What do Buffalo Bills fans want their team to do at defensive end this offseason? After a playoff loss where the team once again couldn’t handle Patrick Mahomes and his elusiveness, the pass rush is back under the microscope despite a significant investment over the last two years.
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With 26 pressures, Hughes put forward his second-best season in that metric since it’s been tracked (2018, so pretty recently). And he did that with a pretty steep decline in playing time. Hughes only played 52% of the time—the lowest percentage of his career.
Hughes is still surprisingly fast. His array of techniques and veteran smarts are still valuable assets. He does seem to be starting to physically decline as evidenced by what I believe is a lesser ability to impose his will. That could mean speed/agility will be next. I think this is probably the first time I’ve said this about Jerry Hughes. I’d be glad to see him back in Buffalo but only for the right price.
Mario Addison brings a veteran presence with play recognition/on-field intelligence being his greatest asset. Addison has some versatility, but not as much as some of his more youthful teammates. None of this is an insult. Buffalo could do a lot worse than Mario Addison and his team lead in sacks isn’t a fluke. That said, as the experience gap shrinks between Addison and the youth movement, his roster spot becomes more tenuous. Has the gap closed enough already? I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bills think it has.
I feel pretty similarly about Efe Obada as I did at the beginning of the season. Obada is succeeding based on pure physical ability, which is borderline miraculous in the NFL. His lack of experience shows, and unless he can significantly close the talent gap with his peers, he might be hard pressed to break free of the “rotational player” label. There are some signs he’s been working a ton on his technique.
By no means would I be disappointed if the Buffalo Bills decided to be the team to see if they can get him to his ceiling. Personally I’m rooting for the man. He’s fun to watch and already effective with his limited opportunities. If he can have a breakthrough, I think he would be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
With Epenesa and Rousseau I came away feeling that technique issues were the largest culprit in bad reps. With Basham it felt more like clumsiness. To perhaps explain better, technique woes are more like choosing the wrong skill for the situation or forgetting a part of the process. Basham seems more like the right technique, but executed with insufficient speed, force, or just plain looking awkward. That bodes well for the mental aspect of the game as Basham seems to make good choices. If the clumsiness is attributable to something as simple as the newness of what he’s trying, that bodes extremely well for his ceiling.
If they want to offer him as a veteran minimum exception, he’ll only make $1.12 million and I’m not sure it’s worth it for a guy who has played for a dozen years and hails from Texas. The reality is that Buffalo is cap-strapped and has invested considerable draft capital in the position. It’s unclear what type of hometown discount Hughes is willing to give, but it seems unlikely he’s going to get up to a Carlos Dunlap deal ($6.8 million per season) at his age and production level.
One year, $4 million
$3.5 million guaranteed
One year, $6 million
$3 million guaranteed
I think Addison will be able to turn his most recent solid season into a one-year deal somewhere, though I doubt it’s going to be with the Bills. Teams need pass rushers who can consistently win battles to get into the backfield and Addison has proven he can still do that. His ability to finish will make him a bit more, too. Especially for a team looking to turn around a culture like the New York Jets, he makes a lot of sense as a veteran presence.
If Buffalo lets all three DEs walk, they still have former second-round picks A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham as well as 2021 first-round pick Greg Rousseau on the roster. They have Mike Love as a reserve option, as well, and Bryan Cox Jr. returning from injury. It’s not a great rotation, but it’s a bare-minimum acceptable one.
One of the better bargains of the last couple years has been Ogbah. He turned in 18 sacks, 17 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, and 15 tackles for a loss (TFLs) during that span. Ogbah is still only 28 years old, and has a real appealing profile: 6’4” and 275 lbs. He’s a great athlete, and a productive starting defensive end. He’s probably due for a raise at least around $10-12 million per year, which might actually undervalue him since edge rusher is one of the most premium positions.
Fresh off a Super Bowl win, the 33-year-old Miller will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Miller doesn’t need an introduction; an eight-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro, he’s one of the best edge rushers of the past 20 years. He still had 9.5 sacks and 19 TFLs this year—a sign that he’s not slowing down as he gets on in age.
