2016 NFL Offseason: Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills (Last Year: 8-8)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
C Fernando Velasco, OLB Zach Brown, CB Sterling Moore, S Robert Blanton, S Colt Anderson.
Draft Picks:
DE Shaq Lawson, ILB Reggie Ragland, DT Adolphus Washington, QB Cardale Jones. Bills Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Percy Harvin, G Kraig Urbik, DE Mario Williams, OLB Nigel Bradham, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Ron Brooks.

2016 Buffalo Bills Offense:
There were rumors this offseason that the Bills were going to spend an early-round pick on a quarterback. Those never made any sense. Buffalo possessed its best quarterback in quite a while last year, as Tyrod Taylor did a great job of leading the team to an 8-8 record, all while scoring 23.7 points per game.

An 8-8 finish may not sound overly impressive, but it is for the Bills, who have crossed the eight-win barrier just once since 2004. There were many things wrong with this team last year, so the fact that Taylor was able to put together eight victories was quite impressive. Taylor wasn’t perfect by any means, but he completed 63.7 percent of his passes, maintained a solid 8.0 YPA, generated 24 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions. Taylor also used his great mobility to move the chains, rushing for 568 yards.

Taylor did all of this despite not having the greatest of weapons. Sammy Watkins is a dynamic wideout – he caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games during his sophomore campaign – but the Bills didn’t have any other viable aerial weapons. The pedestrian Robert Woods was the second receiver entering this offseason, yet the front office failed to obtain a much-needed upgrade for him. Tight end Charles Clay, meanwhile, disappointed in his first season in Buffalo, racking up 51 receptions for just 528 yards. Making matters worse, Watkins is dealing with a broken foot. He could be back for the season opener, but there’s a chance that he could aggravate the injury, which would postpone his 2016 debut.

Not having Watkins around would obviously make Buffalo’s aerial attack so much worse. Fortunately for the Bills, they have a terrific ground game to compensate for that. On top of Taylor’s ability to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground, Buffalo has two terrific running backs in LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams. McCoy gained 4.4 yards per carry last year and accumulated 32 receptions. He missed some time, but that was OK because it allowed Williams to showcase his talents. Williams might even be a better runner than McCoy; he rushed the ball at a ridiculous 5.6 clip despite being just a fifth-round rookie. Williams was given just 104 touches in 2015, but that number was almost certain to increase prior to Williams’ four-game suspension. Williams also showed up to minicamp 20-25 pounds overweight, which is a dubious omen.

McCoy will once again have some wide-open running lanes from three excellent blockers. Left tackle Cordy Glenn enjoyed a superb 2015 campaign, prompting the front office to give him a 5-year contract worth $65 million. At just 26, Glenn still has at least half a decade of high-caliber play. The same can’t be said for the bookend tackle, Jordan Mills, who isn’t any good. Cyrus Kouandjio, chosen in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, might have a chance to beat out Mills, but he hasn’t been much better as a pro.

The Bills’ other two stud linemen are stationed in the interior. They would be guard Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood. Like Glenn, Incognito was awarded with a new contract this offseason because of his strong play, albeit a much smaller deal than what Glenn received. Wood will be up for a new contract soon, as his contract expires in 2018, and he’ll deserve a ton of money as well. As for the final starter up front, that would be 2015 third-rounder John Miller. The Louisville product disappointed as a rookie, but it’s worth noting that he dealt with a high-ankle sprain. Miller is obviously still young and might be able to improve.

2016 Buffalo Bills Defense:
The Bills were prolific on this side of the ball in 2014, surrendering just 18.1 points per game. With Rex Ryan on board, many expected Buffalo to be just as good defensively – if not even better. However, the opposite occurred. The Bills’ stop unit didn’t suddenly become atrocious, but it was much less effective, yielding 22.4 points per contest.

So, what happened? It mostly had to do with two players on the defensive line. Mario Williams was the primary culprit. Williams felt as though he didn’t fit well into Ryan’s scheme, so he stopped trying. Several Jets players were even caught laughing at Williams’ appalling lack of effort. Williams may have been right about being a bad match for Ryan’s system, but that’s no excuse for extreme lethargy. Williams is no longer on the roster, which is addition by subtraction, and he was replaced by first-round rookie Shaq Lawson. The Clemson product is very athletic and explosive, but a shoulder injury could sideline him for half the season. Lawson could have a lost rookie year as a consequence, and if so, Jerry Hughes will be the only edge player who will be able to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Manny Lawson will start instead of Shaq Lawson, but at 32, he could begin to regress.

