How Bills Aim To Plug Remaining Holes on Roster

Photo of Bills’ QB AJ McCarron from buffalonews.com.

In his first full offseason as general manager, Brandon Beane wasted little time addressing the Buffalo Bills roster needs. Even before the “legal tampering” period, he was quick to pursue recently released veterans Vontae Davis and Chris Ivory, but he didn’t stop there. On March 14th it was officially announced that the team had signed defensive linemen, Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy, as well as a reserve safety in Rafael Bush. Beane added the “cherry on top” that evening with the addition of quarterback A.J. McCarron. Fans could barely keep up with the barrage of breaking news.

This week, the organization added some much-needed depth on the offensive line, inking Marshall Newhouse and Russell Bodine to contracts following their visits to Western New York. Despite all of the activity at One Bills Drive, the team still has a few holes that need to be addressed prior to training camp. A majority of the depth concerns were addressed right away, but they still lack starting caliber players in several areas on both sides of the ball.

The front office has been extremely active in their pursuit of help at linebacker. This week they hosted free agents, Will Compton, Kevin Minter, and for what seems like the hundredth time, Karlos Dansby. On Tuesday, the franchise came to terms with incumbent linebacker Ramon Humber on a one-year contract extension, but there is still work to be done. While Humber certainly helps from an overall depth standpoint, an upgrade up the middle is still a priority.

Compton, Minter and Dansby have not signed with other teams at this point. It remains unclear whether Buffalo has made formal offers to any of them, but with cap space at a premium, they simply cannot afford to overpay.

Photo of Washington LB Will Compton from profootballfocus.com and Getty Images.

Compton is at best a fringe starter despite registering 106 tackles in 2016, and Minter’s play has declined substantially over the past three seasons. Dansby continues to perform at a high-level at 36 years old, but he may be a bit long in the tooth. With Lorenzo Alexander turning 35 before the start of the 2018-19 season, the Bills should pursue younger options to bolster the linebacker corps.

Beane’s decision on whether or not he is willing to pay the price to trade up in the draft next month will play a big role. It’s easy to speculate that their “plan A” would be to find a way into the top-five, which will certainly cost them a few of the six draft slots they currently hold in the first three rounds. It might explain why the organization has been so aggressive in plugging as many holes as possible in free agency.

Should the Bills stay put at picks 12 and 22, there are a handful of highly-touted youngsters like Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) and Roquan Smith (Georgia) who could be available to them. Another name climbing up the draft boards is Leighton Vander Esch from Boise State. If Beane does decide to pull the trigger and move up, Rashaan Evans (Alabama) and Josey Jewell (Iowa) are also viable options in round two.

In the secondary, Buffalo is pretty well set at the top, but as they saw several times last season, depth is critical. Though Davis and rookie sensation, Tre’Davious White are pencilled in as the starters, in a league where passing is king, the more talent the team have at corner, the better. E.J. Gaines is still on the market, though he will visit the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns’ facilities in the coming days. Gaines struggled with injuries last year, but when healthy, he played at an elite level in Sean McDermott’s system.

Should he choose to sign elsewhere, Beane will have to either wait for the draft or try to find an inexpensive contributor on the open market. He could pursue players like Delvin Breaux and former-Bill, Ross Cockrell, both of whom would carry a modest price tag on a short-term “prove it” deal.

Photo of DB Ross Cockrell from giants.com.

Breaux spent all of last season on injured-reserve, however, if he has fully recovered from his fractured fibula, he could resurrect his career in Buffalo. Cockrell, on the other hand, started nine games for the New York Giants last season with three interceptions and 11 deflections. At 26-years-old, he is entering his just entering prime. He appeared in seven games with the Bills as a rookie in 2014.

Shifting gears to the offense, Buffalo desperately needs to address a lack of skill and depth at wide receiver, right tackle, and most importantly, quarterback.

It was reported this week that the team has expressed interest in former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver, Allen Hurns.

The Bills will certainly have competition for his services. Hurns hauled in 39 passes in 10 games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. It remains to be seen whether a team will be willing to open their wallets for a player who has missed 11 games over the past two seasons due to injury.

Though the upcoming draft isn’t very deep in terms of top-flight wide receiver talent, should the Bills retain the 22nd pick, they could select Alabama standout, Calvin Ridley or SMU product, Courtland Sutton who would give the team another big target alongside Kelvin Benjamin.

Despite the recent additions of Bodine and Newhouse on the right side of the offensive line, Buffalo could still look for additional depth. Though it is unlikely that Beane will elect to spend any more money via free agency, there are several intriguing prospects projected to go in the early rounds of the draft. While it isn’t exactly the highest priority considering all of the players the team currently has under contract, if the front office manages to retain most of their early picks, they could feasibly another player to compete for playing time with incumbents Jordan Mills and Vlad Ducasse.

The biggest need on the Bills roster, as it has been for two decades, is a quarterback. Yes, McCarron could prove to be a serviceable starter, however, it is clear that the plan is to add a QB early in the first round. For almost a year, fans have speculated, and the time has nearly arrived. Buffalo simply cannot wait any longer to make an aggressive move toward the top of the draft and get their man. It’s the reason the front office has continued to acquire draft picks in the first three rounds over the past year.

