This is an important offseason for the Buffalo Bills. After enduring two seasons of major roster overhaul in building the team to fit Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott’s philosophies, Buffalo finally had salary cap space at its disposal to be aggressive in free agency. In addition to 10 picks in the coming Draft, Buffalo had over $70 million in cap space, which was the fourth-most in the NFL entering free agency.
The task at hand for Beane was maximizing the assets and get things right around Josh Allen. On paper, things are off to a great start. Let’s examine what Buffalo has accomplished and how it impacts Buffalo’s draft strategy.
There's More Frank Gore Signing Than You Think
Jokes about the Bills having the oldest running back group in the league aside, there is so much to love about adding Gore to the mix. A tireless worker and leader, Gore embodies everything in terms of establishing culture that McDermott craves. Losing Kyle Williams was a significant blow to the locker room and bringing in Gore helps to replace some of that and connect McDermott’s message to the locker room. From that perspective alone, Gore is worth his 1 year, $2 million deal.
Gore is tight with LeSean McCoy, and they often train together in the off season. Pairing the two together helps maximize what is left in the tank for McCoy with Gore pushing him. Injuries, an awful passing game and a lackluster offensive line limited McCoy last season, and he’s highly motivated to prove he can still be a playmaker in the NFL. I believe Gore’s presence will only help make sure that happens.
Although he will soon be 36 years old, Gore can still play. In a split role last season behind an awful Miami offensive line and a poor passing game, Gore still racked up 722 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. It was his highest yards per carry average since 2012 and the fifth-best of his 14-year career. He can still contribute and nicely complements McCoy’s skill set. Given the Bills’ favorable cap position, his salary is of no concern and has no restrictions on other moves Buffalo can make. In addition, Chris Ivory can be released for more cap savings than is committed to Gore. From a skill perspective, he's an asset to the Bills rushing attack.
In Josh Allen’s second season, having an experienced backfield can be extremely beneficial to him. Allen can rely on Gore and McCoy lining up and executing the way they should. While the position group will need overhauled next season, it should be of lesser concern to add youth to the mix with Allen in the backfield since he will have more experience. Plus, running back is an easy position to completely rebuild in one offseason. For now, it’s favorable for Buffalo to have experience.
Lastly, Gore helps improve the protection around Allen. Playing in the league for 15 seasons has provided Gore an incredible amount of experience in pass protection which is now an asset to Buffalo’s offense and keeping Allen upright. Gore's addition improves Buffalo's ability to keep Allen upright.
When you really dig into things, the Gore signing is extremely underrated once you get past his age and analyze the impact he can make.
Offensive Line Fortified
Sean McDermott discussed the importance of protecting the quarterback at his Combine presser and the additions Buffalo has made to its offensive line in Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe, Spencer Long and Jon Feliciano should do exactly that.
Signing a 4-year, $44 million dollar deal, Morse is an elite pass blocking center that can serve as the glue up front. His insertion to the lineup should provide a stabilizing presence to the unit for the Bills to make line calls and allow for Allen to focus his eyes on the secondary. Ty Nsekhe has been a standout pass blocker in routine backup duties filling in for the often injured Trent Williams in Washington. He has the upside to thrive in a full-time role.
For the first time in a long time, there is a legitimate competition and depth up front for the Bills. Buffalo can truly focus on getting the best five on the field as the group features a blend of experience and youth. Buffalo did a poor job last season replacing the departures of Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito and they made up for it in a big way so far this offseason. A position of major weakness last season, Buffalo is suddenly in good shape up front.
Weapons for Allen
The infusion of offensive talent continued with the signings of wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in addition to tight end Tyler Kroft.
After trotting out towering receivers last season in Andre Holmes and Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo’s wide receiving corps has been upgraded with speed and separation specialists. Buffalo loves to go four and five wide receiver sets, which can now include Brown and Beasley along with Zay Jones and Robert Foster. All four of those receivers clocked 40-yard dash times ranging from 4.34-4.49, placing endless burners on the field to complement Allen’s big arm that can challenge defenses vertically. In addition, an increased and more dynamic vertical passing game should open up things underneath where crafty route-runners like Beasley and Jones can feast.
Buffalo has set itself up well to diversify its passing game to attack more of the field and cause spacing challenges for opponents.
Draft Flexibility Created
The main goal of free agency is to acquire talent in positions of need on the roster so that the draft can be used to select the best player available and not reach for needs. Prior to Monday, it felt like Buffalo HAD to invest in an offensive player with pick No. 9 overall, locked into either an offensive lineman or wide receiver. With the moves Beane has orchestrated, the possibilities that have opened up considerably.
Considerations can now be made to the defensive tackle position, edge rusher and even tight end with Buffalo’s first-round selection. The work Beane has accomplished, has set Buffalo up nicely to continue collecting talent regardless of position.
It has taken some time trusting the process, but the vision is becoming clear in Buffalo and the roster is suddenly built to compete.