In the first two pieces of our offseason series on the Bills, we looked at How Much Cap Space Do The Buffalo Bills Really Have? , which focuses on a few intricacies of the CBA and how it may affect the Bills’ available cap space. Then, we dove into Which Buffalo Bills Free Agents Should They Re-Sign?, looking into the 19 Buffalo Bills whose contracts are expiring, what they might cost, and whether I projected they would be brought back.
In the third piece in our series, we will get into some free agents that Bills fans should monitor on the offensive side of the ball. As I’ve spoken to in the lead up to this, I do not believe enormous splurge signings are in the cards. Brandon Beane has shown a strong ability to identify values in the marketplace (e.g. Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano, John Brown), and I plan to focus on that same stratum.
We’ll dive into this further as we get into draft season, when there’s a possibility they look to bring in some young competition for Matt Barkley at backup QB, but I don’t anticipate any free agent signings at the QB position. A handful of names like Trevor Siemian, Chase Daniel, or Matt Moore could make some sense, but they’re unlikely to make a material difference over Barkley and his very reasonable $2M cap number.
Here is where things will get interesting — with Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott possibly showing their hand as to what kind of complement they feel is most beneficial to put alongside standout rookie Devin Singletary. I don’t anticipate the Bills going anywhere near the contracts that Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, or even Kenyon Drake likely will garner this offseason. If you’ve listened to me on the podcast at all, you’ll know how strongly I feel about not paying running backs premier money. This is backed up even further by rumors Arizona will release David Johnson and that the Rams are listening to offers for Todd Gurley. However, just because I don’t anticipate them spending big, I do expect them to bring in at least one free agent running back.
If the Bills think a between-the-tackles thumper is the best pairing for Singletary, I could see them pursuing Tampa Bay’s 26-year-old Peyton Barber, Houston’s 28-year-old Carlos Hyde, or Philadelphia’s 25-year-old Jordan Howard. All three backs are around 6’0″ and 225 lbs with experience picking up tough yards between the tackles, and potentially taking a portion of touches that would save the most impactful wear and tear off of Singletary.
Another route to look for would be to utilize Singletary’s shiftiness and contact balance in traffic, and adding a more pure passing game back as a complement. Some names to watch in this area would be Washington’s 29-year-old Chris Thompson, Seattle’s 26-year-old CJ Prosise, or San Francisco’s 25-year-old restricted free agent, Matt Breida. All three are stellar out of the backfield and have the option to carry six to eight hand-offs per game, as well.
I like each of these names for the value they represent. Although Breida is intriguing with his speed, I don’t like getting into a spot where they need to offer enough that SF won’t match. My preference would be to add Jordan Howard or Chris Thompson to a two-year, $6M deal and then picking up the thumper or pass-catching counterpart in the mid-to-late rounds in the 2020 NFL Draft. Something like Singletary, Chris Thompson, and Zach Moss, or Singletary, Jordan Howard, and Antonio Gibson sounds right.
It would be fantastic to see the Bills splurge on an Amari Cooper or AJ Green, but with the historic draft class being discussed by so many draft pundits, I don’t expect that as the path Beane will take. If the numbers are right, I don’t think it’s out of the question that they pursue an Emmanuel Sanders after his playoff run in San Francisco, or possibly an outside speedster like the New York Jets’ Robby Anderson.
The area that I really like, however, is a sweet spot of under-utilized players coming off their rookie deals. There are four guys in this range that bring something to the table immediately, while letting a rookie wide receiver draft pick (or two) to be brought along slowly. Tennessee’s Tajae Sharpe is 6’2″, 200 lbs, and 25 years old. Cleveland’s 25-year-old Rashard Higgins is 6’1″ and 200lbs. Green Bay’s 26-year-old Geronimo Allison is 6’3″ and 202 lbs. Kansas City’s Demarcus Robinson is 25 years old and 6’1″, 202 lbs. You may notice a trend here. All four guys are coming from situations where they had limited opportunities, either from immense talent in front of them (i.e. Robinson and Allison) or poor passing/QB situations (i.e. Sharpe and Higgins). All four are young with untapped upside, decent size, and in a few cases, some legitimate explosiveness.
