Why the Buffalo Bills Have Had Success in Free Agency

The Buffalo Bills and GM Brandon Beane have been making smart and financially savvy decisions during Free Agency so far.

Photo by Ryan Talbot

The Buffalo Bills are a perennially overlooked franchise, and for good reason. I have the curse of being a 25 year-old Bills fan. That means I have never witnessed a Bills playoff win and I had to wait until the ripe age of 23 before I even saw them lock up a trip to the postseason. That trip was made during what was labeled as a “rebuilding season” though, and that is when Head Coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane proved they could lead this team to success. All we have to do is “trust the process.” Here is a look at what the “process” has brought us so far this offseason.

Spencer Long – Center, 3-yr/$12.6 million

Former team: New York Jets

This signing came well before the league’s legal tampering period. Spencer Long, linked to OL Jeremiah Sirles that came to the starting lineup for the Bills last season, joined the Bills when he was cut from the Jets shortly after the Adam Gase Era started in New York. This was a nice scoop for the Bills, for he fits the Bills’ scheme and immediately addressed the need for O-Lineman. After the Mitch Morse signing, I predict Long to kick out to guard.

Kevin Johnson – Cornerback, 1-yr/$9 million

Former team: Houston Texans

Johnson gets a one year prove-it deal, because he has not gone an entire year without sustaining an injury during his career. He is obviously talented, for he is a 2015 first round pick from Wake Forest, but it remains to be seen if he can remain on the field. This signing reminds me of the signing Beane made with CB Phillip Gaines during their playoff campaign in 2017. Ultimately, Gaines couldn’t remain healthy and signed with Cleveland at the end of the season. Hopefully Kevin Johnson, at the young age of 26, ends up a different story.

Frank Gore – Running back, 1-yr/$2 million

Former Team: Miami Dolphins

Entering the running back room this season is yet another player North of 30 years old with Frank Gore. Entering his 15th season in the NFL, Gore found a home in Buffalo. At number four on the NFL’s all-time leading rushers list, Gore provides the tough downhill running that McDermott likes to complement with RB Lesean McCoy. In fact, Gore was recruited to the team by McCoy, his close friend and workout buddy. I imagine this means the Bills will cut RB Chris Ivory and save about $2 million in cap room. This role was filled by Ivory for the recent season and Mike Tolbert the season before that.

John Brown – Wide Receiver, 3-yr/$27 million

Former Team: Baltimore Ravens

After striking out on trades for Antonio Brown and Desean Jackson, it was evident that the Bills wanted a speedy receiver that Josh Allen could throw deep to. Robert Foster, the undrafted breakout of last season, filled this role at the end of the season, but needed a veteran to learn under. Enter John Brown, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, he capitalized with Joe Flacco throwing him deep balls early last season. This signing provides a veteran to teach Robert Foster, and potentially a quick rookie like DK Metcalf, how to succeed in this league. The contract is front-loaded so if another receiver develops well under Brown, the team will find it easy to trade or part way with him after a few seasons.

Cole Beasley – Slot Receiver, 4-yr/$29 million

Former Team: Dallas Cowboys

Formerly a fan favorite in Texas, Beasley provides the proto-typical attitude McDermott looks for when building a team. His contract was agreed to just moments after the Bills released they’ve come to terms with fellow veteran John Brown. The Bills struggled to fill the Slot Receiver position during the season, eventually claiming Isaiah McKenzie from the Denver Broncos midseason to do so. Beasley’s role will be similar to Brown’s over the next few seasons; give Josh Allen a reliable target, while developing younger receivers on the depth chart. The Bills did not break the bank because they want to develop their own draft picks. It seems as though they want to develop their future slot receiver in Cole Beasley’s image.

Mitch Morse – Center, 4-yr/$44.5 million

Former Team: Kansas City Chiefs

This was perhaps the biggest signing of the Bills’ offseason so far. This signing reflected a commitment to protecting their former No. 1 pick QB Josh Allen. Kansas City held Morse in high regard and was thought to be a younger, cheaper version of fellow Free Agent Center Matt Paradis. Morse’s deal eventually eclipsed Paradis’, but he provides a young, stable center for Josh Allen to operate behind and a severe upgrade to the Bills’ O-Line.

Tyler Kroft – Tight End, 3-yr/$18.75 million

Former Team: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bills were in dire need of a tight end after wasting years and millions of dollars on Charles Clay. Clay consistently dropped the ball in high pressure situations and failed to convert third-downs like he was signed to do. To fill the gap of pass-catching tight end, Tyler Kroft gets his shot to be the lone player at the position for the team. TE Jason Croom is the incumbent tight end, but his role is more for blocking purposes. Look for them to use Kroft in goal-to-go situations where they need a big body.

Ty Nsekhe – Offensive Tackle, 2-yr/$14.5 million

Former Team: Washington Redskins

This one flew more under the radar. Daryl Williams from the Carolina Panthers was thought to be the answer at Offensive Tackle, but concerns over his looming knee injury drove negotiations to a halt. Enter Nsekhe, who has been waiting in the wings for his shot at a starting role and he now has it in Buffalo. A formidable swing tackle who made a few spot starts over the last couple of seasons. Nsekhe now gets to show how his size, 6’8″, and talent shape up in Buffalo for a very affordable price.

Jon Feliciano – Guard, 2-yr deal, Terms Pending

Former Team: Oakland Raiders

Feliciano isn’t going to come in and make a lot of noise for Buffalo, but he will provide depth at the guard position, which has been notoriously shallow for team. He was a great fill in for the Raiders during the past few seasons, but Head Coach John Gruden needed to find ways to cut costs. Feliciano has the opportunity to compete with second-year Guard Wyatt Teller in Buffalo, but I think the intention of signing Feliciano was to give solid back-up in the event of an injury.

Andre Roberts – Return Specialist, Terms Pending

Former Team: New York Jets

This signing came to a surprise, but it’s a long time coming for this team. The last time the Bills signed a return specialist was when they landed a bargain price for Brandon Tate from the Bengals. Last season was spent cycling WR Ray-Ray McCloud and RB Marcus Murphy through return rolls until ultimately neither proved they could handle the responsibility. Both returners turned the ball over frequently and could rarely break open for decent yardage. It got to the point last season where starting Safety Micah Hyde was put in to fair-catch every punt so the possession wouldn’t be fumbled. Roberts made both the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team for the Jets. It’s this type of signing that make Brandon Beane the best General Manager the Bills have had in a very long time.

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