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Q&A Mailbag: prioritizing free agency for the Buffalo Bills

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Where should the Bills focus in free agency?

This week on Buffalo Rumblings Q&A, we preview free agency for the Buffalo Bills and which positions they should wait on and which they should prioritize once they can sign players. There’s a compelling case to be made for some under-the-radar free agents.

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Featured question of the week

“How would you prioritize the positions Buffalo should target in free agency?”

As the NFL enters the free agent signing window next week, the Buffalo Bills have major holes on their roster. If the priority this offseason is to make Josh Allen the best quarterback he can be, you would think the list of free agents would be offense-heavy, but I’m not convinced that from top to bottom that’s the best way to address the holes.

At the top of my list is center. I’ve been pounding the table all offseason. Buffalo should sign one of the top two centers to upgrade from Russell Bodine. Matt Paradis or Mitch Morse can come in and not only anchor the middle of the line but also help Allen understand pre-snap reads, read pressure concepts, and settle down the quarterback while helping young players at the guard positions. It could change the entire complexion of the offensive line with one stroke of the pen.

After that, I’m not in love with free-agent options across the offense. There isn’t a wide receiver I want them to break the bank for and tight end is impressively deep in the draft. I expect both of those positions to be addressed in free agency, but they can wait for the second wave.

Instead of prioritizing offense, I’m going with cornerback. Levi Wallace did a nice job in his rookie season, but the Bills need a 2A/2B type of cornerback to pair with Tre’Davious White. Buffalo went through five different starting outside corners in 2018 and the old adage is true that you can’t have enough. Adding a veteran who is capable of playing significant snaps at cornerback should be a priority, whether he takes the first snap in Week 1 or he’s a solid backup. Let the vet and Wallace battle it out and then you have insurance.

After cornerback, I’m looking at the defensive end market. It might be easier to make the argument that defensive end should be second and ahead of cornerback. The Bills’ pass rush was not good in 2018 and adding a top-flight pass rusher opposite Jerry Hughes would be huge. Re-sign Hughes to a contract extension, release Trent Murphy (or keep him), and roll with Shaq Lawson’s final year on his rookie deal with Mike Love or Eddie Yarbrough as your developmental guy and you are set for multiple years. Right now, they have a gaping hole staring them in the face in 2020 and an inconsistent lot heading into 2019, but you could change that with one big signing.

After that, I’m looking at the tight end and wide receiver markets. Like I said before, no one excites me in this group, so I’m willing to wait it out a little bit. I fully expect them to add players at both positions, but I don’t want them to break the bank on guys with major warts.

The Bills have other needs, sure, but I’d like to see them addressed in the draft. Right tackle, for one, is a position that is beginning to dwindle in the free-agent market as teams re-sign their own players. It’s a position that is taking more time to develop in the NFL and teams have been hesitant to let guys walk.

At right guard, running back, tight end, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and the rest of the open spots on the roster, the draft is the place to be for top-end and mid-level talent.

In this week’s podcast we discuss the defensive tackle spot, offensive line in depth, and more free-agency bits. We also hit on one topic from the 2019 NFL Combine as we discuss D.K. Metcalf’s impressive performance and his label as the most-mocked options for the Bills at nine.

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