It’s fashionable to ridicule Russ Brandon as a football personnel man, to dismiss the Bills’ president as a marketing genius who was out of his element during his two years as the team’s general manager.

But it’s not as if Brandon was an utter flop. In his last draft as GM in 2009, the Bills drafted Eric Wood with the 28th overall pick, Jairus Byrd at No. 42 and Andy Levitre with the 51st pick.

Byrd was the top free safety in this year’s free agent class. The Bills slapped a $6.9 million franchise tag on him last week. Levitre is the top free agent among guards, and soon to be very rich. Next year, Wood is likely to be the top free agent center on the market.

Just imagine if the Bills hadn’t whiffed on Aaron Maybin with the 11th overall pick, if they’d grabbed Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing or Clay Matthews instead. That ’09 draft might be seen as the best in team history. But there are consequences for hitting draft picks. Eventually, you have to pay them.

That means deciding in the next week whether to pay Levitre elite money or allow their durable left guard to test the waters as an unrestricted free agent.

The price tag will be steep. The Bills used their franchise tag on Byrd, so they must give Levitre a long-term deal or let him walk. Top guards command average salaries north of $8 million nowadays. Tampa Bay’s Carl Nicks is atop the list at $9.5 million a year. The Pats’ Logan Mankins makes $8.5 million a season. Jahri Evans of the Saints is at $8.1 million.

The Bills aren’t in any hurry to negotiate. Levitre told The News’ Tim Graham he was “in limbo” and the team should “at least throw me an offer.” Maybe the Bills have no intention of meeting Levitre’s demands. But they should find out what those demands are.