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Bills HC Sean McDermott non-committal in plans to fill defensive roster spots

McDermott talks about holes at linebacker and safety

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott met with members of the media on Tuesday while he was at the 2023 NFL Combine, and it’s possible that the McBeane mastermind mix might not be on the same page this year.

Before anyone jumps to a bunch of conclusions, let’s remember that (a) the team had some major news to work through today when the announcement was made that defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier was taking a year away from the game of football, and (b), this could be a matter of the way/timing of when questions were presented. However, it’s interesting to look at the difference in responses from McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane when asked about two specific holes in the Bills’ roster.

First, Tremaine Edmunds. He’s a free agent and has already made it clear that he intends to see what the market looks like and let that process run. It’s no secret that Buffalo is currently sitting over the cap and Beane is going to have to get creative to sign anyone this season. Whether he has enough of that proverbial magic left in his pen to make room for Edmunds isn’t known.

Something that has been thrown around by those observing, commenting, and speculating is the possibility of using the franchise tag on Edmunds — at least temporarily to give Buffalo time to see what contracts they can restructure, etc.

However, in his interview at the combine today, Beane said that as of now, that’s not his intention. Of course, he left a loophole to work through if he changes his mind.

Beane was realistic in saying he would love to keep Edmunds, but knows it may not be an option.

“You don’t want to lose good players. That’s not the goal,” he said when asked about the possibility of re-signing Edmunds and/or safety Jordan Poyer. “It won’t be easy, but we’ll look and see what ways we can keep one or both. And if we can’t keep either one of them, we’ll look into other ways to refill those voids.”

Beane mentioned the shuffling of some younger players who have impressed the coaching staff with their versatility this past season as possibly one of those “other ways to refill those voids.”

In contrast, when McDermott was asked about shuffling Terrel Bernard, last season’s rookie linebacker who found a spot on the Bills’ active roster as a special teams player and third in line on the depth chart at strong side linebacker, he said that he had done a good job right where he was.

Then when pressed about how the team would move on without Edmunds, the Buffalo head coach didn’t hesitate in his response.

“You never replace a player like a Tremaine Edmunds,” he stated without expanding any further on his statement other than to add what has become his mantra — just this time it had nothing to do with injuries. “We have to take it one day at a time.”

The other difference in what the team’s staff was telling us today came at the safety position. The Bills played most of the season rotating guys in and out of the lineup due to the loss of Micah Hyde in Week 2, Jordan Poyer’s multiple injuries, and then later Damar Hamlin’s on-field collapse due to cardiac arrest.

While Hyde has been cleared to play, Hamlin is still working through things and is an uncertainty — which is far more than anyone was expecting. Poyer sounds more and more like a man who won’t be in Buffalo next season, and with the exception of an aging Dean Marlowe who the Bills re-acquired at last season’s trade deadline, Buffalo has no experience to use in complementing Hyde during his return.

Beane said that fresh legs — and a fresh look — could already be in the locker room when he mentioned Christian Benford who is coming off a rookie season where he shared cornerback duties with fellow rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam before landing on Injured Reserve.

McDermott, on the other hand, had a different answer when asked about the possibility of moving Benford.

“Our plan right now is to start Christian at corner, and we will see where it goes from there,” was all he would commit to at this point.

So, while McDermott likes to play his cards close to his chest, never revealing much of anything, and while he is suddenly thrown into evaluating players without the help of a defensive coordinator, it’s still going to be interesting to watch where the duo who turned the Bills around is headed — are they on the same page? Is Beane just being more candid with his responses? Is Beane revealing the plans and McDermott just being his typical “day-to-day” self? Or do the two need to get to an office and work on a blueprint for the future before free agency opens in 15 days?