Though it may still be August, the 2022 college football season kicks off next weekend—signaling the end of summer for many. Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and college scouts are very likely already turning their focus to what’s coming down the pike when the 2023 NFL Draft rolls around next April. That may sound far off, but the organization is already doing plenty of homework on prospects and evaluating positions on the Bills that could be of focus with hefty draft capital. The roster decisions that have been made by Beane throughout this offseason are bringing to light some areas of perceived need in 2023.
This position hasn’t been mentioned as a draft need since the Bills added both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer as free agents in the 2017 offseason. The contract situation for Poyer has been a major talking point this summer as he’s currently scheduled to play out the final year of his deal in 2022. Poyer’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was in attendance for one training camp practice in late July to attempt to hammer out an extension, but no deal has been put in place nearly a month later. To his credit, Poyer decided not to hold out. The franchise tag seems an unlikely route and an extension hasn’t been completed despite public frustration from his camp. Hyde’s deal is set to expire in 2024 as he also enters his age-31 season. It seems likely Hyde finishes out that deal with his leadership and quality of play still peaking. It’s reasonable to believe the best longstanding safety pairing in football could be split up after this season. With only late-round investments in backup safeties Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin in recent years, it’s easy to see that safety could be a very early target in the 2023 NFL Draft if Poyer walks next offseason.
The Bills haven’t been an organization that makes big draft investments in offensive guard. Cody Ford was a second-round investment in 2019—but that was with the assumption he could be the incumbent right tackle. That hasn’t worked out and his shift to guard hasn’t warranted the results the Bills hoped for when scouting him out of Oklahoma. 2021 fifth-round pick Tommy Doyle has received some work at guard this season, but he was a big-bodied athlete who was drafted as a potential swing tackle. This past offseason was a big one at offensive guard. First, the Bills signed 34-year-old Rodger Saffold to a one-year deal after he was released by the Tennessee Titans. The position almost became an immediate 2022 need after the Chicago Bears signed versatile offensive lineman Ryan Bates to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet. The Bills swiftly matched the offer sheet that gives Bates fully guaranteed money through 2023. This organization sorely needs quality young depth at the guard position. And, if this is a one-year vacation for Saffold in Buffalo, it could become a position that badly and quickly needs a starter.
Only 25 years old, Dawson Knox is coming off a career year in which he finished tied for second in the NFL with nine touchdown receptions in just 15 games. The young, athletic chess piece is starting to become a household name around the league after doubling his receptions and yardage in 2021. He’s very likely to get paid this offseason by one team. That could still be the Bills, but expiring contracts for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Jordan Poyer lay in the balance. Knox could certainly be a candidate for the franchise tag if the Bills would like to go that route. 2022 free-agent signing O.J. Howard and reserve Tommy Sweeney are not reasonable solutions for 2023 if Knox walks in the offseason. The contract situation for the rising star is one to monitor very closely.
The Bills value the backup quarterback a great deal within their organization. The team is in a clear Super Bowl window and want to make sure their season isn’t completely derailed should superstar Josh Allen miss any games throughout the course of the regular season. In the 2021 offseason, it was former highly sought-after draft selection Mitchell Trubisky who joined the roster as Allen’s backup. Luckily, he wasn’t needed in any real game situations during the course of the season. He’s now in Pittsburgh competing to be a starter. Now enters journeyman Case Keenum who the Bills traded a seventh-round draft selection to nab him away from the Cleveland Browns. Keenum is 34 years old and playing on an expiring contract this upcoming season. The Bills have been a team that elects to go the veteran route in scouring for a backup quarterback in recent years. Veteran Sam Darnold is certainly an option for next offseason. But adding a cheap rookie to the room doesn’t seem out of the question either.
Tremaine Edmunds is another young player slated to play on an expiring contract in 2022. Despite heaps of praise from the organization on the 24 year old, he hasn’t yet received an extension to stay with the organization. Edmunds’s situation is one that would seem to get resolved sooner rather than later with an extension. Rookie Terrel Bernard joins the fold as a third-round pick. Should he be a hit, linebacker becomes much less of a need even if Edmunds does walk after the season.
The play of Isaiah McKenzie as the starting slot receiver is something to monitor this year. The longtime role player is moving to a much more prominent role. If he should fail, a slot receiver could be one of the main focuses of the team heading into next offseason.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before—running back Devin Singletary is playing on an expiring contract. The Bills added James Cook in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s not viewed as a workhorse and Zack Moss remains a very big question mark after a disappointing start to his career. If Moss disappoints again, Beane has shown he’s not afraid to add a running back via the draft.