The Buffalo Bills used five different starters at guard in 2021; Ryan Bates, Jon Feliciano, Ike Boettger, Cody Ford, and Daryl Williams. Two of those guys are set to be free agents and two more have big cap hits this offseason, meaning we could see even more turnover at the spot. (Boettger, Feliciano, and Ford started games at guard in 2020, but so did Brian Winters and Quinton Spain. It’s a position that has churned under general manager Brandon Beane.)
We’ve put together a massive amount of articles going through all the guards on and off the roster to give you a complete picture. Read the excerpts (or better yet click through to all of the articles) and vote on your favorite option below.
I’m not upset with Jon Feliciano as the “floor” at guard this offseason. I’m an advocate of the weakest link in the chain philosophy when it comes to teams. As a thought exercise, let’s pretend Feliciano was the weakest link. In the six games he started, the Bills scored 26 points or higher in five of them. The sixth game was the season opener where wacky things often happen. The offense showed they were quite capable with Feliciano on the field.
The Buffalo Bills didn’t do Cody Ford any favors by asking him to play basically every position except kicker. With that said, we come to the toughest part of analysis when you’re a fan first. The swaps along the offensive line likely aren’t so alien that more progression shouldn’t be happening. Cody Ford has been an easy guy to root for but at some point the play on the field catches up or the rooting will fade.
Ford has a reasonable contract and at minimum provides depth that knows the system. It won’t be a shock to see him on the roster again simply so the Bills don’t create another hole. I don’t think his spot is guaranteed though either. If he returns, fingers crossed it all clicks for him.
My biggest concern with Williams is his lack of speed compared to Mitch Morse and Ryan Bates. Running things like Play 5 works well as you have two speedier players that allow Williams to do what he does best and anchor. Now flip the play to the other side. Williams and Morse is not as good of a combo as Bates and Morse on the move.
I don’t consider that a fatal flaw by any means. The Bills put up points all year so nothing about Williams suggests fatal flaw. I know there’s always a cost discussion. That’s as it should be. From a pure playing perspective though, you want Williams back.
I’m rooting hard for Buffalo to bring Ryan Bates back into the fold. I’ve often noted how linemen are often closer in ability than we like to think, with the major difference between players being the degree they fit in with the players around them and the scheme the team prefers. Ryan Bates fits in. The contract stuff might be a bit tricky but, from a talent perspective, Bates improved an already lethal offense. If you can keep that, you do it.
There is an opportunity for a contract restructure, but I’m not sure Feliciano should want to sign on for that. The problem is that Feliciano is sure to get more than $2 million guaranteed on the open market. In short, he has no incentive to sign that deal. Maybe Buffalo saves $1 million and fully commits to Feliciano in 2022. Is that what either side wants? I think it’s all or nothing in 2022. Pay him the roster bonus and make him fight for a roster spot at $3.1 to $3.5 million or cut him and save all that money.
A pay cut to stay, offset by guaranteeing all of his 2022 salary, would make sense for both sides. Williams is likely to get $4.5 million in guaranteed money on the open market as Jon Feliciano did a year ago, so if Buffalo lowers his salary from $7.725 million to a fully guaranteed $5.225 million it’s more than a fair price for him at guard. Plus he has $300k in per-game active bonuses and $100k in a workout bonus he can earn.
The move saves the Bills $2 million in cap space and $2.5 million in cash.
Last year, I bristled at Levi Wallace and Isaiah McKenzie getting the RFA tender salary because I didn’t think either would get that on the open market. (Neither of them did.) I think Bates will. If they want to keep him, Buffalo should tender him at the $2.433 million and not tinker trying to save a couple hundred thousand dollars. That being said, he’s too unproven for a multi-year deal in Western New York.
Boettger was a Restricted Free Agent and the Bills tagged him with the right of first refusal (he was an undrafted free agent), paying him $2.133 million. It would stand to reason, then, that the Bills would take a similar approach to their guard position in 2022, tagging Bates on an RFA deal with the right of first refusal (he, too, was an undrafted free agent). That contract would pay Bates slightly more—an estimated $2.433 million per Over the Cap.
- Brandon Scherff
- Alex Cappa
- Connor Williams
- James Daniels
- Austin Corbett
- Brian Allen
- Billy Price
- Laken Tomlinson
- Ethan Pocic
- Trai Turner
- Mark Glowinski
- Quinton Spain
- Dan Feeney
- John Miller
- Will Hernandez
Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)
Zion Johnson (Boston College)
Kenyon Green (Texas A&M)
A center by trade at Iowa, there’s reason to think Linderbaum could handle being a guard in a zone scheme. Although his weight at 290 lbs isn’t ideal, he carries a solid, compact frame and really knows how to out-leverage defenders. Johnson doesn’t have elite size for a guard, but he’s a well-rounded player who plays with tenacity and has enough movement skills to play in either a zone or a man-scheme. Green took some snaps at tackle, but his ultimate fit is at guard where he’s powerful and surprisingly light on his feet for a player weighing 325 lbs. His technique and hands could use some work.
Darian Kinnard (Kentucky)
Sean Rhyan (UCLA)
Jarrett Patterson (Notre Dame)
Jamaree Salyer (Georgia)
Cole Strange (UT-Chattanooga)
Thayer Munford (Ohio State)
Marquis Hayes (Oklahoma)
- Tender Ryan Bates or sign him to a short-term deal
- Restructure Daryl Williams
- Cut Jon Feliciano
- Sign A.J. Cann, previously of the Jacksonville Jaguars
- Extend Mitch Morse
- Draft Cole Strange out of Chattanooga
Now it’s your turn to let your voice be heard! After you read all the information above, vote in our poll below! I had to limit the available options, so use the comments section to your advantage.
What should the Bills do at starting guard this offseason?
This poll is closed
Tender Bates, roll it back with Bates/Williams/Feliciano/Ford
Let Bates walk, keep Feliciano/Ford/Williams
Tender Bates, keep Williams/Ford, cut Feliciano
Tender Bates, keep Feliciano/Ford, cut Williams
Sign a free agent starter
Draft a starter
Sign a free agent and draft a player
Sign Bates to a multi-year deal
- All-22 Review: Jon Feliciano
- All-22 Review: Cody Ford
- All-22 Review: Daryl Williams
- All-22 Review: Ryan Bates
- Salary cap savings if they cut Jon Feliciano
- Contract restructure more likely than salary cap cut for Daryl Williams
- What will Ryan Bates make on the open market?
- Ike Boettger’s 2021 RFA tag gives insight on Ryan Bates situation
- Free-agent OGs for the Bills to consider
- 2022 NFL Draft options at guard
- Opinion: Here’s Bruce’s multi-layered approach to the interior offensive line this offseason