by MikeDzK 11 months ago
After being dominated by the New England Patriots for nearly 20 years, the AFC East has belonged to the Buffalo Bills for the past 3 seasons. In that time, the Bills' division rivals have brought in new faces at QB which hasn't proven to put up enough of a fight for this resilient Buffalo outfit. However, with the Miami Dolphins bringing in exciting WRs for QB Tua Tagovailoa who is now coming into his own, and the New York Jets making a blockbuster trade to bring in Jacksonville's QB Trevor Lawrence, the AFC East title might turn into more of a fist fight this season than it has in recent memory.
Even with new challengers looming however, the Bills are still hyper-focused on fixing their playoff football. To that end, they need to tighten up on defense, and bring in some new weapons for QB Josh Allen who just received his well-earned payday.
Speaking of tightening up, the Bills need to be extra vigilant with their wallet this off-season. Keeping Josh in Buffalo long-term is fantastic for this city and its fans, but his new contract accounts for over a seventh of the team's budget with a hefty cap figure of ~$39.8MM in 2024.
The Bills will seek to bring in veteran experience, explosive youth prospects, and depth at key positions: all on the cheap. With the way things have been trending in Free Agency lately, this will be no small task.
The following Buffalo Bills players are set to leave One Bills Drive.
WR Cole Beaseley
HB Taiwan Jones
QB Case Keenum
OG Greg Van Roten
TE Quintin Morris
TE Reid Ferguson
ILB Baylon Spector
DT Cortez Broughton
DT Eli Ankou
RB Devin Singletary
G Bobby Hart
G Ike Boettger
OT Justin Murray
OT David Quessenberry
WR Jamison Crowder
WR Jake Kumerow
WR Isiah McKenzie
TE Tommy Sweeney
DE Shaq Lawson
DE Jordan Phillips
LB Tyrel Dodson (RFA)
ILB Tyler Matakevich
CB Cam Lewis
CB Dane Jackson (RFA)
FS Jordan Poyer
SS Dean Marlowe
S Jaquan Johnson
P Sam Martin
ILB Tremaine Edmunds
Tremaine had been struggling the past few years with making the right reads, shooting the correct gap, and even if that did go well, he would often fail to wrap up the ball-carrier. The 2023 season was a marked improvement for the 24 year old. Edmunds barely missed a tackle in 2022, and 2023 saw him improve on his coverage capabilities which takes some pressure off of Matt Milano. The question turned from 'will they re-sign him' to 'how much will they pay him?' Our answer is a 6 year, $62.4MM deal with a roughly $10MM cap hit for each following year. The Bills have turned their young piece of coal into a blossoming diamond and they intend to keep him in Buffalo into his 30's.
OLB AJ Klein
AJ also extends his stay in Buffalo, this time for three more years on a $1MM/y contract albeit for different reasons. If Tremaine's contract was about securing youth and talent, Klein's contract is about ensuring good tutelage for the aforementioned. AJ is expected to fill an emergency depth role while also guiding the youthful Bills defensive unit towards a stronger work ethic and trusting the process, a motto you've assuredly heard Coach McDermott talk about once or twice.
With four retirements, five cuts, and nineeen further departures, the retaining of only two defensive options leaves the Bills with a lot of work to do in Free Agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.
With Devin Singletary deciding to test the open market, the Bills are left with Nyheim Hines, James Cook, and Duke Johnson in the backfield. Nyheim will look to expand his role in the offense this year with a full season ahead of him, but he is far from a three down back. James Cook has shown some glimpses of brilliance, but cannot provide the type of power running many would like to see the Bills employ to run out games.
The Bills will also need to target offensive line in order to continue to protect their signal caller and open up channels for the run game. RT Spencer Brown isn't panning out like many have hoped, LG Rodger Saffold is an important part of the run game but is severely outmatched in passing scenarios, and C Mitch Morse isn't getting any younger either. Luckily LT Dion Dawkins seems set on proving he's a top Left Tackle in this league and will look to anchor this line going forward with two more years left on his deal.
With the decision to bring back Tremaine and with so many holes left to fill, the Bills were unable to come to terms with SS Jordan Poyer, who was instrumental in keeping the Bills secondary firing on all cylinders in these most recent playoffs. When asked about how it felt that the Bills were unable to offer a contract that Jordan so deserved after being part of an iconic safety duo for over 5 years he merely stated "It stinks. You know, the salary cap is a tough beast. Poyer isn't the first cap casualty this season and he probably won't be the last."
With Poyer gone and S Micah Hyde nearing the end of his deal, Safety should be a major target for the Buffalo Bills. Another target, although maybe less important, is wide receiver. Diggs is still just as elite as ever, but WR Gabriel Davis didn't seem to make the leap that the Bills were hoping for this year. Gabe will look to improve upon his lackluster season, but it's apparent that even with the weapons at Josh Allen's disposal, you can never go wrong with some more. The Bills should look to add depth and perhaps some speed to the receiving corps to help Stefon stretch the field.
The Buffalo Bills Front Office wasted no time in snapping up depth and experience when the Free Agency Period opened. GM Brandon Beane and the Bills acquired the signatures of fourteen free agents.
