Ranking the Bills’ offseason needs after pre-free agency moves

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Nick Wojton
·5 min read
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We’re now in the thick of the Buffalo Bills offseason as we near the end of this week.

The Bills and general manager Brandon Beane did a ton of off-field lift the past few days as free agency looms on March 17.

Buffalo restructured the contracts of center Mitch Morse and defensive tackle Vernon Butler. Wide receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson were released.

But in the opposite direction, the Bills then added to their salary cap as well. Linebacker Matt Milano was re-signed by the team to a four-year deal.

There was a lot to unpack and with some of the dust settling on all of this, let’s refresh.

Here’s an updated list of offseason needs for the Bills following their pre-free agency moves made throughout this week:

5. Defensive tackle

Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Star Lotulelei proved his worth in 2020 without ever suiting up for a game. Buffalo's overall defense struggled without him in the middle. It was a ripple effect, of sorts. Known as a space-eater, without Lotulelei, the Bills failed to fill his shoes. The glaring problem was the team's run defense. As the year wore on, Harrison Phillips did a better job in this role. Still, the Bills could stand to add a youthful depth option behind Lotulelei, which would more likely happen at the draft. Jefferson's release makes adding a player in the middle of the D-line more important as well.

4. Tight end

Bills tight end Dawson Knox. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Via Beane the Bills have expressed a desire to improve their tight end position this offseason. Regardless if that comes from the NFL Draft or free agency, an addition has to happen. In one way or another, Dawson Knox will be back. However, Tyler Kroft is a pending free agent and Lee Smith appears likely to retire. The Bills would be smart to, at minimum, bring in competition for Knox as the No. 1... But bodies are simply needed here.

3. Cornerback

Bills cornerback Josh Norman. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As things currently sit, the Bills' No. 2 cornerback next season is Dane Jackson. A seventh-round rookie... sure, Jackson did have some bright spots in 2020. Like at tight end, competition needs to be added here. Perhaps that could come in-house, but as of now, Jackson stands alone... Josh Norman is an unrestricted free agent while Levi Wallace is a RFA. Both guys have yet to re-sign with the Bills. While the No. 2 cornerback is a much more pressing situation to figure out, the Bills should try to add competition at nickel cornerback as well. Taron Johnson has had his ups and downs.

2. Offensive line

Bills offensive guard Cody Ford. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Ford is the key piece here and the reason why we're grouping the entire offensive line together in this section. Is Ford going to play tackle or guard next year? That's something we don't know yet. Ford could plug holes at both positions next season, pending the way free agency unfolds. Starting right tackle Daryl Williams is slated to be a free agent, as is Jon Feliciano, who took the starts at right guard after returning from injury. In addition, Ike Boettger, the Bills' starter at left guard in the later stages of last season is a RFA and has yet to be re-signed. Ford will be a plug-and-play guy for one of those three spots and as of now, two of those starting spots have to be filled by somebody else. Whether that comes via re-signing some of these players, free agents from other teams, or draft picks, new faces will be in Buffalo's lineup. Furthering the importance of the O-line this offseason is a couple of depth guys, Brian Winters and Ty Nsekhe, who will also hit free agency. We'll see more than one move made in the trenches.

1. Defensive end

Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes. (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)

The curious case of Buffalo's pass rush. With 38 sacks last season, the Bills defense was right in the middle of the NFL in terms of sacks. That's not good enough. Jerry Hughes continued to earn high marks for pressuring quarterbacks, but he did not bring opposing QBs to the ground much with only 4.5 sacks. Currently the Bills have Mario Addison still under contract, but something there has to give considering the NFL salary cap was set at $182.5M this week. He's either a cut candidate or a guy who can restructure his contract as well. It appears unlikely that he'll be brought back under his current deal. But even if Addison is back, Trent Murphy is a pending free agent so there is a roster spot for a potential addition here. Buffalo's run to the AFC Championship game showed they're a top-tier team, but their pass rush has to improve for them to take the next step.

Other needs

Bills running back Zack Moss. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

In terms of some honorable mentions:

  • Running back: Zack Moss and Devin Singletary will both be back. Could the Bills add someone here? Yes, but they don't have to.

  • Wide receiver: Brown is gone. The Bills need to add someone to replace his speed. But it's hard to place this position in a top-five of needs when you have the likes of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley returning. Isaiah McKenzie & Andre Roberts are also pending free agents.

  • Punter: Corey Bojorquez is a restricted free agent (RFA). The Bills currently don't have a punter until he signs.

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