The end to the 2019 Buffalo Bills season was gut-wrenching for the team and its fans. A Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans in a game they should have won. Not an ideal way to go out. However, 2019 was a successful year for the Buffalo Bills. They exceeded expectations in many ways and now look poised to have a bright future. With their season over, the focus turns to the off-season. In order to continue their rise, the Buffalo Bills will need to improve in several areas.
An Early Look at the Buffalo Bills Off-Season
Lost in the Buffalo Bills playoff loss is the success that they had in 2019. The only thing harder than achieving success in the NFL is sustaining it. The Bills have a solid foundation form which to build, grow, and continue to develop. However, they’ll need to address several areas this offseason in order to continue on the path they’re on.
Get a Number One Receiver
Wide receiver John Brown had an excellent 2019 and played the role of number one receiver for the Bills. Cole Beasley played the role of the number two. Brown would function better as the number two and Beasley is better suited to own the slot and function in a complementary role. This can happen if the Bills get a number one receiver this offseason.
With Brown’s speed and route-running ability, he can be a problem for defenses, especially in single coverage. Beasley creates mismatches out of the slot and is terrific in tight spaces. If the Bills were to add a number one receiver, Brown and Beasley get more freedom. Ideally, a number one receiver with some size that can add a physical presence.
Between free agency and the NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills have opportunities to add a top-end wide receiver. Adding one via the draft seems most likely (unless they go after A.J. Green in free agency). This draft is ridiculously deep at wide receiver. Tee Higgins from Clemson or Laviska Shenault from Colorado both check the box as bigger-bodied playmaking receivers. And both could be there for the Bills in round one. And that’s only naming two. Point is, the Bills need a top-end wide receiver going into next season. They’ll have their chance to add one this off-season.
Offensive Line Restructure
Cody Ford needs to move to guard. That needs to happen. He played admirably at right tackle in his rookie year, and he could grow into that position. But his skill set and footwork scream guard. He’s a mauler with a knack for run blocking and a mean streak. Also, his biggest area of opportunity is against edge rushers with speed. He played guard and tackle in college, but the level of edge rush competition he saw during year one in the NFL gave him problems. He has problems with speed rushers.
Yes, he was a rookie in 2019. And yes, he will get better. But kick him to guard and play to his strengths. Strong interior line play can work wonders for an offense. Especially with a running back like Devin Singletary to block for. The starting guards for 2019 were Quinton Spain and Jon Feliciano. Spain was only on a one-year deal and Feliciano is on a two-year deal. Both played well, but the long term direction for those positions are in question.
It’s not the end of the world if Ford stays at right tackle. With Ty Nsekhe still there, the Buffalo Bills have the option of rotating as needed. But that’s like the old “if you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one” kind of scenario. Re-signing Spain will give some insight into the Bills’ plans for the line. Much like the receiver position, there are options abound in both free agency and the draft.
Some Defensive Re-Tooling
The Buffalo Bills defense was outstanding in 2019. Second in points per game. Third in yards per game. However, they need to re-tool this off-season.
To begin with, Lorenzo Alexander retired. That’s major leadership lost. That’s also the loss of a starting outside linebacker and third-down situational pass rusher. The Bills need a new starting outside linebacker and some depth at linebacker overall. Starters Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano need support.
Furthermore, the defensive line could be in a state of flux. Jordan Phillips may leave via free agency. Shaq Lawson is most likely gone via free agency. Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes are the best pass-rushing options and both are older veterans with some injury concerns. The Bills need to add some pop to the defensive line and ensure it’s pass-rushing ability stays intact. Yannick Ngakoue is an interesting name to watch in free agency. His pass-rushing ability and scheme fit could work well in Buffalo.
Cornerback is another position of interest. Tre’Davious White is a lockdown number one corner. But who starts opposite of him is a bit of a question. Levi Wallace started all 16 games for the Bills in 2019 but failed to match his 2018 form. Kevin Johnson filled in for Wallace at times but didn’t always deliver consistency. The Buffalo Bills could use a solid everyday number two corner to play opposite of White. The good news is the Bills can also address this area of need in free agency or the draft.
What It All Means for the Buffalo Bills Off-Season
As of now, the Buffalo Bills have the fourth most salary cap space for the 2020 season. This means they can be as big of a player in free agency as they want to be to fill any needs. Also good news for the Bills is that the strength of the 2020 NFL draft is in areas that they need support. General manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott know what they’re doing and operate with intelligent design. Although their moves may fly under the radar, expect another impactful offseason for the Buffalo Bills.