Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and his crew have built up a lot of goodwill among the fanbase through their drafting, trading, free-agent signings, and (we think) candor about their decision-making. Each year, new stages of the team-building process are put on display for fans to judge. Part of what lays ahead for the Bills’ front office in 2020 is choosing who to re-sign from head coach Sean McDermott’s first draft class in 2017, plus others coming up at the end of their current deal.
Who, as it stands now, are the most important current Bills coming up on the last year of their contact? Let’s make a list:
1. Matt Milano, LB
The fact that Milano was a fifth-round pick is mind-boggling in retrospect. He is absolutely integral to McDermott’s linebacker-centric defense and his three-down skill set is invaluable in the modern NFL. Finding a replacement for what Milano gives to the Bills with his particular combination of abilities would be damn near impossible to do without a material step backwards in expectations for a Milano-less defense.
2. Dion Dawkins, T
Dawkins is a three-year starter at tackle for the Bills and rebounded nicely after a bit of a sophomore slump. Tackles of Dawkins’s caliber and experience don’t grow on trees and his youth makes him extra appealing. If Dawkins starts 2020 strong, chatter to get a deal done for him will get hot ‘n heavy very quick.
3. Jon Feliciano, G
Feliciano’s versatility has been an unexpected and welcome surprise. Who would have imagined that Feliciano would not only start over higher-priced signing Spencer Long but would also be the primary backup center over Long who previously spent an entire season there with the New York Jets while Feliciano had no recorded experience at center?! The Bills’ offensive line still has question marks, but Feliciano has proven to be more than serviceable during his tenure with the team and he is expected to play a significant role in 2020.
4. - Levi Wallace and/or Josh Norman - CB
One of these two is expected to be CB2 for the Bills in 2020. the fact that it’s not already decided who it is makes this only number 4 on the list. One among the pair is hopefully going to be very important to the 2020 Bills. The other will be a nice insurance policy in case of injury, and luckily both have experience in McDermott’s defense, which will be more valuable with the truncated 2020 offseason than in normal years. Wallace is set to be a restricted free agent a year from now.
5. - Andre Roberts, KR
Roberts finds himself on this list because as long as he makes the roster, he is going to see playing time and touch the ball more than most coming at the end of their contracts. That alone makes him consequential to the Bills in 2020. Roberts was reliable and contently made the right decisions during his returning duties, but he failed to break “the big one” in 2019. If he finds a way to make that happen in 2020, this ranking will hopefully be too low.
Here are the other players entering the final year of their respective deals:
QB Matt Barkley
RB Taiwan Jones
RB T.J. Yeldon
FB Patrick DIMarco
WR Isaiah McKenzie
WR Robert Foster (RFA in 2021)
WR Duke Williams (ERFA in 2021)
TE Tyler Kroft
TE Jason Croom (RFA in 2021)
OT Ty Nsekhe
OL Daryl Williams
OL Evan Boehm
OL Ike Boettger (RFA in 2021)
OL Garret McGhin (ERFA in 2021)
DE Trent Murphy
DE Bryan Cox, Jr.
DL Vincent Taylor
DE Mike Love (ERFA in 2021)
LB Corey Thompson (RFA in 2021)
S Dean Marlowe
CB E.J. Gaines
P Corey Bojorquez (RFA in 2021)