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Buffalo Bills 2024 NFL offseason primer: Defense loses key pieces, and what's next with WR room?

Buffalo Bills' 2023 season: 11-6, won AFC East, lost in divisional round

Overview: A roller-coaster season ultimately ended in another heartbreaking playoff loss. A talented roster led by quarterback Josh Allen entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations but things almost went off the rails when Buffalo fell to 6-6 by the end of November. After firing offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and promoting Joe Brady to the job, the Bills got things back on track and won five straight to finish the season as AFC East champs.

But again, hopes of a deep playoff run were dashed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who handed Buffalo another gut-wrenching loss in the divisional round. It was the third time in the past four years the Chiefs knocked the Bills out of the playoffs.

Despite the postseason disappointments, Buffalo remains talented and will be a contender as long as Allen is around. The salary cap situation is very tight, which will make this offseason a delicate balance for general manager Brandon Beane with several key defenders headed for free agency. Even so, there's no reason to believe this team will take a significant step back in 2024.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

DT DaQuan Jones (re-signed)
DE A.J. Epenesa (re-signed)
S Micah Hyde
S Taylor Rapp (re-signed)
CB Dane Jackson

Who's in/out: Jones was among the team's top re-signing priorities, and rightfully so as he is one of the better interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Buffalo also managed to re-sign Epenesa to a two-year deal, but lost fellow DE Leonard Floyd to the 49ers. And WR Gabe Davis is headed to Jacksonville. The team reportedly re-signed Taylor Rapp to a three-year deal.

Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones will be one of Buffalo's top priority free agents to re-sign this offseason. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones will be one of Buffalo's top priority free agents to re-sign this offseason. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Wide receiver
Edge rusher
Safety

Why the holes? This is the price of doing business as a talented team with a high-priced QB. It's hard to keep all your best players in-house, and this offseason has already seen the loss of a key pass rusher and the team's best receiving deep threat in Davis. Buffalo will need to find another receiver to pair alongside Stefon Diggs and some replacements for its defensive exodus up front and in the secondary.

Do they have the money?

Not yet, but close. After cutting several high-profile players, the team is still about $883,000 over the cap, according to Spotrac. It's a much better number than it was at the start of the offseason, when the Bills were more than $40 million over the mark. They’ll still likely have to restructure the contracts big-name players, including Allen, Diggs and Dawson Knox. Don’t expect this team to be involved in any big-name signings. The draft will be key.

Notable cuts

CB Tre’Davious White
C Mitch Morse
WR Deonte Harty
S Jordan Poyer
DB Siran Neal

Why they're gone: The Bills made several significant cap-saving moves in the first week of March, releasing White, All-Pro safety Poyer, Morse, Neal and Harty. The Bills designated White as a post-June 1 cut, which will save them about $10.2 million in cap space. The team also reportedly plans to release running back Nyheim Hines, which will represent roughly $4.7 million in cap savings.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 28
2nd round: No. 60 overall
3rd round: No. 99 overall (compensatory)
4th round: No. 133 overall (compensatory)
5th round (from Bears)
5th round (from Packers)
5th round
6th round (from Rams)
6th round (from Cowboys)
6th round
7th round

Good draft fit

Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon

Oregon logoOregon logo
Troy Franklin
WR - ORE
2023 - 2024 season
1,383
Yds
106.4
Y/G
81
Rec
14
TD

Why him? This team needs as many receiving weapons on the outside as possible with a big-armed QB like Allen. With Davis gone in free agency and Diggs' future with the team regularly volatile (or so it seems), it would make sense for Buffalo to draft a tall, fast wideout like Franklin, who "could end up projecting as a low-end WR1 in the right offense," according to Yahoo's Nate Tice and Charles McDonald in their latest mock draft.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

Stefon Diggs pushed off to a strong start in 2023, but after Week 6 the air hissed out of the balloon. Diggs was the WR37 for the final 11 weeks of the fantasy season, with a mere four touchdowns and a paltry 9.3 yards per catch. Diggs has one more year under contract for over $27 million, but it wouldn't be a shock if player and team quietly worked on an amicable divorce. The Bills need to figure out who Josh Allen's premier target is going to be for 2024, whether it's Diggs, emerging tight end Dalton Kincaid or someone not currently in the organization. — Scott Pianowski