The Buffalo Bills had a problem along the offensive line. The Bills lost three of the five starters from the 2017 season opener coming into the 2018 season. Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood all started that victory over the New York Jets to kick off the 2017 season, and none of the three were with the team to begin offseason activities in 2018.
The Bills already had in-house replacements for Glenn and Incognito, permanently making Dion Dawkins the left tackle and re-inserting John Miller into the lineup at guard. They signed Russell Bodine to play center. They thought that the offensive line would allow the team to run a smash-mouth, run-oriented offense.
Narrator: Well, they thought wrong.
The Bills struggled to move the ball at all, partly due to poor quarterback play for most of the season, but also due to issues with protection. Buffalo’s leading rusher was Josh Allen, the team’s rookie quarterback. The top two running backs on the depth chart, LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory, combined to carry the ball 276 times for 899 yards—a brutal 3.26 yards-per-carry average.
What did they do about it? They signed six free agents and drafted a potential starter along the offensive line. They threw all they could at the wall and now we get to see what will stick.
With the biggest addition coming at center, we’ll start our offensive line preview with the interior linemen.
- Contract status for 2019: Signed four-year deal this offseason; $10.94 million cap hit ($20.4 million if cut)
- Age: Turned 27 on 4/21/19
- 2018 playing time: 11 games (11 starts), 678 snaps (64.88% of offensive total), 60 ST snaps (12.96%) for the Kansas City Chiefs
- Key 2018 statistics: 4 penalties, 0 sacks allowed for Kansas City Chiefs
Signed to the largest contract for a center in NFL history, it’s fair to say the Bills have high expectations for Morse coming over from the Chiefs. He helped mentor Patrick Mahomes over the last two years, and Buffalo is hoping he can do the same for Josh Allen.
- Contract status for 2019: Signed a complex three-year deal this offseason; $3.94 million cap hit ($1.3 million dead cap if cut)
- Age: 28 (Turns 29 on 11/8/19)
- 2018 playing time: 13 games (13 starts), 805 snaps (80.42% of offensive total) for the New York Jets
- Key 2018 statistics: 4 penalties, 3.5 sacks allowed for New York Jets
After a down year dealing with a wrist injury in New Jersey, Long was optioned for release by the Jets. In Buffalo, he has lined up as first-team guard throughout the spring, so he seems to have the inside track to a starting spot. He also provides center depth, a key handcuff for Morse who has missed 14 games over the last two seasons.
- Contract status for 2019: $633,530 cap hit ($190,593 dead cap if cut)
- Age: 24 (25 on 11/21/19)
- 2018 playing time: 8 games (7 starts), 475 snaps (44.85% of offensive total), 27 ST snaps (6.15%)
- Key 2018 statistics: 5 penalties, 0 sacks allowed
The second of Buffalo’s fifth-round draft picks in 2018, Teller slid into the starting lineup and was adequate in his first taste of NFL action. While it is certainly impressive that a rookie fifth-rounder was able to crack the starting lineup, the ineffectiveness of the unit as a whole is the greater reason for the coaching staff’s willingness to give Teller a chance. Also, the team dropping out of contention allowed Teller to slide in and gain experience. His spot in the starting lineup is by no means assured in 2019.
- Contract status for 2019: Signed this offseason; $2.05 million cap hit ($200,000 dead cap if cut)
- Age: 27 (28 on 8/7/19)
- 2018 playing time: 15 games (15 starts), 856 snaps (86.82% of offensive total), 49 ST snaps (11.69%) for the Tennessee Titans
- Key 2018 statistics: 5 penalties, 1 sack allowed for Tennessee Titans
The former multi-game starter for the Titans, Spain languished in free agency for a long time before signing in Buffalo. He’s been hurt for a large chunk of spring workouts, so it’s tough to say where he’s going to slot in. Within the contracts they gave out this offseason, they aren’t paying him as much as the other two free agent guards.
- Contract status for 2019: Signed this offseason; $3.45 million cap hit ($3.9 million if cut)
- Age: Turned 27 on 2/10/1992
- 2018 playing time: 13 games (4 starts), 227 snaps (21.79% of offensive total), 57 ST snaps (12.87%) for Oakland Raiders
- Key 2018 statistics: 3 penalties, 0 sacks allowed for Oakland Raiders
A spot starter for the Raiders, Feliciano was never able to make the next step into Oakland’s starting lineup. Buffalo signed him early in their free agency process and gave him a hefty pay bump, making him the second-highest paid guard on the team. His cap hit will go up if he’s cut, and Buffalo sank a significant amount of guaranteed money into his contract. It’s likely he’ll be on the roster because of it.
- Contract status for 2019: $2,083,334 cap hit ($83,334 dead cap if cut)
- Age: 31 (32 on 10/15/19)
- Playing time: 10 games (9 starts), 563 snaps (53.16% of offensive total), 28 ST snaps (6.38%)
- Key statistics: 4 penalties, 0 sacks allowed
Ducasse began 2018 as the team’s starting left guard, moving over from the right side after Richie Incognito was released in the offseason. Ducasse was who we thought he was, mixing in solid play with poor moments throughout the season. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Teller after the bye week. With only $83,334 in dead cap money, the Bills could certainly decide to part ways with the veteran; however, the fact that they haven’t means it’s entirely possible that the coaching staff wants to keep him around as insurance.
- Contract status for 2019: $2.875 million cap hit ($500,000 dead cap if cut)
- Age: Turned 27 on 6/30/19
- Playing time: 10 games (10 starts), 588 snaps (55.52% of offensive snaps), 5 ST snaps (1.14%)
- Key statistics: 3 penalties, 0 sacks allowed
Bodine signed with the Bills last offseason, after having started all 64 games of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals prior to this season. Of course, he missed the second half of the 2018 season due to a leg injury—the first time he has missed time due to injury as a professional. Bodine was not great, but he was the best the team had. With Morse in the fold and Long able to play both guard and center, Buffalo won’t have a need for Bodine unless there is an injury to one of those two free agents. His days in Buffalo appear to be numbered.
The Bills saw a dire need on the interior of their offensive line and responded. They didn’t do projections with rookies, either. Instead they went with proven NFL talent. They signed four interior linemen with starting experience to pair with the three players already on the roster with starting experience. All seven will compete at the start of training camp for three starting spots and two backup roles. That means two players will likely be on the outside looking in when final cuts are announced, and the Bills will be better for it.