Jones is about to turn 32. His 2021 stats look impressive on the surface, but five of his 10.5 sacks came in a single game, and the other 5.5 sacks came in the other 16 games of the season. Maybe the Endicott native who went to Syracuse might be interested in coming back to New York?
An example of how statistics can fool you, the 33-year-old Ingram only had two sacks and four TFLs in 2021. But anyone could see how he wrecked the Bills’ game plan with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener, and the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs.
Pierre-Paul struggled with a broken finger and a torn rotator cuff in 2021, and only notched 2.5 sacks as a result. Before then, he was an excellent sack artist, with 46 sacks in five seasons from 2016 to 2020. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2020.
Dante Fowler Jr.
Is Fowler actually good? The former first-round pick signed $57 million of contracts in the last three years, which suggests teams value him like a good edge rusher. But he’s had exactly one season with more than five sacks, 30 tackles, and eight TFLs: 2019.
Clowney took a pay cut in 2021, with $8 million to play for the Cleveland Browns. He was fortunate to play across All-Pro edge Myles Garrett, and all his numbers ticked up dramatically (nine sacks, 11 TFLs, 19 QB hits).
The former first-round pick was a certified bust in his first four seasons, in which he only started nine games and managed 6.5 sacks. Signing a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Detroit Lions, Harris managed to work his way into the starting rotation after a few games, and became a crucial player for the team. Harris had 65 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and ten TFLs for the Lions.
An extremely high risk player, Gregory has a long-documented drug habit that has cost him most of his career. Nevertheless, Gregory has 9.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 29 QB hits in the last two years as a rotational edge rusher for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s pretty productive.
Now we move into the “young player who might fit into a rotation, not a starter” portion of the list. It was a career-best season for Key in 2021, with 6.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, and five TFLs while only playing 35% of snaps.
Carter was effectively a starter in the last three seasons for the New York Giants, averaging 70% of snaps played on defense (when healthy). He wasn’t especially productive as an edge rusher, with essentially 4.5 sacks per season in his career. Still, he’s 6’5” and 255 lbs, a good athlete, and would come at a cheap price.
- Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
- David Ojabo (Michigan)
- Cameron Thomas (San Diego State)
Hutchinson is the newest clone of Joey Bosa. He’s big, long and strong but best of all, he’s a technician. He knows how to set up tackles. A bit of the opposite is Thibodeaux, who gets it done by being able to really bend and turn the edge, despite being a massive big and long human being. People his size aren’t supposed to be able to ‘turn the corner’ that well. A one-year starter, Ojabo doesn’t really know what he’s doing yet, but his speed off the edge is already NFL-ready, and he can pull off a very good dip move. He needs to learn how to be more physical though. Expect to hear more about Cam Thomas as the draft process moves on. The former defensive tackle plays in a similar style to J.J. Watt. He’s not a speed rusher, rather he defeats tackles with what may be the strongest hands in the draft class. Further, he knows how to get skinny and split offensive linemen by earning quick inside pressure.
- Travon Walker (Georgia)
- George Karlaftis (Purdue)
- Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State)
- Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State)
- Drake Jackson (USC)
- Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina)
- Boye Mafe (Minnestota)
- Sam Williams (Ole Miss)
- Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati)
- Let Addison & Hughes walk
- Re-sign Efe Obada
- Draft DeAngelo Malone from Western Kentucky to add speed
Now it’s your turn, Bills fans! Vote in our poll and let us know what you want to do.
What should the Bills do at defensive end this offseason?
This poll is closed
Re-sign Hughes, Addison, and Obada and run it back
Sign two of their own free agents (Hughes, Addison, Obada)
Roll with Rousseau, Basham, and Epenesa
Sign Hughes, sign a free agent
Sign Hughes, draft another DE
Sign Addison, sign a free agent
Sign Addison, draft another DE
Sign Obada, sign a free agent
Sign Obada, draft another DE
Sign two new free agents to play with Rousseau/Basham/Epenesa
Draft two new DEs to play with Rousseau/Basham/Epenesa
Sign a free agent, draft a new DE to play with Rousseau/Basham/Epenesa