OFFSEASON REVIEW: Buffalo Bills
As one season ends and another one begins, 32 NFL franchises put 2020 firmly in the rear view mirror and gear up for another tilt at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The hard work starts here, and for many has already begun; general managers and head coaches are finalising their staff and looking ahead to turning their rosters into potential challengers.
In this series we identify the key components that go into building a winning team, and what each franchise needs to do to be in the mix come the playoffs next January. We continue our team by team offseason review with a look at the Buffalo Bills:
The 2020 season was an extremely successful one for the Bills. They finished the season at 13-3 as they took home the AFC East crown. In the playoffs they knocked off both the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens before falling short against the Kansas City Chiefs.
While their season was ended in the AFC Championship Game, there is a lot for the Bills to be excited about coming out of 2020. Josh Allen took major strides as a franchise quarterback, and Stefon Diggs became the number one receiver the franchise hoped they were getting.
However, there are still some concerns for the Bills coming out of the season. While their offense ranked second in points and yards, their defense struggled. They ranked 16th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed. Additionally, the run game still lacks explosiveness. Neither Devin Singletary or Zack Moss demonstrated they were the answer in this backfield.
Despite interest in both Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier, the Bills will see both coordinators return in 2021. In fact, the Bills coaching staff has seen little turnover over the last two offseasons. For a team that got so close last year to be able to return the same staff is important.
Brian Daboll was a top name in many head coaching searches, but ultimately missed out. His connection with Josh Allen was reportedly a big part of the QBs improvement. If Allen and Daboll can continue to remain on the same page, this offseason can go from strength to strength,
Defensively the Bills will be pleased to return Frazier. While the defense struggled last year, Frazier has a ton of experience. He is also a crucial voice on the sidelines for head coach Sean McDermott to rely on.
State Of The Roster
The Bills roster is in an extremely good position. Usually when a team goes on a run to the AFC Championship Game they can see a lot of turnover the following year. However, many of the Bills pending free agents largely fall into the secondary roles on the offense.
They will return their top four receivers in Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabriel Davis. That is an extremely strong receiving core. However, the Bills do lack top end talent at tight end and running back. Dawson Knox is serviceable but offers little in the way of upset. Singletary and Moss are young, but neither has appeared to be an incredible option at the position so far.
Defensively the Bills are returning a number of starters. As mentioned above they will want to see improvements in their defense. However, with a large core of starters set to return, the Bills can look to upgrade positions rather than replace players. They can keep that experience together, while looking to add difference makers.
Salary Cap & Cut Candidates
The Buffalo Bills currently site on the verge when it comes to their salary cap situation. If the cap is set at the current minimum of $180 million, the Bills will be around $1 million over the cap heading into the 2021 league year.
Therefore, if they want to make improvements and add splash players they will need to make some tough decisions. A potential cut candidate who stands out is Mario Addision. Addision is set to count over $10 million against the cap in 2021. $6 million of that could be saved if the Bills part ways.
Another defensive lineman on the chopping block is Vernon Butler. Cutting Butler would save $6.8 million. Equally, Quinton Jefferson could be looking for a new team in the coming offseason. Releasing Jefferson would save another $6.5 million.
Offensively, John Brown is the name that stands out. Diggs is now the main receiving threat and Brown carries a $9.5 million cap hit into 2021. More than $7.9 million of that could be saved if the Bills parted ways with their speedy receiver.
The Bills do have some options to save cap with restructures. They have Diggs at $13.5 million on the books this year. $7.9 million of that could be moved into future years with a restructure. Additionally, they could save another $2.5 million if they choose to extend Allen this offseason.
The Bills have relatively very few impact players hitting free agency. The biggest names fall on the offensive line with guard Brian Winters and tackle Daryl Williams. The Bills offense was a strong unit last year and losing 40 percent of your offensive line can be damaging. The Bills may look to replace one and re-sign one.
Defensively Matt Milano at linebacker is the biggest potential loss. While not always a star on this team, Milano is a key part of the defense. He managed just 10 games in 2020, registering his lowest tackle total of his career. However, at 3.5 sacks he more than doubled his career output in just one season. Milano is not a key piece to retain, but if the price is right, keeping him around makes sense.
The Bills have some main needs and some luxury needs. Addressing the offensive line departures is a key role they must have a plan for. Whether that is use a first round pick on an offensive lineman or to go hunting in free agency, they cannot ignore that crucial unit.
Offensively, running back and tight end are luxury areas of need. Both could do with some top tier talent. Of the two positions, tight end offers the biggest scope for improvement. At running back, either Moss or Singletary could take the next step and be a featured back. However, if there is value in the market then adding a difference-maker in the backfield could help boost this offense further.
Defensively, the Bills could make improvements at all three levels. Replacing Milano is a priority but so is upgrading the pass rush. The Bills need to be able to get after the quarerback with more consistency in 2021. They are in a prime spot in the 2021 NFL Draft to add a young pass rusher with plenty of upside. Additionally, this pass rushing group in free agency is loaded with talented options.