As for the second player who disappointed, that would be Kyle Williams. The long-time Buffalo defensive tackle had been great for many years, but his play dropped off significantly last season. Kyle Williams, now 33, is in obvious decline and may no longer be the same player he once was. He has returned to the team after taking a pay cut, but it’s obvious that the Bills have a hole next to stud Marcell Dareus. Unless third-round rookie Adolphus Washington comes on in his first year, this will be an obvious weak point for Buffalo, as the team will have two weak defensive ends in its new 3-4.

Another reason why the Bills regressed defensively in 2015 was because Nigel Bradham, who had previously played well for the team, struggled in Ryan’s system. Like Mario Williams, he was just a poor fit. He’s no longer on the roster, and he’ll be replaced by second-round rookie Reggie Ragland. The Alabama product was expected to be chosen in the opening frame, so Buffalo obtained a steal with him. He should be an instant upgrade over Bradham, and he’ll start along with Preston Brown. That doesn’t sound all too great, however, as Brown struggled mightily in 2015.

The strength of Buffalo’s defense is in the secondary. That has to make Ryan happy, given what transpired at the end of his Jets’ tenure. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore are ranked among the league’s top tandem of cornerbacks. Depth was an issue last year, but the Bills wisely addressed that this offseason by signing Sterling Moore. That’s not a big name, but Moore was Tampa Bay’s top corner this past season.

Meanwhile, the fourth and final reason why Buffalo declined defensively was the absence of Aaron Williams. A talented safety, Williams missed 11 games last year because of a neck injury. The good news is that the Bills have declared him to be 100 percent. It remains to be seen if that truly is the case, but the reports are at least positive. Williams will start next to Corey Graham, a mediocre player who isn’t any sort of a liability.

2016 Buffalo Bills Schedule and Intangibles:
Buffalo’s special teams were just average this past season. It outgained opponents on kickoffs, but lost out on punt returns.

Dan Carpenter didn’t have the best season. He went 23-of-27, including 3-of-5 from 50-plus, which wasn’t bad, but he whiffed on six of his 40 extra points.

Punter Colton Schmidt ranked 23rd in net yardage in 2014, but was much better this past season. He was seventh in that department last year.

The Bills have a very easy schedule early on. Six of their first seven opponents are the Ravens, Jets, Patriots (no Tom Brady), Rams, 49ers and Dolphins. They need to start 5-2 at the very least.

2016 Buffalo Bills Rookies:
Go here for the Bills Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Buffalo Bills Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Buffalo Bills Analysis: The Bills have a golden opportunity to unseat the Patriots this year. They have an easy early schedule, while New England won’t have Tom Brady for the first four games. Ultimately, however, Buffalo will probably finish second in the AFC East, though they’ll still have a chance at finally qualifying for the playoffs in a weak conference.

Projection: 8-8 (2nd in AFC East)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Bills appear close to being a playoff team, but they need to shore up their front seven, which was a major issue last year. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Nigel Bradham were all major disappointments, and they all must be upgraded. Elsewhere, the Bills have to find a new No. 2 receiver.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bills put together an excellent draft. Most of the players they selected provided great values, and all of them potentially fill major needs.

Things got off to a great start when Buffalo nabbed Shaq Lawson at No. 19 overall. Lawson was expected to be chosen in the 11-16 range, so getting such a talented edge rusher with the 19th pick was a steal. And speaking of steals, Reggie Ragland was an incredible find in the second frame. Ragland was under consideration by at least one other team in the bottom of the first round, so I don’t know why he dropped all the way to the middle of the second frame. The Bills won’t complain, as they found their upgrade over Bradham.

Buffalo’s initial selections on Day 3 were also great, as Cardale Jones and Jonathan Williams both could’ve been chosen a round earlier without any complaints. Actually, the only pick of Buffalo’s I wasn’t a fan of was Adolphus Washington. He’s one of the worst athletes in the entire class and possesses character concerns. I wouldn’t say he was a horrible option though, as he does potentially fill a need.