I would love to see the Bills snag one of these four on a reasonable three-year, $12M deal, then to double dip in this historic draft class with two WR picks in the first four rounds. If the Bills went into camp next year with John Brown, Cole Beasley, Rashard Higgins, Jalen Reagor (TCU), and Michael Pittman Jr (USC) all locked in, then training camp could be a lot of fun with Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Isaiah McKenzie, and Robert Foster all fighting for one roster spot.
A lot of Bills fans seem to be clamoring for a splurge at tight end, going after Hunter Henry or Austin Hooper, but I just don’t see it. Both players are looking for four- or five-year deals averaging $10M+ per season, which seems a step too far. With two draft picks last year spent on Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney, I don’t anticipate a large draft investment, either. The Bills currently have Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, and Jason Croom all under contract in 2020. If not for the recent release of Carolina’s Greg Olsen, I would not project any change. If there’s a chance to bring Olsen into town on a one- or two-year deal around $5-6M per season, it could be done on a relatively financial net neutral while releasing Tyler Kroft. Olsen, although older, would be a material upgrade over Kroft on the field, and could truly be the Frank Gore to Dawson Knox’s Devin Singletary in the tight end room. I believe Beane and McDermott will try to leverage their relationship with Olsen to bring the Walter Payton Man of the Year into a locker room losing Lorenzo Alexander and also into a tight end room that could use an upgrade. If they’re not able to lobby Olsen, then I expect the team to stand pat.
Interior Offensive Line
With the Bills having Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, Spencer Long, Ike Boettger and Ryan Bates under contract, as well as the potential position versatility of a Cody Ford, I expect the only decision on the interior offensive line to be whether to re-sign starting left guard Quinton Spain, or to possibly add some youth in the middle rounds to compete with Boettger and Bates for those final roster spots. Obviously, a splurge signing on New England’s Joe Thuney or Washington’s Brandon Scherff would be very welcome upgrades, but I do not anticipate that kind of investment on the $60M+ deal I expect both to land this offseason. One name to keep in mind if they can’t reach terms with Quinton Spain could be Carolina’s Daryl Williams, who played quite a bit of left guard this season. I anticipate the Bills bringing back Quinton Spain on a three-year, $18M deal and then drafting someone like Clemson’s John Simpson to groom as a future replacement for Spain, Feliciano, and/or Long.
You’ll see some names thrown out like Indianapolis’s Anthony Castonzo, Tennessee’s Jack Conklin, or Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga, but I don’t see any of those moves at this time. The Bills have Dion Dawkins locked in at left tackle and ready for an extension of his own. At right tackle, rookie Cody Ford showed enough potential to continue his platoon with veteran Ty Nsekhe. I spoke in the previous piece about how I anticipate the Bills bringing back swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle on a similar two-year $4M deal to be the fourth tackle. The lone exception I could see, which I believe to be a remote possibility, would be if the Bills are not able to re-sign Quinton Spain and consequently choose to move Cody Ford inside to guard (likely right guard, with Feliciano kicking over to left guard). If that were to take place, potentially the Bills could look at Seattle’s 26-year-old Germain Ifedi or Philadelphia’s 26-year-old Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Both are very physically gifted and could be signed to develop along with Ty Nsekhe, and I believe both could be had for the range of what I projected Quinton Spain at: three years $15-18M.
Although many fans have visions of splash signing after splash signing in their mind’s eye, I believe Brandon Beane’s track record has shown a propensity for identifying market inefficiencies and pockets of value. The names I’ve identified here are ones that I believe are the range of player that will fit the right price with the right opportunity for return on investment as a value to the organization.
Stay tuned for our next piece on our offseason plan . . . Defensive Free Agent Wish List.