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Roster decisions the Bills must make for 2024, and advice on each

The Buffalo Bills 2023 season concluded with an 11-6 record, another AFC East crown, a No. 2 playoff seed, and another division-round exit.

GM Brandon Beane is looking to improve and help get the Bills into the Super Bowl in 2024.

To do so. this offseason, he’ll aim to get Buffalo’s roster younger at key positions and to hit on draft picks for more immediate contributors. He’ll also restructure contracts and look at extensions to get under the salary cap.

Buffalo has another long list of players poised to hit free agency and some who could be cap casualties, so they’ll need to make a call on which of those players could factor into the team’s long-term plans to know who to prioritize.

From potential cut candidates to re-signings, to whether to let some players walk as free agents, here are some roster decisions the Bills must make for 2024…

WR Gabe Davis

Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of his fit and compatability one could argue Gabe Davis will have difficulty finding a home like Buffalo should he depart in free agency.

The Bills have a chance to add the WR2 their passing game has needed in the upcoming NFL Draft. With a first-round run on positions, the Bills aren’t drafting at like quarterback, offensive tackle, edge, and corner, they’ll have a chance to do just that, and should finally address that need.

Beane and HC Sean McDermott even pointed out some things at the combine they could be looking for, noting the prevalence of the split-safety defense in the modern NFL, and how that increases the need for explosive playmaking.

A deep-threat receiver, for example, increases the efficiency of the offense by creating opportunities to do more scoring with fewer attempts on a drive. Similarly, a player with strong yards-after-the-catch speed and open-field abilities can turn a shorter play into a big gain. Also, the ability to play big in winning contested catches with good ball skills and explosiveness, regardless of size.

Like last offseason with third-round selection and former Bills draft pick, running back Devin Singletary, the Bills may be looking to upgrade at a position like receiver to find this type of threat, and immediately incorporate them into their offense like last year’s first-rounder Dalton Kincaid.

Like former Buffalo first-rounder Tremaine Edmunds, Davis may want to see what he can fetch from a team on the open market and choose to leave for money.

If either scenario is the case, then the writing could be on the wall for Davis, plus the Bills could fetch a compensatory 4th round pick that could factor into trade packages to move up to add a WR2 or other position of need.

The draft is deep at receiver, however, and if receiver-needy teams address that through the draft it could keep his market modest. At the same time, if some of the top names in a receiver-rich free agent crop are franchise-tagged by their clubs, that could inflate the value he could get in that market.

Having Davis in the fold with his role as a teammate and in his familiarity with Josh Allen and the offense, he’d be worth bringing back on a short-term deal like S Jordan Poyer when the defensive backs market didn’t materialize.

The only catch is whether or not Davis is seeking a large contract. One could rightfully argue he hasn’t played up to the last one or whether his limitations make what he was paid fair, but also that his impact in big game moments and on deep passing plays has been valuable.

It may be best for both team and player to work out a short-term deal to allow the receiver market to re-set while extending their relationship. At age 24 Davis could still develop and have a better market later. The Bills can still draft their needed WR2 threat and develop him alongside Diggs and Davis.

RB Damien Harris

S Jordan Poyer

Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images
Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Jordan Poyer re-upped on a short-term pact with Buffalo last offseason but had some notable dropoff in his play in 2023.

With safety Micah Hyde, the two have formed a dynamic duo during their tenure with the Bills. Hyde’s neck injuries these past two seasons have him considering retirement, and his future is unknown.

That could make Poyer a cut candidate to help with the cap situation.

The Bills have developing players like Christian Benford and Taylor Rapp, who came to Buffalo last season on a one-year deal, waiting in the wings as potential replacements.

Though it’s just as possible the team and Poyer could work out a short-term extension that frees up cap space as well. Considering they might be losing Hyde, who’s been their best player at the safety position, in that event it would be shrewd to retain Poyer, re-sign Rapp to start, and play Benford in the position group rotation to get him game-play experience to continue his development.

CB Tre White

Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images
Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

Tre White has one of the biggest cap hits on the team this upcoming season.

What’s more, he’s recovering from his second consecutive season-ending injury for another year in a row.

