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Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane on 2019 NFL free agent signings: transcript

Here’s what Beane had to say.

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane met with the media on Thursday to go over the first signings of 2019 NFL free agency for his team. He was as unhinged for Beane standards discussing the perception that free agents don’t want to come to Buffalo but he also gave some detailed answers on players. It’s worth a read and I included a video if you’d prefer to watch or listen.

General Manager Brandon Beane
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Opening remarks
A: First off, I just want to thanks. We did sign a lot of guys, and it takes a village of people and it starts with our personnel department, specifically right now on the pro guys, so Malik Boyd and his staff, obviously Joe Schoen and Dan Morgan. They were a very integral part of putting a board together, just like how we do the draft, of our free agents, and tiering them up, and then once you tier up their level, doing research on these guys as people and trying to research injuries and all the things that we do in college, the best you can from a pro standpoint. Then obviously Jim Overdorf and Kevin Meganck, who are our lead negotiators with these agents. A lot of negotiating going around on various guys or in on deals or out on deals, but I like who we ended up with. It took a lot of hours to get to where we got and that’s where we’re at today and I think you guys got to meet most of the guys – I know a couple had to get back to the airport – but hopefully you liked some of these guys as they talked to you.

Q: Very clearly you attacked the offense, could you give us the strategy behind that?
A: Yeah, I mean obviously our cap was in a position where we could be aggressive in spots that we needed to be, but again try and be smart with our money. We know on offense where we statistically rank, and it held us back in some games, so we were looking at all areas other than the quarterback really, to improve and I think we have some guys that will come in here and compete. We told every single one of them that nothing is guaranteed. We looked for guys on the O-line that had position flex with experience. Some guys have started a lot of games and some guys are backups who have come in and played and we thought played well and fit our style. It’ll be fun to roll this O-line. I know we’ve turned that one over the most. It’ll be fun with the new coaches and these new players to see these guys as they get going in the spring.

Q: What did you like most about Mitch Morse?
A: You know, Mitch is a very good player. That was the first thing when you turn on the film. He’s big, he’s stout. He was playing left tackle when he came out of college. I remember interviewing him at the combine and he was very smart then and you see him communicating, you see his leadership. I know people who have been on that staff and everybody [says he’s] very popular and “what a good guy, what a good teammate.” He just fits what we do. We thought it was very important to sure up that area and keep the pocket firm for [Bills quarterback] Josh [Allen], and also help us in the run game. I think he’ll be a good fit here once we get rolling.

Q: Do you believe that the Center position is the “key” in the NFL today?
A: It’s very important to have a good center. Not only one that can physically play, but also a very good communicator. You have to adjust, and a good center takes a little bit of pressure off the quarterback with all the twists and stunts, guys disguising coming up pre-snap. I was in Carolina for a good while and we had Ryan Kalil and he took a lot of pressure off of Cam Newton, and you go back to the first guy I extended here, Eric Wood. Just trying to do that, so I think you can see my philosophy and that’s the guy that we spent the most on that I do think is an important position.

Q: What do you see Frank Gore has left to prove and is capable of doing? And what does the backfield look like with [LeSean McCoy]?
A: I was trying to set a record for oldest backfield in NFL history, how we doing? You guys find an older one yet? You know I have to be candid here, I’m a big fan of Frank Gore, first off. I’ve always admired this guy, and if you watch him, he’s a pro’s-pro. You see it today just getting to talk to him. When he talks to you, he sits in the edge of his chair, he starts dropping a few words that you may hear on the field and his intensity started ratcheting quick. He walked down the hall with a Buffalo Bills helmet on his head - the guy’s serious. To bring him here, he’s a pro’s-pro. He’s not going to be a big vocal leader but he’s going to be a guy who, off the field, players can model themselves after. There’s a reason this guy’s still playing at his age at a position where you’re right, historically 30, 31, 32, these guys start dropping out of the league, but Frank continued and he’s an unbelievable competitor. Again, I look forward to seeing him, obviously what he’s going to bring to the field but off the field as well. He’s again, the one guy on here that I can say I’ve always been a big fan just watching him.

