Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and company had much to prove going into 2019 free agency. The team ranked third in available cap space with $77.3 million to spend. Fans and analysts waited with baited breath to see if Buffalo would make any big splash acquisitions. However, when it was all said and done, initial reactions were that the Bills hadn’t acquired anyone of significant substance. As we know now, that couldn't have been further from the truth.
The most notable names among the 17 free agents the Bills brought in were wide receiver Cole Beasley who, until 2019 had spent his whole career with the Dallas Cowboys, and Mitch Morse who had been one of the league’s best centers with the Kansas City Chiefs. Morse received the wealthiest contract from Buffalo’s pool of free agents with a four-year $44.5 million-dollar deal.
Upon further inspection of the free-agent class it was clear that Beane was addressing the abysmal offense from 2018, with 15 of the 17 free agents being offensive players. While Buffalo may not have acquired the big name everyone wanted, they established a winning foundation that landed them in the playoffs one year removed from a lackluster 6-10 season.
The offensive line was revamped with Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, and Quinton Spain all in starting roles after being acquired in the offseason, while offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe split time with rookie Cody Ford at right tackle to lead the league’s fourth-best rushing attack. Spencer Long played some time, too.
The wide receiver room also got a makeover after being one of, if not the worst receiving units in the league during the 2018 season. John Brown caught 72 passes and was the first Bills player to eclipsed 1,000 yards since Sammy Watkins in 2015. Cole Beasley hauled in 67 passes in 2019, which still would’ve lead all Bills receivers from the previous year.
Of note on the defensive side, Buffalo added Kevin Johnson to add depth to their stellar secondary. Johnson played a key rotational role in 2019 and even started in the Bills’ Wild Card playoff loss to the Houston Texans.
With 2019 as a point of reference, Bills fans should feel confident going into the 2020 free-agency period. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott seem to know what they need and know how to get it. We could see the Bills make a play for a big-name player or continue to build with players who fit. One thing is for sure however—the Bills seem to be only one good offseason away from being a legitimate contender in 2020.