The Buffalo Bills have made some noise thus far in free agency. The team has signed nine new players to the roster, and they’ve also re-signed two of their own free agents in safety Dean Marlowe and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Oh, and they pulled off a trade for a wide receiver that you might have heard about, as well.
If we know anything about general manager Brandon Beane, it’s this: he isn’t done adding weapons to this team. The Bills have been linked to multiple big-ticket free agents, including Javon Hargrave, D.J. Reader, and Chris Watson Jr. The Bills’ brass is always looking to make the roster better.
Where else might the Bills look to add talent via the free-agent pool? There are a few areas that seem most likely based both on the team’s current 69-man roster (take it easy, Quagmire) and their interest in other free agents. While a second running back and another edge rusher are obvious needs, a dark horse possibility is that the team looks to sign another corner at the right price (because you can never have enough).
Here are some players Buffalo should look into signing as free agency continues to roll on.
RB Devonta Freeman
The veteran was released by the Atlanta Falcons after a career-worst season rushing in 2019. He tallied 656 yards on 184 carries (3.6 yards per carry), scoring two touchdowns on the year. As a receiver, however, Freeman caught 59 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns. While the rushing totals are concerning given that Freeman turned 28 last season and was playing after suffering knee, foot, and groin injuries that limited him to just two games in 2018, his combination of power, speed, and receiving ability makes him a natural fit as a change-of-pace option for Buffalo’s Devin Singletary. Freeman has 951 carries and 257 receptions in his six-year career, so there is plenty of mileage on his 5’8”, 208-lb frame. However, he has the talent and the running style to fit perfectly in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system.
RB Chris Thompson
The veteran third-down back has had a good run in Washington, but at 29 years old, it appears he’s set to move on from the only team he’s played for in the NFL. If the Bills are looking for a player to serve more as a receiver and less as a true half of a one-two punch for Singletary, then Thompson would be a sound addition. In 66 career games, Thompson has only 250 carries, but 212 career receptions. Buffalo already has a veteran in T.J. Yeldon who profiles as a much better receiver than runner, so this move may be a bit redundant unless the team plans to release Yeldon, but Thompson has been a reliable receiver for a long time.
RB Carlos Hyde
Buffalo already has one Houston Texans running back in Taiwan Jones, but he is only a special teams player. Hyde had his best professional season last year with Houston, rushing 245 times for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. While he only has 129 receptions in his six-year career, his best career year as a receiver was quite impressive. In 2017, his last full year with the San Francisco 49ers, Hyde caught 59 passes for 350 yards, so it seems that he isn’t so much a poor receiver as he is someone who hasn’t been asked to do it very often. At 6’ and 229 lbs, he’d offer some thunder to Singletary’s lightning, as well.
EDGE Everson Griffen
While we’ve been busy this offseason connecting the dots between former Carolina Panthers who played for Sean McDermott when he was their defensive coordinator, Griffen has a connection to Buffalo’s assistant head coach/defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier. The veteran edge rusher opted out of his contract after a solid 2019 season where he had 41 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and 24 quarterback hits. For comparison’s sake, those numbers would have placed him first, second, first, and first, respectively, among Buffalo’s defensive ends last season. Griffen doesn’t turn 33 until December, and while it would seem that the Bills have filled their need for a veteran edge rusher with Mario Addison, Griffen is a better player overall than Trent Murphy, who is currently under contract at a salary-cap hit of $9.775 million. The Bills could save a touch over $8 million on this year’s cap by cutting Murphy, which could be enough to offset the cost of signing Griffen this year.
EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
Hey, we can dream, right? The former No. 1 overall pick played for the Seattle Seahawks last season, and he wasn’t very productive overall. He had his worst year of his career at the worst possible time, as he totaled 31 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles for a loss, and 13 quarterback hits. He’s reportedly looking for an annual salary of $20 million. If he comes down off those demands, the team that signs him could find themselves with an angry, motivated player who is an absolute athletic specimen.
EDGE Michael Bennett
Another veteran, Bennett split time last year between the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. He had another productive season—32 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, and 15 quarterback hits—in what has been a very productive career. Bennett is equally adept at setting the edge against the run as he is rushing the passer because his immense frame (6’4” and 275 lbs) allows him to eat blocks and power through double teams regularly. On a short-term deal, he could bolster the Bills’ edge unit until a raw player like Darryl Johnson Jr. or any 2020 NFL Draft choices are ready to regularly contribute.
CB Bashaud Breeland
The Bills have signed two veteran corners in Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines. Both players are familiar with head coach Sean McDermott’s defensive system. However, both come with significant question marks, so the Bills could very well be in the market for another veteran to make their already stellar secondary that much better. Breeland is a fantastic corner who has the kind of versatility Buffalo covets—he can play as a boundary corner and as a slot corner—and he has been very good over the last two years. In his stints with the Green Bay Packers in 2018 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, he was targeted 95 times, allowing only 47 completions (49.5%).
CB Logan Ryan
The veteran played with the Tennessee Titans last year and was all over the field, totaling a team-leading 113 tackles and a team-leading 18 passes defended. Ryan played 1,099 defensive snaps, 99% of the Titans’ snaps on defense, and he also had four interceptions. He did allow 66% of the passes thrown his way to be completed, however, which is the only downside. He’s a physical corner who also has the ability to play both in the slot and on the boundary, so he would bolster Buffalo’s secondary quite a bit. Cost would almost certainly be a factor with both Ryan and Breeland, but for the right price, they’d absolutely help the defense.
CB Greg Mabin
In an offseason wrought with logistical challenges, signing players who have already played in the defensive system is paramount. Mabin was on Buffalo’s roster for a few months in 2017, signing with the team in June of that year. He made the team out of training camp but was inactive for the team’s opener against the New York Jets. Buffalo waived him on September 12, then signed him to the practice squad on September 13, then promoted him to the active roster on October 7. He played 28 defensive snaps for the Bills against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he broke up a pass in the contest. He was released to make room for Seantrel Henderson the following week, and he was then signed by the 49ers. He spent the 2019 season with the Bengals. At 6’2” and 201 lbs, he would add some size to a smaller secondary unit with the added bonus of being a player who already knows the defense. And, his price tag would be significantly less than the aforementioned veteran options.