Josh Allen put away all doubters with a stunning season for Buffalo. The Bills were led to an AFC East best 13-3 record and an AFC Championship appearance where they fell to Mahomes and the Chiefs. Currently, $5 million in the negative in cap space, means Buffalo will have to make some cuts this offseason before trying to sign talented free agents. The Bills offseason will focus on the defense and giving Josh Allen protection.
Roster Needs: CB, LB, EDGE, IOL, OT
Josh Allen officially broke out this season and consequently, so did the Bills’ offense. The addition of stud receiver, Stefon Diggs, helped Allen throw for the 5th most yards, 4th highest completion percentage, and the 4th most touchdowns across the league. Allen’s top two targets had career years. The main beneficiary, Diggs, led the league in receiving yards with 1,535. In the slot, Cole Beasley was 23rd in yards with 967.
John Brown struggled with a knee injury all year and missed time as a result. In the games, Brown did play he was primarily used as a decoy and did not make much of an impact himself. The 30-year-old is on the decline in his career and the Bills will seriously consider him as a cut candidate, which would free up $8 million next season, crucial to filling holes across the roster. Rookie Gabriel Davis flashed promise in Brown’s absence. Davis totaled 600 yards in 11 games started for Buffalo and would make a solid replacement if Brown were to be gone next season.
Buffalo’s running game was unspectacular, but that cannot be attributed to the running back play. The interior of the offensive line play was poor, and the running backs were constantly getting hit in the backfield. Right guard, Brian Winters struggled to make an impact in the pass or run game. Left guard Cody Ford missed time due to an injury, and Jon Feliciano was excellent as a run blocker but struggled to protect Josh Allen in the pocket. Winters and Feliciano are both free agents and the front office has decisions to make. Solid right tackle, Darryl Williams is also a free agent and will be the most expensive to bring back.
Buffalo may opt to move Cody Ford to tackle from guard as he has the versatility and athleticism to do so. Then Buffalo could sign a quality veteran guard such as Kelechi Osemele or Lane Taylor for a few million rather than shelling out $10 million to re-sign Darryl Williams. Both guards are into their thirties but have shown they can still perform at a high level. A short deal would pay dividends for protecting Josh Allen. Feliciano could then be brought back as he routinely opened running lanes for Zack Moss and Devin Singletary.
Cutting John Brown is one of many ways Buffalo could open up cap space. Other cut candidates would be Quinton Jefferson or Vernon Butler. Cutting either of the defensive tackles would create $8 million and would not be devastating losses to the defensive front. Both Jefferson and Butler were ineffective at getting after the quarterback or shutting down running lanes. Fellow defensive tackle, Ed Oliver has all the potential in the world to become a star. Players like Harrison Phillips and Star Lotulelei are solid depth pieces at the position as well.
One of the main points to be addressed is the edge position opposite of Jerry Hughes. Hughes is excellent at getting to the quarterback and forcing hurried throws. On the opposite side of the line, rookie AJ Epenesa looked sluggish and lacked explosiveness. An edge rusher may be too expensive to be brought in through free agency, but if Buffalo finds the money, a player like Melvin Ingram. Ingram is older, meaning he would cost less than other premium free agents, but that does not mean he cannot play. Ingram racked up three straight seasons of 70 pressures on opposing quarterbacks until an injury cut it short. He is quick for his size and would be a dominant force across Jerry Hughes.
The Bills may consider addressing the position through the draft as well. The thirtieth pick in the draft means players must drop, but the edge class is deep with talent. Carlos Basham is a great combination of speed and size that Sean McDermott will be looking for at the position. Jaelan Phillips from Miami would also fit the Bills’ scheme well.
Matt Milano is a free agent and should be at the top of the list for players to be brought back. Milano’s play has been truly reminiscent of the modern-day linebacker, dropping back into coverage and guarding multiple positions. Tremaine Edmunds and Milano were stifling in coverage for the defense and Buffalo must pay up to keep the tandem together.
The Buffalo secondary was active in picking off the ball, forcing the 7th most interceptions in the league. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde have cemented themselves as the best safety duo in the league guarding multiple positions and making big-time tackles when needed. Taron Johnson played into a playmaker in the slot, mostly known for his 101-yard pick-six in the AFC divisional round. Tre’Davious White remains a stifling corner, locking down opposing number one receivers. However, the Bills have failed to introduce another solid boundary corner since White joined the team in 2017.
The Josh Norman project went terribly for everyone and Buffalo still lacks another physical corner. The draft projects to be the best way to handle it, with corner Asante Samuel Jr. from Florida State being available in the later picks. Samuel is a complete ballhawk forcing 3 picks on 32 targets. Samuel has the talent to overcome his lack of size as a solid partner to White on the outside.