Heading into the offseason, general manager Brandon Beane and the Bills boasted the third most cap space in the NFL, only trailing the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts. Beane made it evident to everyone very early into the offseason that the Bills would not overpay anyone and that each dollar would be spent with a purpose. Three months later and Beane has fulfilled his promise, bringing 16 free agents to city dubbed “the least desirable free agent location” earlier in the offseason.
Beane and his staff have been busy in the last month whether they are signing free agents, scouting young draftees, or hosting players for a workout, the Bills staff have utilized their time well. Now lets take a look at the new Bills and how they will make an impact in 2019.
Building a Wall
It was no secret that the Bills had one of the worst offenses in 2018, so naturally 13 out of 16 new free agents who signed with Buffalo are on the offensive side of the ball. Six of those 13 offensive players were offensive linemen, so let’s look at the big men first.
Buffalo opened free agency a few weeks early by signing college teammate of Jeremiah Sirles in Spencer Long who was released by the Jets earlier in the offseason. Long spent his first few years in the league with the Redskins and was solid at both the guard and center positions. He then signed with the Jets and had a below average year and the Jets cut Long for cap purposes. Long will be a solid depth piece at the very least and may even compete for a starting spot come training camp.
The Bills then made a huge free agent splash by signing former Kansas City Chiefs center Mitch Morse to a four-year $44 million dollar deal. Morse has a lot of playoff experience under his belt and can fill the hole left by Eric Wood after the 2017 season. He will be a great locker room leader and will be the anchor of a much improved offensive line in 2019.
The Bills continued on their rebuild by signing former Redskins tackle Ty Nsekhe who has had a wild career thus far and his latest stop will be with Buffalo, as a talented swing tackle who certainly looks to be a starting candidate at right tackle. Beane and his staff also signed former Raider Jon Feliciano who appears to be a nice depth option. He will provide solid competition for Vlad Ducasse, who struggled immensely in 2018.
The next free agent to sign with Buffalo was former Patriot and Super Bowl champion LaAdrian Waddle who will provide solid depth behind Dion Dawkins. Waddle, who has deep playoff experience protecting Tom Brady, will be a great mentor to the younger players, including Josh Allen. Most recently, Buffalo signed Quinton Spain, a four year starter for the Titans. Spain is not a complete lock for a starting spot, unlike his new teammate Morse, although, Spain will likely find himself starting in 2019. The real question for Spain is whether he will start at right or left guard.
Some Security for Allen
Although we are still five months away from the kickoff of the 2019 season, Buffalo’s offensive line is already worlds ahead of their line in 2018. These six players give Josh Allen peace of mind and will likely achieve the whole organization’s goal of making sure Allen doesn’t spend all of 2019 on the run like he was in 2018.
Buffalo also added several key players in their receiving corps, another area of struggle for the past two years. Beane went out and got a deep threat in John Brown, who had a solid year with the Ravens in 2018. The Bills also scooped up former Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has an uncanny talent of getting open, something Josh Allen will enjoy. While these two receivers will be huge parts of the Bills offense, Brown (29) and Beasley (soon turning 30) are not the ideal age for receivers who both got 4-year deals from Buffalo.
Maybe my harshest critique of the offseason is giving these two receivers longer contracts. Although Beane can get out of these contracts fairly easily in terms of finances, it is still a big commitment to these veteran receivers. Overall I like the signings but I wish I could’ve changed the length. The Bills also signed pro-bowl kick returner Andre Roberts from the Jets. Roberts will help round out a special teams unit that faced some adversity in 2018.
Legends in the backfield
The running game is another problem area for the Bills, which is why they added Frank Gore, an NFL legend, joining his good friend LeSean McCoy in Buffalo’s backfield. The Gore signing indicates to fans that they may turn to a late-round running back in the draft, who would benefit greatly learning from two of the best backs currently in the league. Buffalo also added Senorise Perry, teammates with Gore on the Dolphins last year, as a special teams addition. Perry will be the primary competition for Marcus Murphy, Buffalo’s special teams standout at running back. These two signings at running back give the Bills depth, but still allow room to add through the draft.
After cutting Charles Clay in March, Buffalo’s tight end group looked barren with only Jason Croom on the roster. The Bills went after former Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft early into free agency. Kroft has an extended injury history but makes a big impact when he is on the field and will likely step into the starting role almost immediately. The Bills continued to add at tight end when they signed Kroft’s old teammate in Jake Fisher, an intriguing project, as Fisher is attempting to switch positions from left tackle to tight end. Fisher was signed to a one-year veteran minimum deal, so he is a low-risk high-reward signing and will be a huge target for fans to watch for in training camp. At the very least, Fisher will be a great blocking tight end and will make a huge impact on special teams.
Reinforcing the D
After spending a majority of their funds on offensive pieces, the Bills also invested in depth in their secondary. The Bills added E.J. Gaines, a free agent they were very interested in resigning after the 2017 season, but were restricted financially, resulting in Gaines leaving to join the Browns. A year later, Gaines is rejoining Buffalo, a team he had a lot of success with after being traded by the Rams. Buffalo also added former Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson on a one-year deal. Johnson has had some injury trouble and will likely fight with Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson for a depth spot in Buffalo’s secondary. Lastly, the Bills added former Seahawks’ safety Maurice Alexander, who provides Buffalo with flexibility on defense, as he can play strong safety and linebacker. Alexander will be an excellent special teams contributor and will add depth behind Jordan Poyer.
All 16 signings by the Bills were excellent additions, with my only major critiques being that they may have overpaid for Morse and giving longer than desired contracts to Brown and Beasley. Other than those critiques, Buffalo has had one of the best offseasons in the NFL and has garnished a lot of praise from national media. With these additions, Buffalo is now able to draft the best player on the board rather than drafting for need later this month.