With less than one week until the NFL’s legal tampering period begins, free agents are at the forefront of football fans’ and front offices’ minds.
There will be some big names (Le’Veon Bell) and big numbers (Bell, CJ Mosley) making headlines, but as always, our focus is on New York’s only true professional football franchise.
Instead of highlighting potential free agent targets, let’s look at positional groups that the Buffalo Bills can and should target once they are allowed to negotiate contracts on Monday.
Some will argue that the Bills need reinforcements on the offensive line more than they need them on the outside, but hear me out.
Josh Allen held onto the ball longer than any quarterback last year (3.22 seconds), a number that is not as clear-cut as you would think. For starters, Allen has the ability to scramble around and try to make a busted play into a positive.
More importantly, however, we all know that aside from Robert Foster and Zay Jones, Bills wideouts and tight ends weren’t winning their one-on-one battles and getting separation—resulting in Allen having to put on his Superman cape far too often.
With better options in the passing game, both at the tight end and wide receiver positions, Allen would be able to deliver the ball quicker and that would help mask some shortcomings along the offensive line.
Potential targets: Golden Tate (WR), Devin Funchess (WR), Tyrell Williams (WR), Jared Cook (TE), Tyler Eifert (TE), Jesse James (TE)
The other obvious shortcoming for the Bills entering the meat of the 2019 offseason is the big guys up front.
Aside from Dion Dawkins (starter at one of the positions) and Wyatt Teller (at minimum a backup) nothing is settled up front.
Buffalo got an early jump on adding bodies to the offensive line when they inked Spencer Long to a three-year deal. Long, coming off a down year with the New York Jets, has the potential to be an above average guard or center, something that would be a marked improvement over last year.
There are some decent options for the Bills at tackle (Trent Brown, Ja’Wuan James) and the interior OL (Rodger Saffold, Matt Paradis, Mitch Morse, and John Sullivan).
The initial reaction may be: “The defense is fine.”
Once you dig a little deeper, it’s obvious the defensive line is an injury away from being a hot mess.
That irreplaceable part would be Jerry Hughes. While his splash numbers are down (seven sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018), Pro Football Focus said this about No. 55: “His 10.9 pass-rushing productivity was tops among edge defenders.”
Some will argue that Trent Murphy couldn’t show all he had because of injuries, but even when he was on the field, he was virtually invisible. Shaq Lawson had a rebound year in 2018, but can he take the next step and become a force on all three downs?
Much like with the signing of Long, the Bills got a jump on the defensive line by re-signing Jordan Phillips.
That isn’t enough, however. Buffalo needs reinforcements along the front and there are plenty of options on the open market. They include Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.
This is kind of a sneaky need for Buffalo heading into free agency. Don’t believe the Bills are looking for some much-needed depth?
They already have had Kevin Johnson in for a visit (former first round pick of the Houston Texans who has been plagued with injuries during his career).
Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, and Levi Wallace provide a solid base for Leslie Frazier’s defense, but depth is almost non-existent, and the youngsters would benefit from a veteran presence.
With that in mind, the Bills could target the following players: K. Johnson, Pierre Desir and Kareem Jackson.