The Buffalo Bills entered the 2019 NFL free agency period with a lot of cap space and glaring needs on the offensive side of the ball. With Josh Allen entering his second season as the team’s starting QB and having already established himself as the centerpiece of the offense, help was needed, and general manager Brandon Beane was quick to address it. The Bills stayed away from the biggest names in free agency, opting not to overpay for players who might not justify their exorbitant salaries. Other than center Mitch Morse, clearly the team’s top target and now the highest paid player at his position in the league, Beane was able to find solid pieces who will be able to fit their roles nicely and not compromise the team’s financial situation going forward. Most of those players signed essentially one- or two-year “prove it” deals with most of the guaranteed money being paid up front and providing escapes for the team if the players don’t work out as expected. With this strategy, Beane was able to preserve some cap space in case an impact player becomes available via trade.
Addressing the offense’s biggest need early
Looking closely at all the signings, it’s difficult to not be satisfied with the GM’s job. Morse is a very smart and dependable center who helped Patrick Mahomes in his first year as the Chiefs’ starter. If he can stay healthy, his presence should have a huge impact on the offensive line.
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 (@Cover_1_) March 16, 2019
Read more about what he brings here: https://t.co/MOcuxYJXad pic.twitter.com/OnTnNVULuJ
Morse wasn’t the only OL reinforcement. It was clearly the offense’s biggest problem in 2018, and Beane clearly took note. He signed intriguing veteran Ty Nsekhe from the Redskins to compete for one of the starting jobs at offensive tackle.
Ty Nsekhe adds a versatile tackle presence to the Bills offensive line pic.twitter.com/wvFUXbBu2f— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 13, 2019
His tape is pretty eye-popping, showing the technique and all of the physical traits you’d want in a starting tackle.
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 (@Cover_1_) March 17, 2019
Guards Spencer Long (NY Jets) and Jon Feliciano (Oakland Raiders), and RT LaAdrian Waddle from the Patriots were also added and will have a chance to compete for starting jobs. All of this competition between capable and experienced players should provide a boost for this unit in 2019.
#Bills Offseason O-Line Additions...— Chad Forbes (@NFLDraftBites) March 16, 2019
Jeremiah Sirles (Resigned)
Smart teams will study how Chris Ballard fixed #Colts O-Line. Answer? Create what he called 'Calderon of Competition'. Bills emulating that concept.
Help for Allen at skilled positions
Beane invested in skilled positions, too. Despite all the jokes about his age, Frank Gore still can ball, and it showed on film in 2018.
The highest-graded AFC East running back is headed to another AFC East team next season as Frank Gore heads to Buffalo pic.twitter.com/FWkcC2NCWV— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 13, 2019
He’s a very good all-around back who knows how to make the most of his opportunities and was always one of the top backs in the league in pass protection, an area in which the Bills have struggled since Fred Jackson departed. Add his character, leadership, and work ethic, and you have a quality signing here, even if it’s for one season only.
Tight end was another group that needed an overhaul. Charles Clay left, and the Bills signed former Bengal Tyler Kroft to take his place. He’s a big target who can help the running game as an in-line blocker, too.
Love the addition of the jab to duo, gives that extra second to execute the scheme. Kroft with perfect punch placement on the near hip to help the tackle before climbing. Every time I watch him he is doing little things that often don't get the praise but are crucial to a play. pic.twitter.com/6ju7hYUeuk— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) May 21, 2018
Kroft had a great season in 2017 before being slowed down by injuries in 2018. If he can come back to his previous form, the Bills will be well served at the starting TE position and still can groom Jason Croom and/or a rookie behind him.
A new approach to the WR position
Another group that faced criticism in 2018 was the wide receiver group. The overhaul truly began midway last year with the team changing their approach to the position. It continued in this free agency period, with Beane adding more speed to the group.
Former Raven John Brown has the skill set to fit perfectly with his new QB. A proven deep threat who can win some contested catches despite not having great size, his game reminds me of former Bills star WR Lee Evans. Josh Allen will be able to take advantage of a weapon like this.
No receiver averaged a depth of target further downfield than Robert Foster last season pic.twitter.com/IuuiYXqv3s— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 13, 2019
Having Brown alongside Robert Foster outside should open up the short and intermediate areas of the field for the passing game. Enter Cole Beasley. The former Cowboy is a specialist in the slot and can get open in those areas easily when facing single coverage. He and Zay Jones should see a lot of opportunities there.
Three years worth of film on Beasley in the books. Just gotta edit then write it up. Stay tuned.. pic.twitter.com/TDsxOkT2Ri— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) March 16, 2019
Andre Roberts was another WR added, but he comes to fill a huge need the Bills have had for a long time. The All-Pro kick returner can change the dynamic of the games with his explosiveness, as the Bills saw firsthand in the last matchup against the Jets.
The only signing on the defensive side of the ball was former Texans CB Kevin Johnson. A former first-round pick, Johnson comes to Buffalo to resurrect his career after a disappointing start to his NFL career. He should get an opportunity to compete against Levi Wallace, who has been impressive since winning the starting spot opposite Tre’Davious White.
“The Process” continues
After just one week, Beane has already given the Bills’ offense a complete new look. One pass rusher still might be added, which would make the draft all about selecting the best players available. No, the Bills haven’t been the most flashy team in this free agency period, but Brandon Beane has a smart plan and is executing it. Obviously, some of these signings could backfire, but even in that case, the GM has assured flexibility going forward because of team-friendly contracts. The Bills have a plan, and year three of “The Process” is starting out promising.