A common talking point among play-by-play crews during Buffalo Bills games in 2019 was how few players brought in prior to head coach Sean McDermott’s tenure beginning in 2017 remained with the team.
In three short seasons, the roster had been turned over so the only remaining vets playing in 2019 who had also been with the team during the Rex Ryan/Anthony Lynn season was limited to three players: Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, and Shaq Lawson. Now with Alexander’s retirement and Lawson’s free-agency exit to Miami, literally only Jerry Hughes remains on the roster from before Sean McDermott was the head coach.
Despite the lack of carry over from the previous regime, the Bills have slowly and quietly amassed veteran leadership from within and built through the draft. Although a sometimes trite and canned description of a general manager’s desire, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have significantly moved the needle in the right direction for the Bills’ roster through drafting and developing their own. In three drafts, McBeane have managed to bring in 11 starters or heavy contributors: Tre’Davious White, Dion Dawkins, Matt Milano, Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Harrison Phillips, Taron Johnson, Ed Oliver, Cody Ford, Devin Singletary, and Dawson Knox. Not to mention depth contributors like Siran Neal, and the entire remainder of the 2019 draft class who remain affiliated with the team.
In free agency, you will almost always overpay for talent. It’s the name of the game. And the more premier the talent the more you will have to overpay. With the state of the Bills’ roster being praised by places such as PFF (insert James Franco confused “what?” gif here) it stands to reason the organization must have had some significant success through the draft. Building through free agency only works for the very short term (look at the Los Angeles Rams for god’s sake) because the salary cap Babadook eventually comes for his bowl of worms.
The Bills have shifted from having to buy their middle-aged leadership in players like Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Star Lotulelei, Patrick DiMarco, and Trent Murphy to slowly bringing up their own and positioning the team for long-term locker-room continuity.
Will the team be able to re-sign all their own guys? No. But it seems as though many key Bills for the foreseeable future are going to be guys the current regime brought in straight from their Alma mater.