The Bills definitely deserve an “A” for what they were able to accomplish. While they didn’t find a sure-fire No. 2 receiver, they at least filled all of the holes in their front seven with prospects who offered outstanding value.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson A Grade
Some teams told us that they had Shaq Lawson in the second round early on during the draft process. His shoulder was the concern, but once that medically checked out, it became apparent that he could be chosen as high as No. 11 to Chicago. With that in mind, the Bills are getting a steal. Lawson is an athletic freak, and he should fit in extremely well into Rex Ryan’s defense. Ryan had to find an edge rusher to replace the lethargic Mario Williams, and Lawson figures to be an instant upgrade. The one concern is Lawson’s attitude, but he’s well worth the risk at No. 19 overall.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

41. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama A Grade
I had the Bills picking Reggie Ragland in the first round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft, and had Shaq Lawson not dropped to them, it sounds like they may have taken him as high as No. 19. Thus, this is an incredible value for a very underrated player who can play all three downs. The Bills had to move up for Ragland, but rightfully so, since there were so many teams that could’ve taken him prior to No. 49.

80. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State C+ Grade
Adolphus Washington was one of the worst testers at the NFL Combine. His stock sunk as a result, as teams weren’t interested in one of the worst athletes in the entire draft class. Washington’s size is a plus, but that’s all he has. Making matters worse, there are some character concerns with him, albeit minor ones. The Bills probably could’ve obtained Washington a round later.

139. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State A Grade
Cardale Jones made a huge mistake by not declaring for the draft last year. He may have emerged at the end of the first round. Teams told us that they were highly intrigued with Jones’ physical talents, and that if he put together a dynamic 2015 campaign, he would’ve been a top-10 pick. Of course, that didn’t happen. Jones struggled and was exposed. Still, he has immense upside and probably should’ve been taken two rounds earlier. He’s a nice backup and possible future starter for Buffalo.

156. Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas A- Grade
Another quality selection on a running back who dropped. This isn’t a surprise, as the Bills needed a runner with LeSean McCoy’s legal issues and an expiring contract after this season. Plus, with the value available here, why not? Williams missed all of 2015 with a foot injury. Had he played, he probably would’ve been chosen a couple of rounds earlier.

192. Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU B+ Grade
It’s surprising that the Bills didn’t take a receiver before this, given their glaring need across from Sammy Watkins. I don’t know if Kolby Listenbee will ever emerge as a starter, but his speed will give him a shot. He can provide some game-breaking ability, but needs to learn how to play the receiver position.

218. Kevon Seymour, CB, USC B Grade
USC fans might be wondering if I plan on giving the Bills a Millen grade for this pick, given that Kevon Seymour was so bad that he was benched as a senior. However, Seymour, who played well beforehand, is a tall (6-0) cornerback with plus athleticism. He has untapped potential, and perhaps Rex Ryan will be able to get the most out of him.

Season Summary:
Many were piling on the Bills’ bandwagon in the preseason, and many more hopped on when the team upset the Colts in Week 1. However, the team was guilty of numerous mistakes and lethargic play from some of their veterans, ultimately disappointing. Ownership has given Rex Ryan an ultimatum: Reach the playoffs this year, or be fired.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bills cut OLB Tony Steward
  • Bills announce retirement of WR Percy Harvin
  • Bills sign S Colt Anderson
  • Bills sign OLB Lorenzo Alexander
  • Bills sign C Fernando Velasco
  • Bills sign CB Sterling Moore
  • Bills sign S Corey White
  • Bills sign ILB Zach Brown
  • Bills re-sign WR Leonard Hankerson
  • Bills re-sign OT Jordan Mills
  • Bills sign S Robert Blanton
  • Bills sign TE Jim Dray
  • Bills re-sign G Richie Incognito
  • Bills cut CB Leodis McKelvin
  • Bills cut G Kraig Urbik
  • Bills cut DE Mario Williams

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive End: The Bills were expected to have a great defense heading into the 2015 campaign, but they struggled at times, especially in terms of getting to the quarterback. The reason for this was Mario Williams’ regression. Williams spent the entire year slacking off, so he has to go. A better pass-rusher could be obtained at No. 19 overall.

    2. Two Offensive Tackles: The Bills need to protect Tyrod Taylor, given that he’s proven to be very fragile. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is an impending free agent, while the right tackle, Seantrel Henderson, is very pedestrian. Franchised Cordy Glenn

    3. Two Guards: A pair of guards is also needed. The front office has stated that re-signing Richie Incognito is a priority, which is definitely true. Another talented guard is needed as well. Re-signed Richie Incognito

    4. Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins is great, but Buffalo doesn’t have anything else at receiver. An early draft pick can be used to fix this.

