Remaining free agent defensive linemen the Bills could target

05/02/2023
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The offseason feeding frenzy that is the beginning of free agency and the NFL Draft has cooled to a simmer, but the Buffalo Bills still have some ingredients to purchase for the 2023 main course. General manager Brandon Beane recently said that he believes the team will add two more veteran free agents, one of which would be a defensive lineman. If he was counting running back signee Latavius Murray in that pair then the Bills are zeroing in on a big man up front as mini-camp approaches.

A quick refresher, the Bills have stayed in-house so far this offseason, electing to re-sign defensive linemen Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson. They haven’t looked outside the organization, yet, for help along the line. That’s not the worst plan for Beane and new defensive play caller Sean McDermott. Last season, despite some fan frustration in the playoffs, Buffalo’s defense was once again one of the best units in football. The Bills were second in points allowed per game at just 17.9 per contest. They gave up just 319.1 yards per game, good enough for sixth-best in the league. The analytics community loves them as well, with Football Outsiders’ ranking the Bills fourth in their DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). They come in third in rush defense DVOA and eighth in pass defense DVOA.

There is one glaring (at least at the start of camp) hole along the defense, and that is the unfortunate absence of Von Miller who suffered an ACL injury during the Thanksgiving game at Detroit. With his availability in question to start 2023 added to Beane’s comments mentioned above, we can have some fun with names Buffalo may want to add to a one-year deal at the latter stages of free agency.

DT Poona Ford

Former Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford is a create-a-character in Madden. The Texan Longhorn product tips the scale at over 310 lbs while standing 5’11”. He’s a massive bowling ball standing on a pair of redwood trees for legs. Now that you have a visualization, let’s get into the meat of his football card. Ford recorded 35 tackles last season, including 14 hurries and three sacks. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has his missed tackle rate at 7.9% which ranks 19th among qualified (50% of snaps) DTs, just ahead of some dude named Aaron Donald. What might make Sean McDermott the happiest is that Ford wasn’t flagged on a single play in 2022 while accounting for 15 stops.

The biggest hold-up for Beane signing Ford would most likely be the terms of a contract. He is coming off of a two-year, $12,345,000 deal with Seattle, according to Spotrac. They also list Ford’s market value at $9.2M annually which we know the Bills are not handing out at this point of the off-season.

(via Pro Football Focus)

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DT Ndamukong Suh

Suh is clearly on the last leg of his NFL career and could be in the mood to chase another ring. He was part of the Bucs’ defensive line that terrorized Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl 45. I know Bills Mafia likes reading that. The former second-overall pick of the Detroit Lions back in 2010 didn’t take the field for the Eagles last year until Week 11. He suited up for Philly starting then and played throughout the playoffs, including 11 snaps in the Super Bowl. His stats are modest due to lack of playing time, but he did manage to rack up nine tackles with two sacks. The 6’4″ 313lb defensive tackle played last season on an incentive-laden contract, earning a base salary of $750,000 with another $1,250,000 coming from incentives, per Spotrac. This type of deal could be perfect for Buffalo who would like a situational big body in Buffalo.

(via Pro Football Focus)

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Those two are on opposite ends of the financial spectrum for remaining defensive tackles but provide a good look at what is still on the market for Buffalo. Let’s switch our focus to EDGE, where there are a lot of tasty names still on the shelf.

DE Justin Houston

The former third-round pick out of Georgia is someone I wrote about the Bills possibly adding at the start of free agency, but he sits here available at the beginning of May. Houston’s numbers have cooled since the start of his career when he was a perennial Pro Bowler, but listen to my knees in the morning, and I have no room to talk. With Baltimore last season, he had 21 tackles, seven for a loss, 17 hits, and 9.5 sacks. He missed 41.2% of tackles, which was 128th of 131 qualified EDGE rushers, per PFF. Sticking with analytics, he ranked 25th in defensive grade, with a 77.1, and a 75.4 was 23rd in pass rush grade. His 16 stops slot him in 73rd. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers for an EDGE, but Buffalo needs a guy to slow the leak while Miller rehabs and to play situationally after that.

Houston is coming off of a one-year, $3.5M deal with Baltimore, according to Spotrac. They also list Houston’s market value at $5.3M annually, which would chew up most of the Bills’ remaining cap, but as cap guru Greg Tompsett reminds us, there is always money in the banana stand. You might not want Beane to pull out more cap coupons, but if needed for Houston or others, they can still do it.

(via Pro Football Focus)

DE Yannick Ngakoue

If you want to dream big and pretend the cap is just a myth, Yannick Ngakoue is the one to salivate over joining Buffalo. The 28-year-old ranked 11th in sacks in 2022, finishing with 12 for the Colts. PFF also credits him with 23 hurries and nine hits. The 69th pick of the 2016 draft did struggle at times with missed tackles, and his 22.7% missed tackle rate ranked him 110th among EDGE to play at least 20% of their teams’ snaps in 2022. That said, when you can get after the quarterback, you are going to get paid. Ngakoue is coming off a two-year, $26M deal with Indy, per Spotrac. They suggest his market value is just south of $15M per year on a four-year contract.

(via Pro Football Focus)

DE Melvin Ingram

The number one reason for many fans to want Beane to bring in Ingram is the simple fact that if he is on the Bills, he can’t destroy Buffalo’s offensive line. The former South Carolina Gamecock has been an issue in Western New York for a decade, with three of his eight sacks last year coming against the Bills. His 2022 stats, however, were very boom or bust. He had seven regular-season sacks, ranking him 36th among qualified EDGEs. His 25 hurries rank in the top third of the league, but a missed tackle rate of 27.8% slots him near the bottom at 117 out of 130. Ingram is coming off a one-year, $4M deal with Miami. It included a $1.65M signing bonus and $3.32M guaranteed, per Spotrac. A contract slightly smaller in all three categories could probably land the former first rounder in Orchard Park.

(via Pro Football Focus)

Some other names to watch out for should Beane decide to make one last splash this free agency should include: Akiem Hicks, Linval Joseph, Chris Wormley, Leonard Floyd, Robert Quinn, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, and fan favorite Kyle Van Noy.

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