the worst roster values for the Bills.

The decision appears to be an easy one for Buffalo’s front office: let Moats hit the free agency market. The decision would be a lot easier if the Bills brass was playing a video game, and Moats was a digitally created image void of a heart and soul.

But, Moats, of course, has heart and soul … and plenty of it.

An article with the headline Moats ties to the community could impact future appeared on the Buffalo Bills team website yesterday.

In it the author wrote: “the decision (to re-sign) Moats will be different than most other Bills player(s). Over the past couple of years he’s ingrained himself into the Buffalo community.”

The article outlines Moats’ many philanthropic efforts in the community and his distinction as the Bills’ 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Moats said he has grown attached to Buffalo and would like to re-sign with the Bills.

“My family and I understand the spot we’re in and want to help people out and let everyone know that we’re in Buffalo to be a part of the community,” he said.

Moats is scheduled to speak to students at St. Bonaventure University sometime during the spring semester about the importance of volunteering. As of Nov. 25, no date had been set for Moats’ visit to campus. You have to wonder how many other off-season community engagements Moats has made throughout the western New York region that are pending and might not be met because of the player’s unknown future.

The Bills will have to decide if the goodwill and positive public relations Moats creates for the franchise is worth more than his marginal play on the field. It isn’t an easy decision.

Fans like to root for players for whom they can relate, players they can see, touch and communicate with on a personal level.

That is Moats.

But fans also like to root for players that help their teams win.

That may not be Moats.

Pro sports are a bottom-line business, and in the NFL the bottom line is winning. The Bills should strive to re-sign Moats, but only if he is capable of helping them win on the field.

The franchise’s PR flaks may give two thumbs up to bringing Moats back, but the coach and general manager should ultimately make the call.