Through five games, we’re starting to see how the 2019 Buffalo Bills are shaking out. Sitting fairly pretty at 4-1, certainly there are players performing well. The bye week allows us the opportunity to take a look a little farther ahead than the next game. In the context of expected continued success we look to 2020, when roster changes will be inevitable. Part of this “process” will be deciding which players with expiring contracts we’d like to see more of.
You don’t make the header image without a good reason and for Jordan Phillips it’s because he’s at top of a list of players to try and bring back. Phillips was an incredibly poor culture fit in Miami and was brought to Buffalo as a bit of a gamble. Phillips seems to fit in perfectly in Buffalo, bringing incredible energy to the field. He’s also leading the team in sacks with four and quarterback hits with six. If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know I like tackles for a loss just as much as sacks. Phillips leads the team in those, too, with six.
This is likely wishful thinking as Lorenzo Alexander has already said this season will likely be his last. If he decides he has one more left, his 2019 season suggests he’ll still be able to contribute. He’s second on the team in sacks (two) and quarterback hits (four), which is all the more impressive as a result of his relatively low playing time and the fact that he plays more than one position.
Signed with lots of potential but injury-related red flags, Kevin Johnson was another gamble for the Bills. Injuries have played a part in his story this year, but it’s been the players in front of him giving way to extra time for Johnson. The Buffalo defense has hardly missed a beat with Johnson displaying the versatility expected from Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier.
The venerable leader on offense, Frank Gore is playing on a reasonable contract for a surefire Hall of Fame player and will likely re-up again for a reasonable price. A lot of credit is surely a result of the revamped offensive line, but Gore is still managing to be very productive with 4.4 yards per carry. His natural instincts are still good and it’s hard to find a player with better experience. He’s still a special player and based on current appearances he will be next year as well.
If you take any stock in my opinion, Quinton Spain currently has my vote for the weakest link on the offensive line. So why bring him back? The Bills won’t be guaranteed to improve in the draft and they should arguably focus elsewhere with their premium picks. And even though he’s currently my weakest link, he’s starter-level and minimally will push any potential replacements to be even better.
Beginning his career in about as rough a manner as possible, Shaq Lawson was flirting with the label of “bust.” You’d be hard pressed to find a player with a better attitude and it’s very clear that Lawson has been working hard to improve his play. Though his rep counts have decreased that’s because he’s now backing up Jerry Hughes on the right side of the defensive line. Lawson appears more natural there and rotation is important for the Bills defense making even the “backups” quite valuable as Taylor Lewan discovered. Also of note, the Bills have brought Lawson in as a defensive tackle much like they do with Lorenzo Alexander. If Alexander does retire, Lawson could see a larger role.
There you go, that’s my list. There are quite a few more players scheduled to be free agents next year. Feel free to drop your list, or vehemently disagree with mine, in the comments below.