Veterans and Mentors:
QB Nick Foles, $2.6MM over 2 years
OG Oday Aboushi, $3MM over 2 years
OT Dennis Kelly, $3.4MM over 2 years
RB Brandon Bolden, $3MM over 2 years
WR T.Y. Hilton, $5MM over 2 years
TE Aaron Brewer, $2.4MM over 2 years
DT Akeem Spence, $2.2MM over 2 years
DE Nick Williams, $3MM over 2 years
ILB Jon Bostic, $3.8MM over 2 years
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, $4.6MM over 2 years
S Chris Banjo, $1.8MM over 2 years
TE Kyle Rudolph, $1.45MM over 1 year
WR Mohamed Sanu Sr., $950k over 1 year
SS Kareem Jackson, $2.15MM over 1 year
Youth and Depth:
The Buffalo Bills also brought in some young LB's to add depth to a severely weakened LB group.
ILB Ulysees Gilbert III, $2.6MM over 2 years
ILB Khalan Tolson, $4MM over 4 years
Both of these players are natural Inside Linebackers, however they can line up on the Outside or on the line as needed. Their versatility was thought to be a big consideration to bringing them into the fold. Their speed didn't hurt, either. To round out Free Agency, the Bills also signed a Punter to replace the departing Sam Martin.
P Jamie Gillan, $4.4MM over 4 years
A move that saw the Buffalo Bills trade DE A.J. Epenesa away to the Steelers came as a shock to many. Epenesa saw a substantial increase in playing time this past year, and under the tutelage of DE Von Miller, it was plain to see the heaps of progress that Epenesa was making. However, with doubling up on pass rushers in 2022 with DE Rousseau and DE Basham Jr, the Bills cashed in on AJ's much more noticeable potential.
In a complicated swap, the Bills sent Epenesa and draft picks to the Pittsburgh Steelers in return for a handful of early draft picks.
The Buffalo Bills enter the NFL draft with many of the same positional holes that were present at the end of the regular season. The Bills looked to not only use their newfound draft picks to fill positions of need, but to use their unique position to trade down and acquire more draft capital.
The Bills enter the draft with the following draft capital.
The Bills, after trading up for the 17th pick, ended up trading down with Miami in the first round.
The Bills later moved up from the 49th overall pick to the 40th overall pick by way of Atlanta
Round 1, Pick 21: EDGE Bill Ojulari, LSU, 21
Round 2, Pick 1: HB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, 22
Round 2, Pick 8: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU, 21
Round 3, Pick 14: C Luke Wypler, OSU, 22
Round 3, Pick 28: LT Ryan Hayes, Michigan, 22
Round 5, Pick 3: S DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama, 22
Round 5, Pick 28: WR Dontay Demus Jr., Maryland, 23
The 2024 Buffalo Bills has a lot of new faces, but many of the starting talent is still the same as it was last year. The Bills brought in a slew of veterans to help strengthen a youthful and hungry roster. With some behind the scenes work, raw talent was turned into extra draft picks, which were then cashed in further and with interest. The Buffalo Bills had five picks in the first three rounds and used them to great effect.
Many thought the Bills would target S Brian Branch in the first round, and perhaps they were, but trading down four picks was enough to lose out on him to the Buccaneers and the 19th pick. Instead, the Bills went edge rusher (again) which will allow Von Miller to take his time coming back from his ACL injury.
The second round saw Buffalo load up on offensive weapons for Josh Allen. HB Gibbs is perhaps not the power back they were hoping for, but he has the tools to play all three downs for the Bills and that should be more than enough to make an impact on the team. WR Kayshon Boutte showcased great route running, better hands, and good speed - he should be able to plug right in to the Bills offense as their starting slot receiver come Week 1.
Round 3 saw a run on offensive line talent, and the Bills were not going to be left behind. With ten offensive lineman coming off the board, the Bills secured Rodger Saffold's hopeful replacement in C Luke Wypler from Ohio State, and an instant starter in LT Ryan Hayes from Michigan. Hopefully the two can quickly leave their college rivalry at the door and instead focus their efforts on protecting Josh Allen from their pass rushing counterparts.
With only two draft picks left and both of them coming in the Fifth Round, the Bills still had plenty of holes to plug. A run on Safeties occurred before their first of two Fifth Round selections and being desperate for some secondary help, the Bills took S DeMarcco Hellams from Alabama. At 6'1" 208lbs, Demarcco has the size and speed for the position, but there are many question marks considering his physical conditioning. His NFL combine saw him produce a mediocre bench press, a lackluster vertical jump, and he will need to spend extra time at the jugs machine after practices as he has difficulty tracking the deep ball.
The Bills rounded out their draft in the bottom of the Fifth Round and selected Maryland Terrapins' Dontay Demus Jr. who is tied for a school-record number of career touchdowns with 14. Do you know who the holds the other half of that record? Stefon Diggs. Standing at 6'4" tall and 215lbs, Dontay has a quick, long stride, good reach, and relishes catching passes in the intermediate part of the field. There is a slight durability conccern there, but his size, speed, and character were enough to take a flyer on him (no pun intended). Stefon has already reached out to Dontay on Twitter to welcome him to the Mafia.
With no real answer at Safety, the Bills once again looked to the free agent pool to find a serviceable starter. SS Kareem Jackson was brought in on a one year deal and will double as being a valuable mentor to Hellams and Damar Hamlin, who wishes to make his return but is still recovering from his sudden cardiac arrest that saw him carted off the field just a few months ago. The Bills look solid enough on the offensive side of the ball however. The Buffalo Bills look like real contenders, and they could be one or two trades away from solving their problem at safety, or adding some much needed interior defensive line help. The Bills are near the top favorites for winning the Super Bowl this year, and as is becoming usual around Western New York... the fans are hopeful and extremely excited for the season to start.
The Bills open the preseason away against the Carolina Panthers on August 12 at 8:00 PM.