Brandon Braasch | January 17th, 2020
The Buffalo Bills started their 2019 by almost making a trade that would, in theory, help out there passing attack. That trade would have been for Antonio Brown. They dodged a bullet there and saved a couple of draft picks in the process. Instead, they signed free agents John Brown and Cole Beasley. They still, however, need some receivers and I will get into that later.
The Bills will be keeping there coaching staff the same going into 2020. They were able to keep offensive coordinator Brian Daboll who was a candidate for the Cleveland Browns job. This will be good for the development of Josh Allen as stability at the coaching positions is vital to success.
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What Went Right
The Bills made the playoffs and not many people outside of Buffalo fans and myself expected that to happen. The Bills had one of the best defenses in the league. They allowed only 16.2 points per game which was second behind only the New England Patriots. Allen also took a step forward throwing for 1,000 more yards and ten more touchdowns than last season. Although, he did attempt 140 more passes and started five more games.
Their free-agent signings, for the most part, all worked out. Brown had 1,060 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Beasley had 778 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Their third-round draft pick and rookie running back Devin Singletary showed a lot of promise rushing for 775 rushing yards. Their young core played well but will have to improve next year to take the next step.
What Went Wrong
A couple drives stalling out in the red zone cost the Bills a playoff victory. Against the Houston Texans, the Bills jumped out to a 16-0 lead with six minutes to go in the third quarter. Then they surrendered 19 unanswered points before tying it up and losing by a field goal in overtime. This was mainly due to the lack of efficiency in Texan’s territory. After scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game they settled for four field goals throughout the rest of the game.
A big reason why they couldn’t move the chains on third down resulting in field goal attempts was the lack of a go-to target. They were missing a big tight end threat over the middle. There answer to that was supposed to be Tyler Kroft who was signed to a three year 21 million dollar contract. The Bills were in need of a tight end so they overpaid to fill that need. Kroft played 11 games only scoring one touchdown and 71 receiving yards. However, 2019 third-round draft pick Dawson Knox showed some promise this year but unless Kroft shows some signs next year that will go down as a bad contract.
Outlook for the Offseason
The Bills offseason is going to consist of numerous player’s signings and re-signings. There coaching staff is set barring some unforeseen changes. The Bills are in great shape with about $83 million dollars available in cap space. They have plenty of space to fill the holes and be set up for a big year in 2020.
The Team’s Free Agents
Jordan Phillips had a great season totaling 9.5 sacks with Buffalo. His market price will determine if he gets resigned. Lorenzo Alexander has already announced his retirement so they will need to fill that hole at outside linebacker. Kevin Johnson is also a free agent and will likely not get resigned. He only played 32% of snaps this year. The Bills will look to the draft to get a cornerback.
The Bill’s top free-agent resigning targets are going to be Quinton Spain and Shaq Lawson. Spain only allowed one sack in 2019 and had a great impact on their offensive line. Lawson had his best season since being drafted in 2016, he had 6.5 sacks to go with 32 tackles. With the cap room being high there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be able to retain Spain and Lawson.
Frank Gore has not said whether or not he will play in 2020 or retire. If he does come back I don’t think it will be with the Bills. Singletary is their guy so unless they decide to keep Gore as the veteran presence he will likely be gone.
Open Market Free Agents
Even though the Bills signed Brown and Beasley last year, they will still go after a big-name receiver. They have the money and a guy like Amari Cooper or A.J. Green would be huge for young quarterback Allen. These are big-name signings and receivers who will likely be targets for many other teams as well. If the price is right these guys are definitely worth it.
The tight end position will also be a focal point whether it be via the NFL Draft or free agency. A couple of targets could be Austin Hooper or Eric Ebron. Hooper had six touchdowns this year and Ebron had three although Ebron had 13 in 2018. These guys would help Allen in the passing attack tremendously especially in the red zone.
Projecting the NFL Draft
Round 1 pick 22: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Buffalo may choose to add a tight end via the draft instead of free agency. Kmet would be a perfect choice. He’s a big go-to target that had a good year at Notre Dame. Part of the Bills struggles was in there opponent’s territory like against the Texans in the playoff matchup, a good tight end would help out a lot. Picking Kmet would also keep him out of division rival New England Patriots hands.
Round 2 pick 54: Cornerback
The Bills need a cornerback to play opposite of Tre’Davious White. Even if they choose to sign a corner they will still look to get some depth and a long term replacement. Some potential options are Jeff Gladney, A.J. Terrell, and Bryce Hall.
Round 3 pick 86: Defensive End
You can never have too many pass rushers. Even if they do choose to resign Lawson they could use this pick to get a good backup to rotate in with Lawson. Some potential options that will be could be available are Bradlee Anae, Jabari Zuniga, and Khalid Kareem.
With a young team like Buffalo, this is a prime time to go for a super bowl win. They aren’t paying all of there young players massive contracts yet. They have plenty of cap space to make a splash in free agency. In today’s NFL, you have to go for it when the window of opportunity is there. It is there for Buffalo.
Buffalo’s 2020 success mainly relies on Allen’s development. If he takes a step forward they will be a super bowl contender. If he plateaus then they will be a wild card contender with a chance at winning a playoff game. However, I think Bills fans have a lot to look forward to in 2020.
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