    5. Defensive Tackle: Mario Williams wasn’t the only “Williams” who disappointed up front. Kyle Williams also performed poorly. Given that Kyle Williams turns 33 in June, he’ll need to be replaced.

    6. Outside Linebacker: Nigel Bradham struggled in Rex Ryan’s scheme. He’s heading for free agency, so I don’t expect him to return. Signed Zach Brown

    7. Safety Depth: Aaron Williams has stated that he’s considering retirement in the wake of his neck injury. If he hangs up his cleats, Buffalo will have to find a better reserve safety. Signed Corey White and Robert Blanton

    8. Backup Quarterback: A better option than E.J. Manuel is needed. His performance in London was disastrous.

    9. Kicker: Dan Carpenter hit 23-of-27 field goals last year, but whiffed on a whopping six extra points.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Sterling Moore, CB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bills

      Not that it’s saying much, or really anything, but Sterling Moore was Tampa’s best cornerback in 2015. Just 26 in February, Moore has plenty of room for growth.

    2. Zach Brown, ILB, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bills (1 year)

      Zach Brown has always been expected to take the next step, but has yet to do so. He was just a marginal player for the Titans in 2015. He was fine in coverage, but struggled in run support.

    3. Colt Anderson, S, Colts. Age: 30. — Signed with Bills
    4. Fernando Velasco, C, Panthers. Age: 31. — Signed with Bills
    5. Robert Blanton, S, Vikings. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills
    6. Corey White, S, Cardinals. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills
    7. Jim Dray, TE, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills

    Buffalo Bills Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Cordy Glenn, OT, Bills. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Bills

      Cordy Glenn has evolved from a second-round pick into one of the elite left tackles in the NFL. Glenn isn’t great in terms of run blocking, but no pass-rushers get by him. He’s going to command a huge contract.

    2. Richie Incognito, G, Bills. Age: 33.
      Re-signed with Bills (3 years)

      If it weren’t for Richie Incognito’s age (33 in July) and possible character issues, he’d easily be a 4.5-star player. He was fantastic for the Bills this past season. It was great to see him get another chance after that stupid Bullygate scandal was blown out of proportion by idiots on Twitter and in the media.

    3. Mario Williams, DE, Bills. Age: 31.
      Signed with Dolphins (2 years)

      Mario Williams was terrible in 2015, but to be fair, he was a terrible fit in Rex Ryan’s scheme. Williams, however, stopped trying after a while and was horrible for the locker room. He’s only 31, so he might have a couple of solid years left in the tank.

    4. Bacarri Rambo (RFA), S, Bills. Age: 26.
      Bacarri Rambo had some great moments in 2015. However, he also was guilty of some dud performances. He’ll need to be more consistent going forward, but he has plenty of time, given that he’ll be just 26 in June.

    5. Corbin Bryant (RFA), DT, Bills. Age: 28.
      Tendered by Bills

      Corbin Bryant started when Marcell Dareus was suspended and later when Kyle Williams got hurt. He was pretty solid, especially in run support.

    6. Percy Harvin, WR, Bills. Age: 28.
      Announced retirement

      Time is running out for the Collard Kector, who can’t seem to stay healthy. Percy Harvin told the media that he’s contemplating retirement.

    7. Leonard Hankerson, WR, Bills. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Bills

      There has to be something wrong with Leonard Hankerson. He showed the ability to be a decent No. 2 receiver this year, but was released by both the Falcons and Patriots.

    8. Alex Carrington, DE/DT, Bills. Age: 29.
    9. Nigel Bradham, OLB, Bills. Age: 26. — Signed with Eagles (2 years)
    10. Chris Hogan (RFA), WR, Bills. Age: 27. — Signed with Patriots (3 years, $12 million)
    11. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Bills. Age: 31. — Signed with Eagles (2 years)
    12. Kraig Urbik, G, Bills. Age: 30. — Signed with Dolphins
    13. Jordan Mills (RFA), OT, Bills. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Bills
    14. Ty Powell (RFA), ILB, Bills. Age: 28.
    15. Stefan Charles (RFA), NT, Bills. Age: 28. — Signed with Lions
    16. Ron Brooks, CB, Bills. Age: 27. — Signed with Eagles (3 years, $6 million)
    17. Tony Steward, OLB, Bills. Age: 23.
    18. Josh Johnson, QB, Bills. Age: 30. — Signed with Ravens
    19. Anthony Dixon, RB, Bills. Age: 28.
    20. MarQueis Gray, TE, Bills. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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