– David Florio
The Buffalo Bills were in the running for J.J. Watt, but when the three time defensive league MVP signed with the Arizona Cardinals for $28 million over 2 years. Bills general manager Brandon Beane then shifted gears to his own free agents. Beane isn’t a guy who will overpay for an aging veteran with back problems, so their focus was more on retaining their own. The Buffalo Bills off-season moves were all about keeping their own free agents. When the Bills walked off the field after the 38-24 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, many questions surrounded the future of star LB Matt Milano. Many feared the Boston College product would sign elsewhere, and he would have to be replaced. A week before free agency began the Bills made sure that Milano would be staying at One-Bills Drive courtesy of a four year hometown discount that Milano gave the Bills. Milano said he wanted to remain a Bill and GM Brandon Beane made that happen Milano’s full contract is reportedly worth $41.5 million. Of that, $20 million was guaranteed upon signing, and overall, $23.5M is guaranteed. After signing Milano, Beane set his sights on some of the other key free agents from last season.
Offensive Tackle Daryl Williams was signed last year on a one year deal, and he was well worth it. Anchoring the Bills offensive line, that protected their star QB Josh Allen quite well including a great performance against T.J. Watt, the Defensive MVP runner up of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams signed a 3 year, $24,000,000 contract with the Bills, including a $5,400,000 signing bonus, $13,750,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $8,000,000. The 31 year old former All-Pro earned his contract but like Milano was willing to forgo free agency and stay a Buffalo Bill. Guard Jon Feliciano was next in line for a pay raise, Feliciano is the heart and the soul of the line he also received a 3 year deal worth 3 $17,000,000, including an average annual salary of $5,666,667. To free up money for the team they were able to get Center Mitch Morse to take a pay cut, keeping the entire offensive line intact. It’s the theme in Buffalo… Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have created a culture where players want to come to. Where their own free agents are willing to take less money to stay with the team, giving the team room to add other players that could help them get over the top. Another huge move was resigning S Micah Hyde to a multi-year deal, extending him through the 2023 season. No longer are the Bills the joke of the NFL as they have become a well respected organization. All it took was the right people in charge and that happened the day Sean McDermott excepted the job and Brandon Beane was brought in as GM.
The Bills now need to focus on improving some key positions if they truly want to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs. First and foremost a play-making tight end is needed. They attempted to sign Rob Gronkowski but the he decided to stay in Tampa Bay, so other options will have to be looked at. They desperately need to upgrade the running game. Last season it was weak mediocre at best. The combination of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss may not be the answer. The fact that this team won 13 games with not much running game is a testament to just how good quarterback Josh Allen was in 2020. Maybe the biggest area of concern and why the Bills were interested in signing Watt is because the pass rush was just so-so and against the Chiefs. They couldn’t even touch Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. To beat the Chiefs, pressure HAS to be put on Mahomes. We saw that in the Super Bowl as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense just dominated the young phenom.
Ask any Bills fan about last year, and despite the disappointing loss to the Chiefs they would tell you, this was a long time coming. This team has now made the playoffs in three of the four years McDermott and Beane have been in Buffalo. They have proven to Bills’ Mafia that they are the right combination to bring the Bills that elusive Super Bowl Championship and third Championship in their history which includes the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championships.
feature photo: ESPN