This week, we wanted to know what concerned you most among a key group of four defensive “rooms” for the Buffalo Bills beyond the 2023 NFL season.
While the results have yet to play out, general manager Brandon Beane made certain to target improving the offensive side of the ball this offseason. That meant the defense would naturally play runner-up to the talent-acquisition game. Yet Beane managed to adeptly sign defensive players such as safety Taylor Rapp, defensive tackle Poona Ford, reclamation project Shane Ray, and defensive lineman Kameron Cline. Buffalo also drafted for the future at linebacker with Dorian Williams in Round 3 and cornerback Alex Austin in Round 7 during the 2023 NFL Draft. Of course there’s also edge rusher Von Miller, who joined the Bills during free agency last offseason. But the message is clear: It’s time to step up on defense. The team has invested plenty at along the defensive line and significantly enough at linebacker, yet the results have been mixed at best.
That motivation should be easy to find within the defensive tackle room, where no DT is under contract after the coming season. Among the defensive ends, players like Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, and A.J. Epenesa need to take the next step this season to fend off calls for a complete overhaul at DE. At linebacker, it’s a mixed bag where no one knows what’ll come together in time for the start of the regular season. While at safety, all of Bills Mafia continues to collectively hold their breath that health is on their side in 2023 — and that the team has invested properly for a future beyond Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde.
But based on Bills Mafia’s votes this week, it’s clear linebacker, edge rusher, and defensive tackle are near-equally concerning at this point as we consider the 2024 NFL season. Linebacker took top billing (34%), but EDGE (32%), and DT (30%) were hot on its heels.
Interestingly, the team has options at linebacker, but everyone outside of Matt Milano and A.J. Klein are unknown in NFL ability and production. Yes, Von Miller’s age and a lack of elite production out of high draft picks are reasons enough to be concerned about the DE group. That’s of course without considering the constant need to add quality players to the room. But unlike the defensive tackles, they have players to fill out the group past this season.
I’d venture a guess that most believe the one-year deal Poona Ford signed will turn into a multi-year deal if things go well. That would help the situation moving into 2024, but what’s the overall plan? Will Beane look to continue offering one-year contracts to veterans such as Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle? Will they find a way to extend DaQuan Jones’ contract? Is Ed Oliver really playing his final season for the Bills?
All of this helps explain the near-tie among the top three position groups.
In one of SB Nation’s national polls, they asked who the best non-QB is from the 2020 NFL Draft. The results were compelling enough for me to share with Bills Mafia, since it Justin Jefferson won the poll with 75% of votes. Jefferson will forever be tied to the Bills (similarly to Patrick Mahomes), since Beane traded away the pick to the Minnesota Vikings to land Stefon Diggs. It worked out amazingly for both teams.
Of course there’s no guarantee One Bills Drive would have drafted Jefferson, but we know they valued wide receiver above all else in that draft. It’s also worth noting that Jefferson could have found a different fate as a Bill, despite his blue-chip NFL ability and what is observably better surrounding talent at nearly every position with Buffalo.