Bills Promote vs. Pay: The right move at right tackle

03/08/2023
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Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was often running around like a chicken with his head cut off throughout the 2022 season, served up by an inferior offensive line to opposing pass rushers to feast on like that uncle we all have, but don’t claim on Thanksgiving. Fortunately for the Bills, Allen was dominant in scramble mode, picking up roughly 97% of first downs when he took off on third and fourth and ten or more, per NFL Stats and Info. The Bills’ offensive line finished 28th in Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) run-blocking grade and 21st in pass-blocking. Pass-blocking was fourth according to ESPN, winning at a 67% clip, but run-blocking fell to 22nd at 71%. So, as you can see, the Bills could certainly use an upgrade on the line.

There was an OL carousel in front of Allen, with eight guys getting at least 100 snaps along the line. I feel pretty confident in saying the Bills will do something along the line to upgrade that unit. It seems that Dion Dawkins and Mitch Morse are locked in, and we explored guard in a previous PROMOTE vs. PAY.

Bills Promote vs. Pay: Rodger Saffold & Ryan Bates vs. The Field

Now it’s time to take a look at the right side of the line at tackle. For today’s exercise, we’re going to explore the numbers behind sticking with Spencer Brown or adding an older free agent in George Fant of the Jets or Jermaine Eluemunor or the Raiders.

Snaps:

When it comes to right tackle, Brown paced our group with 1,068 snaps, of those 991 came at right tackle. Las Vegas free agent Eluemunor took 1,007 snaps, with 938 coming at tackle. New York free agent Fant missed most of the middle of the season, Weeks 4 to 12, while he was on the field, he played 528 snaps, with 516 coming at tackle. Just looking at the snap percentage for these guys in games they were active: Brown was at 88% in 2022, Fant 89%, and Eluemunor 85%. So, when healthy, these guys are taking the turf for their respective squads.

Counting Stats:

When it comes to counting stats among these three, you need to take into account that Fant only played seven games last season, Brown played in 14 regular season games, and Eluemunor was available for all 17 of the Raiders’ games. Now that we have that understanding, Brown allowed four sacks, which was tied for 36th among tackles who played 20% of their team’s snaps, Eluemunor’s three is tied for 24th, and Fant allowed five but didn’t hit the snap qualifier. Brown allowed 11 hits, which is tied for last or 86th, Eleumunor’s three is tied for 26th, and Fant allowed eight. Brown allowed 35 hurries which rank 83rd of 86, Eluemunor gave up 20 hurries slotting him at 52nd, and Fant allowed 14 hurries. Lastly, is penalties. Here Brown and Fant had seven while Eluemunor had ten.

Analytics:

Let’s peel back the layers of advanced stats for these three starting with Pro Football Reference’s system they call “AV” which stands for “approximate value” (“this is our attempt to put a single number on each player season since 1960 so that we can (very approximately) compare across years and positions”). Here, they grade Brown a 9, Eluemunor a 7, and Fant a 3.

Flipping back to PFF, their base stat is EFF or efficiency (Pass Blocking Efficiency – A PFF Signature stat measuring pressure allowed on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks allowed.) Here they rank Brown a 95.6, Fant a 95.5, and Eluemunor a 97.7. Those ratings are 69th, 71st, and 20th, respectively. Sticking with PFF, let’s tackle their offensive grade for these three. Brown scored 53.4 or 79th of 89 qualified tackles. Fant was 48.4 or 82nd. Eluemunor comes in at 21st with a grade of 75.3.

Contract:

Spencer Brown is entering his third of four seasons under his rookie deal. Per Spotrac, Brown signed a four-year, $4,834,697 contract with the Bills, including an $876,144 signing bonus, $876,144 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $1,208,674. In 2023, Brown will earn a base salary of $1,099,518 while carrying a cap hit of $1,318,554 and a dead cap value of $438,072. For Fant and Eluemunor, we will utilize the Spotrac Market Value. For Fant, they have him making $3.3 million per year on a two-year deal. As for Eluemunor, it’s a $5.6 million average annual value deal for three years.

Vorse’s Verdict:

I’m going to start my verdict with this qualifier each and every time… We all know the Bills aren’t flush with cash entering 2023. Even if they pull out most of their “cap coupons” (as our cap guru, Greg Tompsett, calls contract restructures), they are still looking at $40M to $50M to work with before signing or drafting anyone. That said, we all agree the Bills need to do something along the OL. I would love to see Buffalo add Eluemunor on the suggested $17M deal for three seasons. I think he gets more than that, you can argue he is the third-best right tackle on the market behind Mike McGlinchey and Jawaan Taylor. If the Bills could pull off signing him for the $5.6 million per, it would be a great off-season win. Using the thinking that he goes for more than that, let’s shift to the idea of having Brown still as a project while going a little cheaper and bringing in Fant. You now have two guys pushing each other, and a veteran option should Dawkins miss a game or more. With the Bills needing to keep costs low at some positions, I am all-in on this idea, be it with Fant or someone else.

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