Photo of former UCLA QB Josh Rosen from latimes.com.

The Jets certainly muddied the waters last weekend when they traded up with the Indianapolis Colts for the third overall pick, effectively eliminating one of the Bills’ options. They will either have to swing a deal with the Giants to climb to second overall or hope that one of his desired signal callers falls down the board.

The Bills have been incredibly aggressive in scouting the top prospects over the course of the 2017-18 season. Team scouts appeared multiple times to scout players like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson in person. They’ve also met with each player at the NFL combine, Senior Bowl and at their respective pro days.

As of late, it has been reported that the Browns will almost certainly choose Darnold first overall. Assuming the Jets select a QB at third, it all but guarantees that two of the top options will be gone well before the Bills pick at 12.

Beane knows the situation. He knows what is on the line. With the fan base essentially split on whether or not the franchise should elect to forfeit the king’s ransom it will likely take to get into the top-five, the anticipation has reached a fever-pitch. The Bills faithful will undoubtedly have their collective eyes glued to their Twitter feeds until April 26th, and who could blame them? This decision could change the course of the organization for years to come.

The Bills have waited for an elite talent under center for too long. Never in the history of the organization have they possessed the draft capital to make a move. The time is now.

The process continues. Stay tuned.

Editor’s babble: We are proud to have Anthony Sciandra 

About Anthony Sciandra

I'm a passionate Buffalo sports fan, former amateur pugilist, and UB alum. Born and raised in Western New York.

12 Replies to “How Bills Aim To Plug Remaining Holes on Roster”

  1. They need at least 2 starting linebackers, maybe even 3…I’m not confident in 6-0/220 Matt Milano being a full-time 3-down linebacker, when he’s the size of a safety.

    The Jaguars, Vikings and Eagles all had good LB corps…this is a massive need for the Bills, if they want a dominant defense.

    (Beane and McDermott had Kuechly, Davis and Thompson in Carolina too, they have to understand the huge importance of good linebackers.)

    • As for the QB, agreed…they need to pull to trigger, this opportunity won’t come around again.

      Rosen, Darnold or bust.

  2. “Rosen, Darnold or bust.”

    I don’t think the Bills are getting to 2…the Giants sound pretty hell bent on staying where they’re at. I think Cleveland is taking Darnold at 1. The question is who are the Jets taking? Some think Allen, but with as many swings as the Jets have taken in recent years, I tend to think they’re going to want a safer pick than Allen. I fear it’s Rosen…in which case we better hope one of the leftovers amounts to more than a bust.

  3. Bills have the ability to draft so many good players this year that’s it’s just not worth worrying about Darnold or Rosen anymore as its out of reach!

  4. Let’s hope the Bills can get the QB they want at 12 and get 5 more starters in the first three rounds. Evaluating quarterbacks is a crapshoot, seems more wrong than right? Remember RG 3 and Cousins?
    What if Rudolph or Alexander is their guy and they are right?
    if they were to pull that off, and are that smart with the rest of the draft?

  5. Good Morning….

    As much as I want the Bills to trade up for the rights to draft a QB I’m starting to back off on what it would cost to grab one. Sitting at 12 Rudolph could be there or he could be there at 22… At 12 and with the suspected run of QB’s in the top 5 means other top rated talent will fall in their laps… They could get a top D-Line, LB, WR. O-line or DB. Maybe move up to secure Rudolph or wait it out to see if he lasts until 22 (assuming they like him).

    There are also QB’s that will be available in RD 2 such as Falk, possibly Jackson, White…

    The Bills with the 6 picks they have in the first 3 rounds can restock the needs quickly…

  6. Ourlad’s on Mason Rudolph

    HT: 6041v | WT: 229v | 40: 4.95
    He has the traditional NFL body and makeup of an NFL starter. Tall, strong, and comfortable in the pocket. Very accurate all over the field that has the proper blend of touch and zip on his passes underneath. Consistently sets his receivers up for postcatch success, leading them into space and throwing them open.

  7. goose, the bills have extra first, second, third and fifth round picks! they have some picks to move up and enough left over to have a full draft.

  8. Nellie, with the Jets over paying to move up 3 spots it has skewed the point chart. The Bills still may move up as they acquired the extra picks by unloading the vets. Hopefully, if they do the cupboard doesn’t become bare.

    March Madness is almost over and what a tourney it has been.

    The baseball season is getting ready to start as is the NHL & NBA playoffs, the Masters is around the corner and of course the draft is only 31 days away-:)

  9. I see the need for a franchise QB but the price to move to 2 or even 4 is just too high. Each and very one of the prospects are “flawed” to one degree or another. There is no absolute like a Manning or Luck. Darnold, Rosen, Allen, Mayfield, they all have question marks. Why not use those picks to fill holes at need positions, take a QB like Rudolph, Lauletta, Ferguson, Falk, Jackson to name a few that have high upside potential. They plan on sitting the rookie for a year anyway. Why give away the house.