by Rich Bystron
The 2018 Buffalo Bills reached the level of expectations that I personally had for them in 2017. No one expected playoffs in their first year under Head Coach Sean McDermott, but while the 2017 Bills totally overachieved, the 2018 Bills were exactly what many thought they might be, in a word, inconsistent. But one of the several silver linings for the 2018 Bills team was rookie QB, Josh Allen. While there was a ton of inconsistent play, he showed what many had hoped for out of a franchise QB. While the 2018 team was severely hamstrung by the salary cap previous GM Doug Whaley had left the team in, first time General Manager Brandon Beane somehow got them out of cap hell and into a hugely advantageous spot.
The Bills had the 3rd most money to spend in the NFL at roughly 76.5 million dollars, and after signing the highest number of free agents in the NFL, still, have approximately 33.25 million to spend should they chose. More than likely, the Bills will roll over some cap into next year.
Like I mentioned above, the Bills had a ton of cap room and planned on using it. The team so far has signed 11 free agents, 3 more than any other team in the NFL. And even after that spending spree they are still 33.25 million under the cap. The Bills entered free agency with a ton of needs, none were greater than the need to revamp the offensive line and skill positions. And while the Bills were involved in trade discussions with not only the Steelers for Antonio Brown, they were also contacted by the Giants regarding Odell Beckham Jr. But while those deals never came to fruition, the Bills signed 3 new skill players to very team friendly contracts. Wide receivers Cole Beasley, John Brown and Special Teams Ace Andre Roberts all will don the Bills uniform in 2019.
The Bills also made massive upgrades to what was the worst offensive line in football last year. Signing Kansas City Pro Bowl center Mitch Morse, along with C/G Spencer Long, G Jon Feliciano, and T Ty Nsekhe. Not to mention Tyler Kroft, who when filling in for Tyler Eifert was the most effective TE in the NFL for the Bengals.
Another kind of under the radar addition on offense was running back Frank Gore. While Gore was more productive last year than expected, he was added as more of a locker room force in my opinion than a production player. He will add stability and leadership to a team that will most likely draft a back on day 2 or 3 as the replacement for former All-Pro LeSean McCoy.
For the first time in a very long time, the Buffalo Bills are in the very envious position of legitimately drafting the “Best Player Available”. And with the Bills owning the 9th pick in the 1st round of the NFL draft, they figure to land a legit blue-chip player. The Bills have a total of 10 picks as of 03-31-19. They have 2 picks in the 4th round, 2 in the 5th and 2 in the 7th. But let’s look at some of the players the Bills might be interested in or have been linked to:
D.K. Metcalf WR Ole Miss- The Bills attempted to trade for or were in discussions with 2 of the biggest named receivers in the NFL, so its not a stretch by any means to think they might be in play for a player who many believe to be the best skill position player in the draft. Metcalf would be a huge addition as a young player in a room of veterans and would not be forced to be “the man” until he is ready.
Ed Oliver DL Houston- Houston is my personal favorite player in this year’s draft. Oliver at about 283 pounds, is more of a tweener prospect on the line, but don't let that deter you from his skill set. This kid is a flat-out stud and can play anywhere on the line and be a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. Some pundits have compared him to Aaron Donald, and while that might be lofty praise, it is well deserved.
TJ Hockenson TE Iowa- This might be the most interesting pick for the Bills. Hockenson is a very good blocker already and could be an elite receiving TE in the NFL. He could absolutely be the Gronk for the Bills and would make this draft an offense potentially elite. With the shift of the TE position in recent years, Hockenson could be the "Next Big Thing" of offensive passing threats.
Jawaan Taylor OT Florida- This might be the “safest” pick for the Bills at 9. The Bills added some monster players on their O-Line, and this might complete the overhaul. The franchise quarterbacks’ best friend is his Left Tackle, and these 2 can grow and play together for the next 10-15 years. The four main positions for a football team are Quarterback, Middle Linebacker, Cornerback and Left Tackle. The Bills have, as of right now, secured 3 of those 4 spots. Taylor could complete the four.
The Bills for the first time in a long time seem to actually know what the heck they are doing under the guidance of Brandon Beane and company. They as of right now have approximately 112 million in cap space and have no major players that are cause for concern. Any players the Bills might want to target should be absolutely no issues financially, and assuming the team starts to improve and QB Josh Allen starts to take the steps to become the franchise player many think he will be, they become a team many players want to play for. As for now, the Bills need to grow as a team and organization. This team needs to show signs of improvement and the biggest thing they could have done to help that they did, surround your franchise QB with players. The Patriots after losing Gronk and 5 defensive starters might just be on the decline finally, the Dolphins are nothing short of a mess and the Jets, while adding Bell might have improved have a ton of questions. This leaves the Bills as possible dark horses for the AFC East should they step up.