6 takeaways from Bills’ quiet free agency


Free agency kind of never ends in the NFL. Teams can still sign players whenever they want.

But as we all know, the true excitement for free agency exists in the early stages when the big fish in the pond find new teams.

Not only are those types of signings well in the past, we’ve now turned the calendar to April. That causes attention to shift toward to the NFL Draft. Before doing so, let’s take one last look back at the free agency period that was for the Bills.

Here are six takeaways from Buffalo’s relatively quiet but important free agency:

Running it (mostly) back

Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

For months, heck, since early last season, there was a consensus. If there was a “big three” in terms of pending free agents for Buffalo this offseason they were linebacker Matt Milano and offensive lineman Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams. Another consensus: Due to COVID-19 causing a drop to the 2021 salary cap, there was no way the Bills could get all three players back, right? Instead, Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane pulled a rabbit out of the hat. The Bills’ free agency was considered “quiet” because they didn’t add many new players from other clubs, but keeping their own was hugely important. The team did just that and they’re going to run it back with mostly the same team from last season in 2021 since this trio all decided to re-sign.

Seriously going for it

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Combining with the last section, the Bills showed this offseason that the team is really gunning for a Super Bowl in 2021. Could they have just kept Matt Barkley and other depth players around in 2021? Sure. But the Bills felt like other potential backups like Mitchell Trubisky would be better and they didn’t just sit on their hands. Other notable depth additions involved the linebacker room (Marquel Lee, Tyrell Adams) and along the offensive line (Bobby Hart). This front office does not want to use injuries as any excuse.

No real big losses

Bills wide receiver John Brown. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

No offense to John Brown and others, but the Bills did not suffer any huge losses in free agency. Brown had good spells with the Bills and he was probably their biggest loss of the offseason. He has since signed with the Raiders. Considering he’s probably their most important guy gone from last year? Buffalo did a good job not suffering any huge losses in their roster ahead of 2021.

Not settling

Emmanuel Sanders #17 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Bills got by without Brown last season. Brown signing with the Raiders was a combination of a big loss and… not really a loss. Regardless of how one views it, the Bills still replaced him. Emmanuel Sanders was signed to a one-year deal. Bills coach Sean McDermott hinted it’ll be a plug-and-play kind of replacement. The Bills could have just assumed Gabe Davis would be the replacement. Instead, the front office didn’t settle.

Salary cap felt

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

In one negative sense, the Bills did feel the salary cap pinch. Buffalo approached JJ Watt, but he signed a deal that some viewed as a lucrative one with the Cardinals. In addition, Zack Ertz was reportedly on Buffalo’s radar but the asking price was too high by the Eagles. One can wonder if Ertz’s $12.7 million cap hit played a part, too. Other players were also approached by Buffalo but ended up signing elsewhere for decent salaries. All things considered, Beane does usually tout one thing. He wants to go into the draft without a single “need” on his roster. Do the Bills have glaring ones? No. But make no mistake, this roster is not perfect. Needs include tight end, defensive end, cornerback and potentially running back to a lesser degree. The Bills don’t have Jets-level needs… but they do exist to a certain degree.

AFC East gunning for Bills

Patriots’ Bill Belichick. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

The Bills want to repeat as AFC East champions in 2021. The division isn’t just going to let them walk to that, though. Perhaps the largest takeaway from free agency as a whole is that the Jets, and specifically Patriots, have something to say about that. Those two teams were amongst the NFL’s biggest spenders in free agency. Of course, these spending sprees have to all come together on the field… but the Bills might have a tougher time repeating in 2021. having said that, still are likely the favorite to win the AFC East.

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