Q: LeSean McCoy has said that Frank Gore is someone who he looks up to and is someone who motivates him and rejuvenates him. Do you see that spill over?
A: Definitely. Those are two competitors. I heard they were boxing on Saturday and I asked Frank who knocked who out and he said, “Shady don’t know how to box.” Anyways, I do think those guys will drive each other. Again, Frank is one of those guys that just says, “worry about the age, I’m going to make plays.” When you turn on the film, if you don’t know anything about him, if he you just watch him play, you won’t say that this guy is mid-30s. That’s what you have to do. Listen, age is a factor at any position at this level I get that, but sometimes there are exceptions to the rule and before his injury at the end of the year, I didn’t see a guy who had dropped off from his previous year. You guys saw him in the snow game and I think he ran about 12 or 13 plays in a row on us in that game. Again, he is the ultimate competitor and the ultimate pro, and we look forward to him coming here and being an influence on our locker room.

Q: Do you think the last couple days have gotten you closer to your stated goal of taking the best available player during the draft?
A: It definitely helped. That is the goal, to do that. We covered a lot of areas, again you’re always greedy, you’re always saying we can try and upgrade here, we can try and upgrade there, and free agency technically isn’t over. There’s still guys out there, so it doesn’t mean that because I’m standing here I’m done, but at the end of the day, we’re continuing to look. Who knows, somebody could call in a week and say, “hey we signed this other guy, do you want to trade for this guy?” Most of our attention after this weekend will be on the draft, but if there is a guy here who becomes available, whether it’s a cap release, a trade whatever, we’ll continue to try to find upgrades to the roster.

Q: Did you intend for this free agency period to be this busy?
A: Yeah. Sometimes you’re in on three or four guys, you’re checking and they’re doing the same thing, they’re talking to teams they’re trying to figure out where their market is, where it truly is, there is a lot of guys’ [agents] thinking their market is going to be here, and you say “I don’t know if that’s in my range but let’s stay in touch,” and then if they get in an area where you feel comfortable, again back to Malik Boyd and his staff, one of their jobs is to try and out them into tiers by position, and we try to put them in money categories. We think this guy is somewhere in the six to eight. Six on the low, if you’re fortunate eight, maybe eight and a half, just try and find where you’re going to get comfortable. Where do you start getting uncomfortable if his price continues to rise? There were guys were looking and talking to that their price tag was getting to the point where we didn’t feel that was a value signing.

Q: Do you think you have checked most of the boxes that were open going into free agency?
A: I do feel we addressed a lot of them, I really do. I don’t want to say that we’re good at every position and we can roll the ball out and go, but I feel a lot better than I did a week ago going into this because you don’t know how it’s going to go. Again, we put targets all over our board from the very high end, to middle end, to lower end, and again we also consider who these guys were as people and as pros and how they would fit in our locker room.

Q: Have you had any conversation with Josh [Allen] since this free agency period has started?
A: He sent me one text, it was a GIF, it was good. It was a humorous GIF.

Q: Can you explain what the GIF was?
A: I don’t want to do that, but it was good. It was clean, don’t take it there, it was clean. He was appreciative of the moves that we were making on that side of the ball and I think it was shortly – you know we got those receivers worked out where we got them not far apart. We were literally on the phone, Jim Overdorf was on the phone with one and I was in his office, and then Kevin was trying to close the other one. I really didn’t want them closing before the other one just to try to not have someone else sway somewhere else because you just signed one. They’re truly different types of receivers.

Q: What do you like about Cole Beasley and do you consider him a true slot receiver?
A: When you turn on the film for Cole, you see a guy that is quick. Quicker than fast, gets off the line and he does a great job with his routes of not selling them. He doesn’t give away to the defender which way he’s going. He gets onto those option routes and he had of all the receivers, the quickest immediate, out of the cut separation. His separation quicks were higher than any of the receivers that we did, and we just felt that he was a dependable guy on third down you saw [Dallas Cpwbys quarterback] Dak [Prescott] going to him a lot on what I call the money downs. That’s a quarterback’s best friend, a guy that you know if the route is supposed to be six yards, and option in or option out, you know sometimes receivers, some guys aren’t as technically sound. They’re going to run it at seven or eight or a guy is going to run it a four. A guy is pressing them and they’re nervous that the quarterback isn’t going to see them, so they cut it short and it’s third and five and they run it four yards. You don’t see Cole Beasley doing that. That’s again a quarterback’s best friend because he knows if a guy is supposed to go five yards, I can trust that he’s going to be there when I plant my back foot and hit it. I would say he’s a very dependable slot, a proven pro and he’s a veteran. I think he’ll add a veteran presence to that room. Then John Brown, you know John is a guy that I think you know, I assume we talked about it, but he was a guy we were going after a year ago. I think candidly our quarterback situation at the time was unsettled and he was on a prove-it deal and Joe Flacco was more proven than what we had at that time when free agency started last year, so it’s a sound reasoning why he went to Baltimore, but it was a one year deal and we tracked him and followed him and he caused us some headaches in that first game, and his tape was good. Again, he’ll be a speed element, they’re similar size guys but he’ll be the vertical guy and Cole will work more underneath.