The Bills need him back healthy and have no clear timeline for his recovery or return to the field. He is a prime candidate for a contract restructure to help the team’s cap situation, making this the best route.

The team can re-sign corner Dane Jackson, has Christian Benford to compete for playing time at the position, and can play Kaiir Elam more this season while White works his way back. The competition will ideally create a rotation capable of sustaining competitive play as White makes his way back into regular gameplay at some point, while also flushing out the depth chart at corner, while testing these players to see who the best candidates are to play across from each other this season.

RB Nyheim Hines

Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

A season ago, Hines was a Beane addition at the NFL trade deadline.

The team swapped out developing third-round pick RB Zack Moss for a more proven commodity with the hybrid receiving and kick return skills Buffalo has been seeking. He even had two explosive returns for touchdowns in a single game last season.

Then came a freak off-the-field torn ACL injury from a jet ski accident, which caused him to miss the entire 2023 NFL season.

The Bills now face a roster decision with Hines.

They’ll need to evaluate whether he is expendable due to the emergency of players like James Cook and

Considering the value Beane saw in him to go get him at the trade deadline and public statements at the end of that season about wishing he’d been used more in then-OC Ken Dorsey, as well as the rotation depth he had at the running back and receiver positions last year, there is a possibility the team could keep him, and restructure his deal to create cap space.

Unless the team feels like they’ve seen enough from Deonte Harty to hand him Hines role and move on for financial reasons, if he’s healthy Beane seems to see enough potential in him to bring him back. If the ACL injury might hamper or slow his running abilities, then Harty might be the way to go and a tough cut for Hines for cap space or fielding him as a trade asset may be in order.

WR Trent Sherfield

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Trent Sherfield showed his worth a bit as a rotation and depth piece behind WR1 Stefon Diggs last season.

He had a big heads-up toe-tap touchdown play in the final game of the regular season against Miami, and a couple of deep ball drops in the final game of the 2023 camping against the Chiefs.

The Bills are looking to get younger at key positions, and with a deep draft and free agency class at receiver, and developing players competing for playing time to evaluate like WR Justin Shorter, it would be worth seeing if an upgrade is available while also exploring retaining Sherfield as a depth and rotation piece to provide insurance in the event of late-season injuries.

WR Deonte Harty

Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Harty is already under contract and is a restructure candidate to create cap space.

For cap reasons, he’s also a cut-candidate.

The Bills originally signed him to a two-year deal to see if he and his explosive play potential could grow under their coaching.

The investment and interest imply, based on Buffalo’s emphasis on player development, they may want to hold on to Harty a little longer to see if he takes the next step at the pro level that some players drafted and developed by Buffalo have. He also fits the bill of Beane’s mandate to get younger at key positions.

For depth, developmental upside, and the ability to restructure his deal to create cap space, the Bills should stick with Harty and see what he can do in year two with Buffalo. Especially if they part ways with Hines.

Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

The Bills defense is poised to get younger, and GM Brandon Beane is likely to look to upgrade the defensive line and pass rush while signing short-term talent and re-signing players to fill other spots as well.

Phillips and Lawson are salary cap-friendly locker room staples and culture guys, and for that reason, they might stay as depth pieces at their respective positions.

While bolstering the defense is key, it’s unknown if the Bills will add any new pass rushers to their rotations, so Lawson might stick for now.

Phillips could as well, though defensive tackle is a high-priority position Brandon Beane is looking to add competitive talent to.

Unless clear upgrades are added that require unclogging congestion in the depth chart, both players would be worth retaining for now.

 

P Sam Martin

Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images
Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images

Sam Martin has been an effective placeholder as a punter, though considering his limitations and the team’s desire to get younger and add efficient and explosive talent, his time in Buffalo might be up.

The front office seemed to have those ideas in mind when it drafted Matt Araiza.

Martin’s a cut candidate for cap space, and while he’s bridged the gap at the position until the next punter can be found, it may be the time to make the change if an equal or better option is available. But if not, sticking with him would be wise until they do, though bringing in competition would also make sense.

Story originally appeared on Bills Wire