At right tackle, Jordan Mills has started each of the last 53 games for the Buffalo Bills (54 if you count the 2017 Wild Card playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars). The last game Mills didn’t start at right tackle was in 2015, a 30-22 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12. Seantrel Henderson was the starter for that contest.
With Mills set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, Buffalo may be moving on from their longtime right tackle. While he hasn’t been above average (actually, his play has barely qualified as average for much of his tenure in Orchard Park), Mills has been one thing that many of the available free agents have not—durable.
The Bills need to upgrade their offensive line, and they are in prime position to do it. They have ten draft choices to utilize this April and plenty of space under the salary cap to spend on upgrades. However, they could decide that their best option is the one already in their building.
Which free-agent right tackle should the Bills sign this offseason? Here is a short list of possible names the team should consider. A comprehensive list can be found here.
Let’s take care of the obvious very quickly. Williams was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2015; he was their fourth-round choice that year. Current Bills general manager Brandon Beane was Carolina’s assistant general manager when Williams was drafted. Current Bills head coach Sean McDermott was Carolina’s defensive coordinator. While Williams was credited with two starts during his rookie year, a season where Carolina finished 15-1 and lost the Super Bowl, Williams only started games as a sixth offensive lineman. He did not make his first official start along the offensive line until Week 4 of the 2016 season. Williams missed nearly all of the 2018 season with a knee injury, but if he’s healthy, the 6’6,” 330-pound behemoth is a huge upgrade to Mills. Williams has only allowed 5.5 sacks in 29 career games, and he has only committed two penalties in his career.
The Miami Dolphins starter at right tackle since they drafted him 14th overall in 2014, James was a penalty machine early in his career. He committed nine penalties as a rookie, five his second year, then nine again in his third season. He has only committed nine penalties in the two seasons since, but his career total of 30 penalties (including 15 holds) is concerning. James has also allowed 20 sacks in his career. He is arguably a step back from Mills, regardless of the potential suggested by his status as a former first-round draft pick.
The veteran tackle served as a swing option for the New England Patriots this year. He is a reliable, steady veteran who won’t “wow” anyone, but he will do his job (pun intended). Waddle appeared in all 16 games for the Super Bowl champs, making three starts on the year. He committed two penalties and allowed 2 sacks. Waddle is the type of player best served as a stop-gap option to help groom a rookie.
Yes, he played left tackle in New England this season; however, he was a right tackle in San Francisco previously. Besides, Buffalo’s left tackle, Dion Dawkins, isn’t locked in at the position, so the coaching staff could allow them to fight it out among themselves, deciding which player was the better option on the blindside. Brown had the best year of his career in 2018, committing a career-low five penalties and allowing 3.5 sacks on the year. If he wants free-agent left-tackle money, then the Bills may be wise to pass, as Brown’s best season came in a perfect setting: he was protecting the best quarterback of all time (whose release is lightning-quick) and he was working under, arguably, the best offensive-line coach of all time in Dante Scarnecchia.
This would be interesting, as the 33-year old Nsehke has played in all sorts of different leagues, spending time in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League before landing a gig as a swing tackle with the Washington Redskins in 2015. While he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he could be an intriguing option for a season or two while a rookie acclimates to the speed of the NFL game. Nsehke played in 14 games this year, starting five, without allowing a sack, though he did commit five penalties on the year.
If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with? While it might have been good enough for Stephen Stills, it shouldn’t be enough for the Buffalo Bills. Jordan Mills has been below-average at best throughout his tenure here. He has allowed 22.5 sacks since joining the Bills, and he has committed 24 penalties over the same time frame. In 2018, Mills allowed 6.5 sacks and tied a career-high by committing seven penalties. It’s time to move on.
Which free agent right tackle should the Buffalo Bills sign?
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