Q: Was it more of a long-term plan to fix the defense before you fixed the offense or was it just the way it evolved?
A: It’s a little bit of both. We felt that it took time to A, get our quarterback, you know it was a process. You don’t want to just wait around and let your whole team slide until you figure out this quarterback, but you have to have a good defense to win in this league. Defense always travels and some days your offense, whether it’s elements, whether it’s the crowd noise, your defense will travel. The crowd noise won’t affect it too much. So, I always believed at the end of the day when you see teams advanced into the playoffs, defense matters. We saw all the points in the year that as the games as the better teams started rising to the top as the playoffs went, the scores started to get lower and lower. I think defense did play a big part in that.

Q: You had Ziggy [Ezekiel Ansah] in for a visit, any update on that?
A: Yeah, we visited with Ziggy, great young man, did all that stuff. He’ll continue on that, nothing to do, but enjoyed visiting with Ziggy.

Q: Not to rehash Antonio Brown, but can you just clear up the narrative that players didn’t want to come to Buffalo? You got seven, eight guys in here in three days.
A: I’m trying to keep my words. That pissed me off, to be candid because it was an ignorant comment. I’m not on social media, but if you live in Buffalo or you know anything about Buffalo- don’t speak about Buffalo if you don’t know what this city and what this fan base is like. It really pissed me off because it’s not true and when you talk to players - how many guys flowed through here today? Eight, nine, whatever, and we could have had more. We didn’t have that narrative, it totally started with a bad rumor on the whole Antonio Brown thing. People looking for reasons, and they didn’t have all of the facts. Again, people that have been here, I can’t tell you how many people have commented, “This is amazing. This is awesome. What a facility. What a place. What a culture.” All of that stuff that we have going here and we love this city and all I want to say is anybody who says that doesn’t know Buffalo and really is just speaking out of ignorance.

Q: To take it a step further, I know the new training facility isn’t done yet, but Kevin Johnson said that made an impact on him deciding to sign here. Are you already reaping the rewards of what that is going to be in terms of recruiting players?
A: I believe so. I do believe so, last year we were fewest in man games lost and that’s all part of what [owners] Terry and Kim’s [Pegula] vision is. It is one of the things we talked about when we got here with how we do things, sports performance, sport science and the meshing of our training room, our strength and conditioning room, to sport science, and the blend of those three. You have to have some luck not to have injuries too. But it is more than that, and we have a great group that we have worked together and I think that was always a big factor. Agents see that. They read those things, players follow those things. Again, our new center, those guys went for a tour today, I don’t know if that was brought up in here, but three or four of them were like, “I can’t wait to get back when that thing is finalized it will look awesome.”

Q: Ty Nsekhe, can you go over him? Kind of an unusual career path. What do you like about him and do you see him as a starting caliber talent?
A: Ty had a nontraditional path to the NFL, but it shows you a guy who has persevered and wasn’t this big draft pick or anything like that. He’s played well, he’s played on several teams, and what I saw when you turn the tape on is a guy that played both tackles and played in at guard as well. So you go back to what I said earlier, he provides position flex, he can play left tackle, he can play right tackle. He can go in and play guard if we need him to go in and play guard. I would think his starting spot would be at a tackle, but he’s a big man. He’s a big man to get around and he can move pretty good. He’s got pretty good feet which helps. I like the edge, you see a little bit of nasty in him, and that’s part of what was attractive to his game.

Q: Can you talk about Jon [Feliciano] as well?
A: Super, super tough. Very nasty, when he gets his hands on you, school’s out. That’s the thing about Jon, we saw that. He likes to get guys and just dump them. Sometimes he’ll try too hard to dump them and his strength is probably his weakness too. But I’ll take those misses on a guy that’s being over-aggressive. Bobby Johnson was around him and coached him in Oakland and just raved about what kind of worker, what kind of teammate, the tenacity that he brought, a pro’s-pro, really smart. Again, I think he fits what we are trying to do with this O-line and you’ll definitely see a guy playing with an edge.

