The Buffalo Bills went 10-6 and earned the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs in 2019, the second time in three seasons that head coach Sean McDermott, general manager Brandon Beane and the Bills have qualified for the playoffs following a 17-year postseason drought.
Heading into free agency, the Bills have 16 total free agents: 12 unrestricted free agents (UFA), one restricted free agent (RFA), and three exclusive-rights free agents (ERFA).
Unrestricted free agents can either re-sign with their current club, or can test out free agency.
Restricted free agents are players with exactly three years of NFL service time who can be tendered contracts by their teams, and if they choose to sign a deal with another team, their former club has the right to match the deal or let them go.
Exclusive-rights free agents (ERFA) only hit free agency if their current team (Bills, in this case) opts to non-tender them at a salary equivalent to the league minimum for the player’s age. Unlike restricted free agents, ERFA’s cannot negotiate a contract with another team once the tender is applied.
Here is Buffalo’s breakdown of free agents:
Lorenzo Alexander (LB), Maurice Alexander (LB), Kurt Coleman (S), Frank Gore (RB), Kevin Johnson (CB), Shaq Lawson (DE), Dean Marlowe (S), Senorise Perry (RB/special teams), Jordan Phillips (DT), Quinton Spain (G), Julian Stanford (LB), LaAdrian Waddle (T).
Isaiah McKenzie (WR).
Jason Croom (TE), Robert Foster (WR), Levi Wallace (CB).
The fate of at least one Bill is known for 2020: Alexander, the fan-favorite and community supporter, has announced he is retiring from the NFL following a 13-year career with the Bills, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, and Oakland Raiders.
While Phillips is a great story, I think his performance in 2019 (9.5 sacks with 16 QB hits and 13 tackles for a loss) is going to command a payday greater than the Bills will be willing to pay (think north of $10 million per season).
If I were Beane, I would look to bring back (in this order): Spain (had an unbelievable year as a stabilizing force on the offensive line); Lawson (career-high 6.5 sacks with 18 QB hits and 13 tackles for loss); Wallace (appeared in and started all 16 games, recording 2 interceptions with 9 pass breakups and 76 total tackles); Johnson (appeared in all 16 games, breaking up five passes while making 32 total tackles); McKenzie (versatile offensive weapon caught 27 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and added eight rushes for 49 yards); and either Foster or Senorise Perry (both outstanding contributors on special teams).
Spain to me is the biggest must-sign name on this list. Now it’s your turn, Bills fans. Who do you bring back, and who do you let walk? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.