The Buffalo Bills had four players start at guard for them in 2020. None of them are under contract for 2021 at this moment in time.
Earlier today and yesterday, we broke down every possible angle the Bills could use to tackle the situation and now it’s your time to let us know what your preference is. Should the Bills pony up and re-sign Jon Feliciano? What should they do with Brian Winters and Ike Boettger? What’s the plan?
Before you vote in the poll, here are some short summaries of our other articles with links to the full analysis.
Short and sweet conclusion for Mongo. He’s a fan favorite for a reason and that reason is he’s darn effective. Josh Allen’s passing stats speak to the line’s overall effectiveness in pass protection and Feliciano was a great fit in keeping Allen upright. While not a mauler in the run game, he executes the designed plays at a high level most of the time. The Bills should definitely look to upgrade the run game, but improving on Feliciano likely won’t be easy.
Brian Winters is an interesting case. Before I overcomplicate my assessment let’s cut to the chase. Winters is solid depth and arguably not a bad starter in a pinch. Now let’s overcomplicate things. The Bills tinkered with Winters because there is a lot to like. As I’ve noted in just about every lineman analysis ever though, it’s not just about finding the five best guys. If the five best guys have skills sets that vary too drastically that’s a problem. I actually like Winters, but his occasional struggles to juggle blocks and move laterally are issues that mostly creep up in pass protection.
Boettger did seem to mesh with the picture the Bills wanted to create in 2020. While stance and power issues were a factor, the ability to latch onto opponents and flow sideways on other plays felt like an overall gain for what Buffalo was looking for.
In the run game, no combination of linemen impressed so at worst Boettger would be considered a push. Get used to the phrase “not a mauler” by the way, as it applies nearly across the board. Should the Bills work to retain Boettger? Like Winters, Boettger sets a decent floor. Unlike Winters, Boettger could be assumed to still be developing. So it wouldn’t necessarily be trying the same thing and expecting a different result.
Four years, $30 million
$11 million fully guaranteed
I waffled between $7 and $8 million per season before settling right in the middle. The top-ten guards in the NFL make $11 million per season, and I don’t think he’s a top-ten guard. Number 20 on that list makes $7 million per season, so I’m putting Feliciano in the top 20 guards in the NFL with this deal. With two starting guards on each team, it effectively makes him a top-ten starting guard.
One year, $1.2125 million ($137,500 guaranteed)
$850k cap hit
It’s a contract for the NFL’s veteran salary benefit. A $137,500 signing bonus is added to the minimum for a player with as many years of service as Winters has. Then the NFL allows them to lower his cap hit from $1.2125 million to that of a second-year player. That’s the $850k cap hit.
One year, $920,000 ($275,000 guaranteed)
It’s essentially the same contract they gave to Isaiah McKenzie last year. A $137,500 signing bonus and $137,500 of the salary guaranteed. He has made $1.77 million in his career to date. A year from now if he’s the starter, Buffalo or another team will pony up for him.
It depends on what position you see for Ryan Bates and Cody Ford. I’ve long been a proponent of Ford at guard, but then the Bills won’t have a right tackle option. (That’s a conversation for a different day.)
So could the pair of starting guards already be under contract for 2020? I guess, but it would be foolish to count on Jordan Devey or Ryan Bates to make that big of a leap. Buffalo is going to need to add some spice to this gumbo during the offseason.
No really. The former Bills guard is one of the better options available. He had a cap hit of $4 million last year with the Carolina Panthers. He’s only 28—one of the best combinations of age and starting experience on the market.
For the last four years, Feeney’s been the starting left guard (and center) for the Los Angeles Chargers. 57 starts in 63 games played, to be precise. The 6’4” 310-lb guard has been a remarkably consistent player for one of the most injury-plagued, inconsistent offenses in the league.
This is a classic “buy low” situation. Don’t expect to find a starter with Elflein. But maybe a change of scenery, away from Rick Dennison and Adam Gase, could be an opportunity for him to grow into his own. He’ll probably be affordable, too.
Fluker, entering his age-30 season, has the versatility to be a road-grading guard or a right tackle for the Bills, giving them a similar player to Daryl Williams on their roster. Playing with the Ravens this year, he rotated in and out of the lineup, especially after Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury.
Looney is a center, but stands 6’3” and 315 lbs—that’s big enough to handle guard for the Bills, if he’s up for it. In 2021, Looney will be 31 years old and entering his tenth NFL season, having spent the last five with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s affordable—his last contract was one year, $2.4 million—but also spent most of his career as a top reserve. He was the starting center for the Cowboys this year.
Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
Wyatt Davis (Ohio State)
Although he played left tackle this season, rather admirably, Vera-Tucker is a perfect fit for left guard in the NFL. Not only is his flexibility valuable, it proves that he has the movement skills and agility teams want in their guards. His tape is loaded with some highly athletic blocks that few interior lineman could attempt. Squatty and powerful, Davis is the opposite type. He’s built to hold his ground in the passing game and be the lead blocker on run plays. His ceiling isn’t that high, but he looks like a plug-and-play immediate starter.
Trey Smith (Tennessee)
Deonte Brown (Alabama)
James Hudson (Cincinnati)
Landon Dickerson (Alabama)
Aaron Banks (Notre Dame)
D’Ante Smith (East Carolina)
Here are the headers from Bruce’s multi-step plan at guard this offseason. You’ll have to read the full article to get more info.
- The last ride of Cody Ford
- Give Ryan Bates the Ike Boettger treatment
- Let Jon Feliciano walk and sign Tom Compton
- Draft a guard
Now it’s your turn to vote, Bills fans. What do you want to do at the guard positions this offseason? I kept the options simplified to just the starter role. You can expand on your opinion in the comments.
What should the Bills do at guard this offseason?
This poll is closed
Re-sign all the free agents and keep the same dudes
Draft one starter, sign a new free agent
Sign two new starting guards
Draft two starting guards
Keep Feliciano, replace the other guard
Keep Boettger, replace the other guard
Starts with: "Cody Ford is a starting guard"
Count on Ryan Bates as a starter
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