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  • Budd Bailey

Buffalo Bills: April 9, 1985 – A creative deal with the Browns

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

(Editor’s Note: Reedy Press has published “The Buffalo Bills: An Illustrated Timeline of a Storied Franchise.” The book was written by Greg Tranter and Budd Bailey; click here for more information. The authors wrote some potential chapters to the book that were not used, and didn’t want to put them to waste. Therefore, they thought people would like to read about those events from the team’s past on this site. It will give you a taste of what the text of the coffee-table book is like.)

The Cleveland Browns wanted badly to bring University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar to their roster in the spring of 1985. But how could they do it? It took some unprecedented maneuvering in association with the Bills to make it work.

The key was that Kosar – an Ohio native – was planning on graduating early from college, and thus could be eligible for the NFL’s supplemental draft that was held each summer. Since the Bills had the worst record in the league in 1984, they had the first pick in the regular and supplemental draft. Usually the latter is of no consequence; this time it was.

The Browns agreed to send the Bills linebacker Chip Banks and three draft choices for that first supplemental pick. But before the deal was announced, a snag developed. Buffalo heard that Banks did not want to play for the Bills. The team dispatched assistant coach Elijah Pitts to Atlanta to talk to Banks about moving to Buffalo. In one of the most farcical scenes in football memory, Banks refused to even open his door to Pitts – forcing the two men to talk without looking at each other. The linebacker made his stance clear – he would not suit up for the Bills.

Buffalo did have a Plan B worked out though. If Banks didn’t move to Western New York, the Browns agreed to give up their first-round pick in 1985. That meant four draft choices, including two first-rounders, went to the Bills in the deal. Buffalo later added another second-rounder in a related swap with Green Bay. The transaction wasn’t a grand slam for Buffalo, but it did provide some fresh bodies for a team that was embarking on a major rebuilding program. The Bills turned those No. 1s into cornerback Derrick Burroughs and running back Ronnie Harmon, and eventually also added linebacker Hal Garner, wide receiver Chris Burkett and wide receiver Floyd Dixon, who then went to Atlanta for running back Don Smith.

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