Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane really values the importance of having a talented center, and in free-agent Mitch Morse, it appears Beane has found his new leader on the offensive line.
Morse, 26, spent the first four years of his pro career with the Kansas City Chiefs, proving to be a superior pass protector before Beane signed him to a four-year, $44 million deal—making Morse the NFL’s highest-paid center.
With more than $20 million in guaranteed money, Beane is making a significant investment in the center position.
“[Morse] just fits what we do. We thought it was very important to shore up that area and keep the pocket firm for Josh [Allen] and also in the run game,” Beane told members of the media during a press conference introducing the free agents. “It’s very important to have a good center. Not only one that can physically play, but one that’s a very good communicator. A good center takes a little bit of pressure off of the quarterback… I was in Carolina for a while and we had Ryan Khalil and he took a lot of pressure off of Cam Newton and if you go back awhile here, the first guy I extended was Eric Wood, just trying to do that.”
Beane has been adamant in his pursuit of a long-term answer at center since that Eric Wood contract extension in August of 2017. At the time, Beane felt comfortable his team had found its next “quarterback” of the offensive line, but those plans were derailed when Wood retired due to injuries at the end of the 2017 season.
During an interview with The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn in January, Beane didn’t hold back when describing the important role a center plays on an NFL offense.
“It’s a pitcher and a catcher in a lot of ways. The yin and the yang, or whatever you want to call it. A good center helps a quarterback and vice versa,” Beane said. “The center is like the quarterback. Like in baseball, we want to be strong up the middle. That guy is so important. He has to know and help the quarterback with protections, which way you’re sliding and helping to identify things. He’s the lead communicator up there. He has to be able to think fast and smart. A lot of guys go out there and just play their own position. The quarterback obviously has to know what everybody is doing. The center has to know what those other four are doing. It’s super important to have a smart, tough leader that can hold his own at center. Otherwise you’re going to have problems.”
Last year, Morse was an anchor for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, one of the league’s most prolific offenses. Morse was widely considered to be among the best free-agent offensive linemen on the market.
Morse, listed at 6’6” and 305 lbs, appeared in and started 49 games for the Chiefs. Kansas City reportedly wanted to keep Morse, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal, allowing Morse to hit free agency.
During the 2018 season, Morse was graded as the 13th-best center by Pro Football Focus, ranking as the seventh-best center in pass-blocking (81.2), and 20th-best in run-blocking.
For his career, Morse has graded above-average in the pass-blocking department each of his four seasons in the league, and graded out as a 73.3 over his last three seasons, according to PFF.
The former second-round pick will serve as an immediate upgrade at center over incumbent Russell Bodine.