Buffalo Bills 2023 offseason outlook


Justin Siejak, President

The Bills were once again able to make the playoffs in the 2022 NFL season. However, much like years past, they fell short to a superior AFC team in the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now, with the 2022-2023 season in the rearview mirror, Buffalo is presented with potentially their most important NFL offseason in a decade.

Following a disappointing effort in the divisional round against the Bengals, Buffalo will need to address several areas of their team that underperformed.

The Bills’ defense was dominant during a majority of the regular season. The unit ranked second in the entire NFL in points allowed with 286, sitting just behind the San Francisco 49ers.

The team also tied with three other teams for fourth in the entire NFL in total defensive takeaways with 27. An impressive stat to boast for Leslie Frazier’s defense.

However, the defense definitely lost some steam in the second half of the regular season, as well as in the playoffs.

This could be attributed to the injuries Buffalo faced across the entire defense. Several key defensive players such as Von Miller, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, and Jordan Phillips suffered injuries that either hindered their play or kept them out entirely.

These injuries began to pile up, which led to several inexperienced players to leap into larger roles on the Bills’ defense. The unit visibly took a step back due to this.

Now, with Leslie Frazier stepping away from coaching for a year, the defense is now also without a head coordinator. Luckily enough however, the team was able to bring back star safety Jordan Poyer on a two-year deal (cash TBA.) The resigning will be massive for the team’s short-term success.

So where does the team go from here? Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds departed in free agency, after being offered a monster four-year, $72 million dollar deal from the Chicago Bears, with $50 million in guarantees.

Well, it’s going to be tricky. You don’t easily replace a cornerstone defender and one of the better defensive coordinators in the league.

With the team being tight on money, they will need to be smart with their resources.

For linebacker, the team should have some good options in free agency. If they want to go older at the position, while a younger player develops, there are several highly respected veterans that are still available.

Three names that stick out are Bobby Wagner, Drue Tranquill, and Denzel Perryman.

Buffalo is still a championship contender with a great culture. This could be enough to lure one of these players in on a smaller, short term deal.

It will be crucial that Buffalo finds a replacement at middle linebacker with Edmunds’ departure, which is why if they can’t land a solid player in free agency, they’ll have to look for a replacement in the draft.

However, using a first round pick on a linebacker may not be the best use of resources this offseason for Buffalo. They should be targeting one on day two of the draft.

There are still some very high quality prospects in this range. Players like Iowa’s Jack Campbell, Washington State’s Daiyan Henley, and Auburn’s Owen Pappoe could be names to watch for Buffalo if they opt not to take a linebacker in round one.

We’ve covered potential replacements for the linebacker position, but who will step in for Leslie Frazier now?

At the 2023 NFL Combine, General Manager Brandon Beane mentioned that it’s possible that Head Coach Sean McDermott will be calling plays on the defensive side of the ball for the 2023-2024 season.

However, if the team does decide to appoint a new defensive coordinator, it’s highly likely the hire comes from within the building.

“Continuity is key for us, it really is,” Beane said.

“We’ve got some good names on our defensive staff that will kind of all be in the mix,” Beane said.

When asked about potential replacements for the coordinator position, Beane mentioned names like safeties coach Joe Dana and senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this situation, as hiring a new defensive coordinator could potentially mean a revised defensive playbook for the team.

Buffalo is still regarded as an elite offensive team, mostly thanks to Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Despite this, there are glaring holes on the offense. The team has addressed these holes early in free agency.

On day one of free agency, Buffalo was quick to get themselves help on the interior offensive line. They were able to strike a three-year $22 million dollar deal with former Cowboys guard Connor McGovern.

McGovern graded out nicely in Pro Football Focus’ grading scale as a pass protector. He ranked 13th in the entire NFL in pass protection with a 76.6 pass blocking grade. He also has committed only three penalties in his last three years of playing.

This was a nice addition for Buffalo to make early on. The Bills’ interior pass blocking was oftentimes spotty last year, and McGovern will help address just that. An instant plug-and-play starter.

Still, Buffalo should be looking to add more to the offensive line early in this year’s draft. They could be looking to address every position across the offensive line, including center and tackle.

Center Mitch Morse suffered his sixth documented career concussion this past December, and is now 30-years old. Tackle Spencer Brown is still young, but left a lot to be desired last season, and competition for his spot at right tackle could be brought in.

If Buffalo opts to address the offensive line in round one, three names that I expect to be on their radar are Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence, Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones, and Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright. All of these players performed at a high level during their collegiate careers.

The other position that the Bills will likely need to address this offseason is wide receiver.

The team enjoyed another stellar year from star receiver Stefon Diggs, and while Gabriel Davis also had a fine year (836 yards, seven touchdowns,) it’s fair for the team to want more out of the position group beyond Diggs.

One thing General Manager Brandon Beane is on record of saying is that he wants more YAC (yards after catch) talent to assist Josh Allen on offense.

Buffalo was able to sign former Saints receiver Deonte Harty to a two-year deal worth up to $13.5 millions dollars.

Harty is largely unproven. His production has not been excellent yet in his career, though that could change in Buffalo. He is an electric player with the ball in his hands, and is absolutely dynamic after the catch. Exactly what Brandon Beane had been looking for.

Though this was a nice signing for Buffalo, the team will still need to add to the position during the draft.

Assuming the team is still looking for players who can make things happen after the catch, Buffalo could be targeting several highly-productive receivers in the coming draft.

Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt is a blazing fast receiver, who can add a deep threat element to the Bills’ offense. He enjoyed an incredible year in Tennessee’s offense, putting up 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Volunteers. He also averaged 18.9 yards per catch, showcasing his big-play ability.

TCU’s Quentin Johnston and USC’s Jordan Addison are also intriguing names to keep an eye on come April.

Devin Singletary is a free agent, and it is unknown whether the team plans to bring him back. If he were to sign elsewhere, that would leave sophomore running back James Cook as Buffalo’s lead back.

Cook looked promising in somewhat limited action last year, averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. He looked quick, agile, and promising in pass protection. The team has confidence in leaving the starting running back reigns to him.

There is a strong chance that Buffalo will look to add to the backfield though. Nyheim Hines was brought in via trade last season, but didn’t get too many looks on offense. The team could be looking for a change-of-pace back to complement Cook’s playing style.

D’Onta Foreman and D’Ernest Johnson are two young, bruising backs that the team would not have to break the bank for. They’ve been productive in the past, and could be potential fits for the team.

In the draft, there are a couple intriguing players that Buffalo could be interested in with a day two pick.

UAB’s Dewayne McBride, Oklahoma’s Eric Gray, and UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet are all angry, downhill runners, who would fit alongside James Cook’s breakaway play style. Buffalo will need a bigger, stronger back, for short yardage situations.

As long as the team has Josh Allen, the offense will likely be towards the top of the offensive rankings. However, there are gaps on this unit as of right now, and there will be plenty of opportunity for Buffalo to fix them.

The team had a rough ending to the 2022-2023 season. They were burned out, and it showed in the postseason. Now, they need to reload. This offseason will be pivotal for Buffalo’s success in the upcoming season.