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Context key to Bills GM Brandon Beane’s Ja’Marr Chase comment

Beane’s name is being dragged in mud by some this week — but is it warranted?

Buffalo Bills Training Camp Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

Much has been written this week concerning Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and his seemingly innocuous, off-the-cuff comments about Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

In Tuesday’s end-of-the-year press conference, Beane was asked a multitude of questions about the Bills’ 2022 season and its personnel — both in-house and otherwise. But one response by Beane to a question has garnered far more discussion.

A simple Google of “Brandon Beane” returns results from multiple outlets that have run with Beane’s comments on Chase. Among those who reported on it include perhaps most prominently, and also our friends over at Cincy Jungle.

The Bills were, as Beane put it during Tuesday’s presser, “run out of the gym” last Sunday by the Bengals. Whether due to a disparity in talent or lack of execution, Buffalo was soundly beaten, and much of that lays at the feet of an offense that didn’t position the team to score more than 10 points.

So the question asked on Tuesday that’s begun to boil Beane’s water this week is one that simply provided him an opportunity to reflect on roster construction vis-à-vis Bills-Bengals. Leading up to that exchange was a line of questioning about on-field execution and play calling, and how close of a gap it was between the Bills, Bengals, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course, context is everything, especially so when attempting to understand and react to someone’s dialogue in a live setting. As such, provided here are both the recorded video of his presser, and below it my transcript of the relevant exchanges. If you’d like to view the material directly, it begins at 17:08 in the embedded tweet:

Reporter 1: “(inaudible)....Sean (head coach Sean McDermott) will talk about needing to make moves as the game itself evolves, and maybe this is too forward-thinking a question, but I mean is there anything that Cincinnati does — I’m thinking about those receivers that type of (inaudible) — do you see anything from them that suggests ‘that’s a trend that we need to kind of adapt to moving forward,’ in order to close that gap?”

Brandon Beane: “No... they have a good team, I mean — they right now are on the advantage of a rookie quarterback contract, and, you know — they had some lean years, and without getting too much into their build, and, you know, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna suck bad enough to have to get Ja’Marr Chase. Like, he’s a heck of a talent — I’d love to have him — but you gotta, you gotta go through some lean years to do that, and you know, they were able to get (Joe Burrow) one, and I don’t remember where Chase was drafted but it was pretty high. And those guys are on their rookie deals. We’re paying Stefon Diggs a pretty hefty number, and we’re paying Josh Allen a pretty hefty number, so there is this constraint to the cap, but (the Bengals) have a really good team, and they’ve got some good young players. We’re gonna try to get as many good players as we can through the draft and through free agency, but again, our cap situation’s a little different by whoever’s under the book. Does that answer the question?”

For certain, there’s a lot in there, but it’s important to digest it for what Beane actually said. He clearly believes the Bills’ roster is constructed differently than either the Bengals or Chiefs — no one way is better or worse than the other. Just different. Buffalo has signed a lot of players to significant long-term contracts in hopes of fielding a perennial playoff team. So, too, have Cincinnati and Kansas City.

But what he said about Chase — isn’t that a shot at the team that just beat them? Not one bit. Beane’s a pretty honest conversationalist, who will say what’s on his mind in confidence. What he said, and using Chase as context, was simply his way of saying that given all the organization has done to get where it is today, they don’t want to endure prolonged loss to pick high in the NFL Draft.

That’s especially true when they have invested substantially in the current roster, and made moves in previous drafts to position themselves for sustained success. Moving backwards isn’t productive towards the goals and expectations of One Bills Drive, of which Beane and his team have set for themselves and the legacy of the franchise.

Additionally, Beane saying that guys like Chase (and Burrow, as he mentioned too) as first-rounders usually carry a significant cap hit, if not immediately certainly when the time comes to sign them to a second contract. As Beane noted, the Bills aren’t financially positioned to pay for more top-ten first-round draft picks — of which the Bengals have several whom they must try to retain past rookie contracts. They’re going to have to get creative to retain, re-sign, and compensate those players picked in April’s draft.

In what’s perhaps the most obvious of NFL points: Teams usually land players of Burrow and Chase’s caliber by losing — or mortgaging the future with trades involving significant draft picks and players. Beane’s need to hit on draft picks this coming April may loom larger than any prior season. Though, remember that hitting on draft day can take several forms.

Recall that Diggs was a pre-draft-day trade, one that Beane has widely been praised for executing. Beane is happy with the team’s addition of Diggs, this much we know. He’d also be enamored to have a guy like Chase in-house on a rookie contract.

Following this week’s press conference, many have pointed out Beane’s trade with the Minnesota Vikings for Diggs as a move that prevented the Bills from drafting Justin Jefferson. But the decision to trade for Diggs was one of intelligence. Diggs represented a known commodity at wide receiver — someone who was also on a very reasonable contract, given his fifth-round selection — and he still had his best years ahead of him when he came to Buffalo. But perhaps more important than the dollars involved, the greatest aspects of acquiring Diggs were the experience he brought to a team in need of leaders, and the elite on-field production. Jefferson had neither of those things over Diggs, given his NFL career was still an unknown.

The idea that Beane’s sending out heaters to blast the Bengals is the work of careless journalism. Clickbait at best.