The Buffalo Bills took a measured yet efficient approach toward free agency and might have already improved their depth chart at multiple positions of need in the process.
GM Brandon Beane brought in two young players with starter potential and upside to the offensive line group, added dynamic, young talents to their safety and wide receiver groups, and a big-bodied play clock and yards eater to round out the running backs group. He even brought back a familiar face to the defensive line.
In all, save for the loss of Tremaine Edmunds, who the right draft pick could offer a long-term replacement for, the Bills roster appears to have generally improved. They even cracked the top five of Pro Football Focus’s post-free agency power rankings.
And with that in mind, here’s a grade on each of the team’s free-agency signings in 2023:
RB Damien Harris: A
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Harris brings the type of punch and power as a bigger, stronger running back that the team hoped they were getting when they drafted RB Zack Moss.
While he sometimes loses time to injury, sharing the workload with Nyehiem Hines, who figures to be a better fit in the TJ Yeldon-Matt Brieda role the Bills had in their offense under Brian Daboll, will hopefully keep him on the field the whole season.
Harris can punch through at the goal line for points, break tackles and extend plays, and take on ground-carrying duties late in games to run down the clock as Moss did during the 2020 season.
WR Deonte Harty: A-
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Harty missed a lot of time last season to injury, but if he can regain his previous form and pick up where he left off in his player development, an area the Bills emphasize as part of their culture, Harty could be a steal.
His speed and versatility could allow him to fill the void left by slot receiver Cole Beasley whom WR Jamison Crowder was brought in last season to play in. He also offers a potential upgrade from receiver Isaiah McKenzie as well.
Considered one of the most underrated signings of free agency, he will join a group with WR Khalil Shakir that could also include RB Nyheim Hines, as all players possess run-and-catch as well as yards-after-catch abilities.
WR Trent Sherfield: B+
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Signing Sherfield and Harty to shore up the receivers group does not mean GM Brandon Beane could not still add talent to it.
Free agency, the draft, and the trade market all offer options should he choose to go that route.
But given his confidence in Gabe Davis, as well as the potential of Khalil Shakir, adding Harty and Sherfield to that group might have already improved the Bills offense while providing depth, if not giving them time to evaluate whether another long-term addition is needed yet.
The better the receiver corps is, the more they command coverage and free up WR1 Stefon Diggs and WR2 Gabe Davis. Between TE Dawson Knox’s presence and the running backs group now having more catch-and-run versatility, this could be a tough offense to defend.
Sherfield has a chance to play the John Brown-type receiver role in this group, and will certainly have his chance to do just that.
G Connor McGovern: B+
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McGovern joins Buffalo on a three-year deal to add a young, offensive lineman with starter potential to the Bills guard rotation.
A solid addition to making the trenches better and improving in protecting QB Josh Allen.
G David Edwards: B
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Another addition to that guard rotation, on a low-risk prove-it deal, is Edwards, who reunites with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
Kromer coached Edwards to a strong performance over several years with the Rams, including starting duties and a Super Bowl win.
He’ll have a chance to re-find his form with Buffalo.
QB Kyle Allen: B
In terms of a professional NFL backup, Kyle Allen fits the bill.
He’s had starter experience and played in multiple pro teams’ offensive systems.
What makes him a great fit for Buffalo is his friendship with starting QB Josh Allen and their shared offseason training program with quarterback coach Jordan Palmer.
From one Allen to another, he’ll be able to offer a reliable backup who also can help offer support and player-coaching to his starting counterpart.
S Taylor Rapp: A
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The Bills find themselves the beneficiary of the deep defensive backs position group in the upcoming NFL Draft twice over.
Not only were they able to bring back safety Jordan Poyer on a two-year deal, but they also add another significant name at his position in free agency, in Taylor Rapp.
Rapp joins the Bills on a one-year deal, which could be a holdover to hit the market again next year similar to the way quarterback Mitch Trubisky did, or he could remain with the team via an extension or multi-year re-signing.
He’ll provide young starter-caliber talent behind Poyer and Micah Hyde, and depth at the positon group.
DT Jordan Phillips: B
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before- The Bills brought back defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in free agency.
Phillips re-upped with Buffalo after rejoining the team last offseason, following a stint in Arizona.
He is still working to regain his previous form from his first run the Bills, but is familiar with the system and could build on last year’s return this season.