The Buffalo Bills were extremely aggressive yet methodical with their approach to the 2019 NFL free agency period. After the team was mocked for failing to acquire Antonio Brown in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, GM Brandon Beane got redemption by bolstering every offensive position group, surrounding second-year quarterback Josh Allen with a bevy of experienced and talented players. After the dust settled from both the legal tampering window preceding free agency and the first two days of the official signing period, Buffalo introduced 10 free agents in total, nine of which will take the field on offense.
Allen will enter his second year with the team as the unquestioned leader of the franchise. The team’s No. 7 overall pick completed 52.8-percent of his passes for 2,074 yards, throwing 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 631 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns as a rookie.
Buffalo went 5-6 in the games Allen started, and the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder helped lead the Bills’ offense with three game-winning drives and two fourth-quarter comebacks.
Allen’s stats aren’t impressive on the surface, but looking at his supporting cast — headlined by Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay — gives a glimmer of hope for the future. Allen was tasked with making young unknowns like Robert Foster, Jason Croom, and Isaiah McKenzie look serviceable and, for the most part, he succeeded.
Buffalo’s offensive line, anchored by second-year left tackle Dion Dawkins, was shoddy at best. Allen was under pressure on 43.4% of his dropbacks, which was the second-most in the NFL behind Deshaun Watson. But that won’t be the case heading into the 2019 NFL season, thanks to the Bills’ ‘judicious’ approach to free agency.
The team signed Mitch Morse, one of the top centers in the NFL, to a four-year, $44 million deal. The 26-year-old is a major upgrade over Russell Bodine and figures to give Buffalo’s offense the type of leadership and experience Eric Wood provided for years.
Center Mitch Morse is an eraser along the offensive line. He's smart, patient and aware, making him the perfect pivot player in the middle.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 16, 2019
Beane decided to let right guard John Miller and Jordan Mills depart, adding a talented veteran swing tackle in Ty Nsekhe, formerly of the Washington Redskins. Nsekhe stands 6-foot-8 and 330-pounds and appeared in 56 NFL games, making 16 starts. Buffalo added more quality offensive line depth with versatility in Jon Feliciano, Spencer Long, and LaAdrian Waddle, who will compete for jobs in training camp.
This pass set by Nsekhe was cleaner and more balanced than anything I have seen from the Bills OL in a while. pic.twitter.com/nh2FnWi5nc
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 17, 2019
The wide receiver group saw the biggest injection of talent, however, with the team inking veterans John Brown (Ravens) and Cole Beasley (Cowboys) to $27 million and $29 million deals, respectively. Undrafted rookie Robert Foster was stellar during the second half of the 2018 season, finishing with 27 receptions for 541 yards and three touchdowns. Zay Jones made significant strides in his second year, as well, hauling in 56 passes for 652 yards and seven scores. In Brown, the Bills gain a serious burner who will threaten opposing defenses vertically. The 28-year-old ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Combine. He caught 42 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns last season with the Ravens. With Allen’s penchant for throwing the deep ball, Brown hopes to replicate the success he enjoyed early in his career with the Arizona Cardinals.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 13, 2019
With two legitimate deep threats on the outside in Foster and Brown, things should open up in the middle of the field for Allen. That’s where Beasley comes in. The 29-year-old established himself as one of the premier slot receivers in the NFL during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, hauling in 319 passes for 3,271 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2012-18. The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder is exceptionally quick and a polished route runner who will undoubtedly help Allen’s progression.
A complete write-up on WR Cole Beasley
*Concepts he can flourish in (Weakside option vs zone & man coverages, Flood concept as under or intermediate out route, mesh concepts)
*How he can help Allen vs. blitz and on third down
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 19, 2019
Buffalo replaced veteran tight end Charles Clay with Tyler Kroft, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals. While Kroft isn’t going to be confused with Gronk anytime soon, the 26-year-old proved that he could be a productive weapon in 2017, when he caught 42 passes for 404 receiving yards, finding the endzone seven times. Standing 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, Kroft gives Allen a big target in the seam and provides some push in the run game.
Just one week into the new league year, Brandon Beane has plugged nearly all of the holes throughout the Bills’ offense with experienced players and did so without putting the team in poor salary cap position. Buffalo still has roughly $33 million in available salary cap space, and without any glaring needs on the roster, Buffalo is in position to select the best player available with their No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. But most importantly, Josh Allen has been given adequate protection up front with a collection of proven talent at the skill positions that should aid his growth as he heads into his second year in the NFL.