Q: How important is it to you guys to continue to build that culture with guys that want to prove themselves? Guys that are chomping at the bit to reach their full potential.
A: I said it earlier, compete is the word that we love. We don’t like to dole out you get to walk in on day one and start at certain positions. And these guys have been competing for this opportunity and what I sensed was guys that were grateful for the chance to come in here and fight, legitimately, for a starting role. So that’s what we want. We want guys that are hungry to prove that maybe they’ve been overlooked for various reasons, and that they’re going to come in here and show that they deserve to win a starting position.

Q: Putting together your free agent board in-season, and the different tiers as you’ve talked about today, where was Mitch [Morse] on that board? Additionally, looking back at the whole process, how satisfied are you with where you started and now where you ended up?
A: Mitch was high up there, you could tell by the way we paid him. We thought that it was a position in need and again we were excited to add him. To add a guy of his talent, sometimes you have to pay the premium to do that because it is free agency. We were willing, in several areas to stretch our means to make sure that we could sign that player and that’s what we did with Mitch.

Q: The way these deals were structured, to take advantage of the cap space you have now versus ensuring that you had flexibility down the road. How did important was that for you? How did that process go?

A: Yeah, I mean we definitely are trying to structure it so we’re not having to do crazy cap moves and things like that. Not to say you never get there, but you try and stay as flexible as you can because it gives you more power and more leverage. I’ll give you an example: if we’re up against a team who is this close to the cap, now they got to make moves, they have to do things that are not easy. We don’t have to do that. If there’s a chance to trade with a player with a high number, we can still be aggressive. And if we know that if it’s down to us and another team, that gives us some leverage and you know, as long as I’m doing it, I would love to keep that. I can’t say we’ll always be that way, but I believe it’s helpful when you can stay cap-strong.

Q: To piggy-back on that, was there some of that involved, I mean, not cap space and flexibility, and keeping your salary cap in perspective. Was that a factor in the Antonio Brown discussions as well? Without getting into what happened and when?
A: Yeah, I mean we just, again, he’s a talented player, and we did look into him. We’re always going to look for talented players if they’re out there, and find out a situation like that. Obviously it was a marriage that had gone bad, and so we were looking into it, and at the end of the day, it was very positive all around, we just decided to withdraw.

Q: Every player talks about how they know how you and Sean [McDermott] treat players, and how the organization treats players. I mean, guys in other cities know that. How is that? I mean, how does word spread about that? Is that important to you too, to make sure that guys know that when they come here, and this is the way it is?
A: Yeah, I mean, I think at the end of the day, if you treat people right, it is a business, and we got into this discussion with one of the players who had his wife here. This is a tough business, and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. But I have found in the long run, that if you treat people with respect, and if you shoot them straight, even if it’s an answer or something they don’t want, being released, being traded, eventually if you treat people right, word will get around that you do care about them because I’ve talked to many players who have come in here and maybe the GM didn’t even tell them they were cut and somebody else told them they were released, or the coach wouldn’t talk to them on their way out. Sean and I believe that if people are going to fight for us, that they deserve to have a visit with us before they leave and let us shoot them straight. Again, it’s not like they’re high-fiving us and thanking us for it, it’s down the line, after it settles in, I have found that players when you see them again, “hey listen, you know I was pissed when you let me go, but I really appreciate how you treated me.”

Q: Do you think that’s a reason why John Brown after a year…you leave on good terms and good luck. You treated him well enough and he felt comfortable coming back?
A: You would have to ask John that. I think in time that the longer you do that, you have to continue to treat people the right way and don’t get full of yourself and don’t change, that over time the more people who come through here – players, coaches, staff – that if they left for another reason, good or bad, that at least they can say that Sean and Brandon really respected them. The people in that building are very respectful and it’s a great place to raise a family and play football.

Q: Can you just ballpark what you are at with the cap right now? And is that enough to make sure you can do whatever you really want to do?
A: Yeah, we are still well under. We have the draft picks. We are high 30s or low 40s. Somewhere in there. We will tally it up once this week once we get done. We still have plenty of room to maneuver should the opportunity be there for a marquee player that comes available, trade or release.