2023 Buffalo Bills Offseason Preview



The Bills were a juggernaut in the first half of the season. Then, in Week 9, Josh Allen suffered an elbow injury that would limit him for the remainder of the year. Von Miller was lost to a season-ending ACL injury shortly after that. Despite these losses, the Bills remained a formidable squad down the stretch, landing at a 13-3 record heading into the playoffs. The canary in the coal mine that foreshadowed their downfall was a Wild Card win over the Dolphins. Miami was down to their third-string quarterback, Skylar Thompson, and still took the Bills to the brink. Buffalo then squared off against the Bengals. Cincinnati stifled the Bills' pass-rush with backup offensive linemen and Allen managed just one touchdown in an uncompetitive loss.

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Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 28.4 (2nd)

  • EPA per play: 0.11 (2nd)

  • Dropback EPA per play: 0.2 (2nd)

  • Passing yards per game: 258.1 (7th)

  • Rush EPA per play: -0.06 (16th)

  • Rush yards per game: 139.5 (7th)

After the season was over, Allen told reporters he wasn't able to throw with his normal mechanics until after the regular season ended. This isn't awfully surprising and it's possible it affected him even into the postseason. Before the injury, Allen averaged .289 EPA per dropback. That number fell to .1 after the injury, including the playoffs. The Bills also went from posting an 11 percent pass rate over expected pre-injury to two percent post-injury. Because Allen can beat opponents in so many ways, the offense still held strong in the second half of the season, though it was no longer elite. Allen finished the year with 35 passing touchdowns and another seven on the ground. Stefon Diggs, per usual, was the centerpiece of the passing attack. He went for 1,429 yards and 11 scores. Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox were far less consistent contributors, allowing defenses to focus their attention on Diggs.

Key Defensive Stats

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  • Points per game: 17.9 (2nd)

  • EPA per play: -0.05 (6th)

  • Dropback EPA per play: -0.01 (11th)

  • Passing yards per game: 214.6 (15th)

  • Rush EPA per play: -0.12 (5th)

  • Rush yards per game: 104.6 (5th)

The Bills' defense remained elite in 2022, but they were unable to sustain their league-leading numbers from the previous season. Their sack rate, EPA per play, yards per pass attempt allowed, and turnover rate all fell. Von Miller, signed by the Bills last offseason, was dominant through 11 games, earning eight sacks and a top-10 grade by Pro Football Focus as an EDGE defender. Gregory Rousseau also notched eight sacks but missed some time because of an injury as well. Injuries in the secondary forced an almost weekly rotation at cornerback. Seven different corners were credited with at least one start for the Bills.

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2023 Offseason

Notes

Cap Space

$19.2 million

Draft Picks (Top-150)

27th, 59th, 91st, 130th, and 139th

Notable Free Agents

LB Tremaine Edmunds, LG Rodger Saffold, S Jordan Poyer, RB Devin Singletary, EDGE Shaq Lawson, and DT Jordan Phillips

Cut Candidates

RB Nyheim Hines ($4.8 million in savings), DT Tim Settle ($2.2 million), WR Isaiah McKenzie ($2.8 million), and CB Taron Johnson ($4.3 million)

The Bills don't have any obvious cut candidates to save more than a few million dollars. They will have to restructure some contracts, prorating the base salary for this year as a signing bonus spread out over the remainder of the deal. Diggs and Allen are both candidates for simple restructures.

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Team Needs

Wide Receiver

Diggs was elite by any measure last year, but Davis ranked 87th in ESPN's open score and 97th in their catch score. He was a deep threat who couldn't get open or make difficult catches. Davis is best suited to be the team's third receiver with a first-round rookie taking over the No. 2 role.

Guard

Rodger Saffold started at left guard in 2022 but was on a one-year deal. Saffold has earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods but was graded as a bottom-tier guard by PFF. It's clear how much it would cost to keep him, or if the Bills even want to have him back.

Safety

Buffalo is light on cap space and Jordan Poyer is set to hit the open market. Micah Hyde missed most of the 2022 season with a neck injury, is 32 years old, and will be a free agent next offseason. The Bills also have multiple reserves at safety with expiring contracts, making this a severe need.

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Coaching Changes

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier recently decided to step away from his role as the team's defensive coordinator. Frazier plans to return to coaching in 2024, though Bills GM Brandon Beane was unable to say if that would be in Buffalo or elsewhere. The team has not announced a new defensive coordinator yet. It's possible head coach Sean McDermott, who has eight years of defensive coordinator experience under his belt, takes over play-calling duties. Senior defensive assistants Al Holcomb and Eric Washington both have play-calling experience as well.

Outlook

The Bills were beaten up by injuries down the stretch of the 2022 season and still made quick work of most of their opponents. Even when things don't break their way, they are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the league. The roster has very few shortcomings when healthy. With little money to spend in free agency, most of their notable additions will be through the draft. Luckily for them, the draft may be the best place to find receiver production right now, given the drastic increase in the value of contracts earned by veteran wideouts. If the Bills can maneuver the draft well, their lack of available money won't be an issue for their Super Bowl aspirations in 2023.