The interior offensive line of the Buffalo Bills is a hot topic this offseason, and general manager Brandon Beane did nothing to put out the flames when he said at his year-end press conference that the Bills want to run the ball more effectively (not necessarily more often) but that he didn’t lay the blame solely on running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. From a personnel standpoint, if the running backs don’t shoulder all of the blame and it’s generally agreed that right tackle Daryl Williams played well, then the attention begins to fall on the interior offensive line. Although Mitch Morse was “not benched” but a healthy scratch mid-season as the Bills wanted to look at other offensive line combinations, the guard position ends up being front and center in the discussion.
With that in mind, let’s take a crack at the steps I believe the Bills should take this offseason to address the guard position:
The last ride of Cody Ford
When Ford was drafted out of Oklahoma, I pounded the table stating that he was a guard. The Bills played him at right tackle during his rookie year to below-average results, and he opened the 2020 season at guard before his year was derailed by injuries. We still haven’t seen a full normal offseason for Cody Ford at the position where I feel his potential has the highest probability of being realized. I would anticipate him slotting in at left guard in 2021 and I support giving him another year to prove his worth. His development has been delayed by playing hurt and out of position, but it should be time for him to show the promise that made him Buffalo’s day-two pick in 2019.
Give Ryan Bates the Ike Boettger treatment
Ike Boettger finally got a chance to play in 2020 after years of toiling on the bench and practice squad. The lengthy development put into him by the Buffalo Bills was rewarded with not-abysmal guard play.
It’s time to see what’s behind door number two.
In the two games he saw his most extensive action of the season (New England Week 8 and Miami Week 17) I was pleased with what I saw from Bates. With snaps at right guard, center, and left tackle in 2020, Bates’s versatility (like Boettger’s) is surely a positive in the eyes of the Bills’ coaching staff, but given his profile coming out of college (good movement ability, less-than-ideal length) and the amount of zone runs Buffalo ran in 2020, he should be given an opportunity to compete for a more stable role at guard.
Let Jon Feliciano walk and sign Tom Compton
Jon Feliciano has become a fan favorite in Buffalo due to his demeanor and run blocking. After being a backup in Oakland (now Las Vegas), Feliciano came to Buffalo on a two-year, $8 million deal. Spotrac currently projects his market value at $8.3 million per season—which is about double what he got from the Bills as an unrestricted free agent.
That’s too rich for my blood.
Compton is a 31-year-old vet who has been on six teams already in his NFL career. Each stop, he has performed at a reasonable level and would likely command a contract at or near the $2 million AAV range. With Brian Winters’s time in Buffalo likely coming to an end after one year, a vet stopgap player with experience on a cheap contract would help to shore up the position.
Draft a guard
The 2021 NFL draft has a few intriguing interior offensive lineman who could be available on day two of the draft. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey is high on my list due to his ability to potentially start out at guard and transition to center to take over for Mitch Morse when Morse’s contract either runs out or the team decides to move in a different direction. His wrestling background will surely appeal to head coach Sean McDermott as well.
Whether it’s Humphrey or another prospect, talented youth should be brought in to assure the interior offensive line pantry is stocked.
- All-22 analysis of Jon Feliciano’s 2020 season
- All-22 analysis of Brian Winters’s 2020 season
- All-22 analysis of Ike Boettger’s 2020 season
- Contract projection for Jon Feliciano
- Contract projection for Brian Winters
- Contract projection for Ike Boettger
- Do the Bills have a guard waiting in the wings?
- Free-agent options for the Bills at guard
- 2021 NFL Draft options at guard
- Opinion: Bills should go with new guards in 2021. Here’s how.
- VOTE: What do you want to see at guard this offseason?