Reporter of the AFC Est
The Buffalo Bills are in a dangerous position. By 2022, the AFC East was already one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, and the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have only continued to improve in the offseason. Even the New England Patriots, with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien hired to fix the passing game, should have more bite than last season.
But do you count them? Well, they are struggling to maintain parity.
They haven’t added much talent in free agency. Instead, they’re playing small ball, with under-the-radar signings like Connor McGovern, who will replace Rodger Saffold at guard. Other than that, they haven’t added any headliners. They kept safety Jordan Poyer and cornerback Dane Jackson, but saw linebacker Tremaine Edmunds leave as a free agent.
“We want to be competitive every year,” general manager Brandon Beane said during a press conference Friday. “Some years you won’t be able to add a big-ticket item. I know it’s sexy to go and do it. And listen, we want as many talented players as we can, but we have to be fiscally responsible, otherwise it’s going to pile up .
“That’s where we’re at. We’re trying to be smart, trying to find players that fit. We’ll keep looking.”
Buffalo has about $7 million in salary cap space, most of which will go toward signing their 2023 NFL Draft rookie class. The Bills can absolutely restructure more of their current contracts to create additional cap space, but Beane repeatedly mentioned that the bill will come in the next few years. This year, Buffalo is focusing on getting its finances in order.
On the one hand, it’s a good off-season to avoid expenses. The free agency class was lackluster and there weren’t many big-ticket signings worth the price. That said, the Dolphins traded for cornerback Jalen Ramsey to bolster their secondary. The Jets are working with the Green Bay Packers on a deal that would bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers to New York. The AFC East is quickly becoming more competitive, and teams are getting creative in the tough market.
Have the Bills blown their best chance at a Super Bowl run?
The AFC East is heating up, with the Dolphins adding Jalen Ramsey and the Jets poised to add Aaron Rodgers. Nick Wright argues that this iteration of the Bills may have squandered their best chance at a Super Bowl run.
While the Dolphins and Jets continue to build their rosters with big acquisitions to close the gap with the Bills, Beane indicated he will take a different approach.
“Sometimes your answer is in your list,” he said.
When it comes to replacing Edmunds, for example, Beane said Buffalo will experiment with second-year linebackers Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector, while seeing how Tyrel Dodson and Tyler Matakevich can fit back into the mix after re-signing .
Beane made it abundantly clear that he will continue to shop around for the rest of the offseason. He’ll be watching for other teams’ salary cap drops in the coming months. And he’ll do it all the way to training camp.
“I might be here after the last day of the draft and you can say, ‘Brandon, I still don’t think you’ve answered X position.’ Whatever. And I might not disagree with you, but we’ll continue watching,” Beane said Friday. “I can’t sit here and say we’re ready to play ball, let’s go to training camp. We’ll keep adding pieces from now until the draft.”
Quarterback Josh Allen is a bit of a cure for Buffalo. He is the best quarterback in the division without a doubt. (If Rodgers joins the AFC East, then there would be room for some debate.) The Bills are likely betting they can get more out of Allen as he continues to mature and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey as he steps in. in his second year in the role.
Why Aaron Rodgers Could Turn the Jets into Real Contenders
While we wait to hear that the Jets have acquired Aaron Rodgers, Gerald McCoy explains why the QB could make them a real contender in their AFC East.
It will be interesting to see how Buffalo’s defensive leadership comes together, with veteran DC Leslie Frazier sidelined for at least a year. It looks like head coach Sean McDermott will have a much bigger role on defense in 2023. One of his most consistent pieces will be missed in Edmunds.
It’s such a tricky balance for teams with a QB like Allen. One in hand, he can help Buffalo fend off pesky big-spending teams like Miami and New York. He’s so good that he can keep accounts in the hunt no matter what kind of talent issues they have. On the other hand, the Bills can’t sniff Allen’s peak — they don’t want to miss out on maximizing their Super Bowl window.
That’s the tightrope Beane is walking this offseason. And it gets scarier with every big name that goes to another AFC East team.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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