2021 NFL Offseason: Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills (Last Year: 13-3)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Brandon Powell, TE Jacob Hollister, OT Bobby Hart, G Forrest Lamp, P Matt Haack.
Draft Picks:
DE Gregory Rousseau, DE/DT Carlos Basham, OT Spencer Brown. Bills Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR John Brown, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, OT Ty Nsekhe, G Brian Winters, DE Trent Murphy, DT Quinton Jefferson, CB Josh Norman.

2021 Buffalo Bills Offense:
Josh Allen was viewed as a 2- or 3-year project when he entered the NFL out of Wyoming. He showed some upside in his rookie campaign, but struggled in most games. He took a big leap in his second year, but still had some bad performances. His third season, however, was exactly what Buffalo supporters had hoped for when Allen was chosen in the opening round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He became one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, throwing for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, while completing 69.2 percent of his passes.

Allen figures to be even better in his fourth season. It helps, of course, that he has a talent-laden receiving corps at his disposal. Stefon Diggs, acquired from the Vikings last offseason, stepped in and thrived right away despite not having a full offseason to gel with Allen. The Allen-to-Diggs connection was extremely lethal, and it could be even deadlier in 2021 because the two will have an opportunity to develop more chemistry. Allen will also be throwing to Cole Beasley, a reliable slot receiver; Gabriel Davis, who flashed in his rookie campaign last year; and Emmanuel Sanders, who was added via free agency this offseason. John Brown is gone, but with Davis expected to take a big step this season, it shouldn’t matter.

An important part of Allen’s success last year happened to be that he was well protected. His tackles were excellent, as Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams formed a terrific tandem. Dawkins’ success wasn’t a surprise, but many didn’t expect Williams to perform on a high level because of his extensive injury history. Williams, however, remained healthy the entire year. It remains to be seen if this can happen again, but Buffalo won’t have to worry about edge rushers very much if the two tackles can remain on the field. It’s worth noting that the Bills used a third-round pick on Spencer Brown as an insurance policy.

Buffalo’s interior blocking isn’t as good, but it’s still solid. Mitch Morse is a quality center, while Jon Feliciano, who missed the first seven weeks of the 2020 campaign, provided a nice boost once he returned from injury. The other guard, Cody Ford, was lost for the second half of the year with a knee injury. This wasn’t an impactful absense because Ford was the weakest link up front. He’s still just 24, however, so he could improve.

One thing the Bills didn’t do well offensively was run the ball. Devin Singletary took a step backward in his second season, while Zack Moss proved to be predictably mediocre. Buffalo didn’t really address this position this offseason, so the coaching staff will be hoping to get a better output from one of its top backs.

2021 Buffalo Bills Defense:
The Bills have plenty of talented players on this side of the ball, but they struggled in one regard last season, which was generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This was evident in the AFC Championship when they couldn’t place any heat on Patrick Mahomes despite the offensive line issues the Chiefs were enduring at the time. Buffalo’s front office agreed with this assessment, which is why it placed an emphasis on upgrading the area.

Buffalo used its first two selections in the 2021 NFL Draft on defensive linemen. Gregory Rousseau was a highly productive player at Miami, but slipped a bit in the draft because he didn’t have high explosive upside. Still, he projects to be a good player for the Bills, as does second-rounder Carlos “Boogie” Basham. The Bills also used last year’s second-round choice on A.J. Epenesa, so they have plenty of young players to complement Jerry Hughes and replace Mario Addison, who notched just five sacks this past season.

Basham will be able to move inside on passing downs to play next to talented third-year pro Ed Oliver. The Bills also have Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei to stuff the run. Lotulelei opted out of the 2020 season.

The Bills’ defensive front will be able to protect the linebackers, which is key because Matt Milano is an exceptional player at the position. There was a massive difference in Buffalo’s overall defensive performance when Milano was out of the lineup last year. He was an impending free agent this offseason, but the Bills managed to retain him. He’ll once again start next to the athletic Tremaine Edmunds, who hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing just yet.

Meanwhile, Buffalo’s secondary will continue to be one of the NFL’s best. Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace are a strong duo, though the Bills aren’t as high on the latter. They were willing to let him walk before retaining him for a cheap tender, and they wanted to select cornerback Eric Stokes before the Packers plucked him off the board. It’s unclear why the Bills are underrating Wallace, but he’s a good player, as is nickel corner Taron Johnson.

The Bills have retained both of their safeties for another year as well. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are a tremendous duo. There’s a slight concern with their age – they both turned 30 this offseason – but they should continue to play at a high level for at least another two seasons.

2021 Buffalo Bills Schedule and Intangibles:
Stephen Hauschka struggled as the team’s kicker, so the Bills replaced him with Tyler Bass, who hit 28-of-34 attempts in 2020. He was 4-of-6 from 50-plus.

Punter Matt Haack ranked 20th in net average this past season. This was better than Buffalo’s previous punter, who was 30th.

The Bills had solid special teams otherwise. They scored a touchdown and didn’t allow one to the opposition.

Buffalo has an easy schedule despite an Oct. 10 matchup against the Chiefs. It’ll battle teams from two of the weaker divisions, the AFC South and NFC South.

2021 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.

2021 Buffalo Bills Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Buffalo Bills Analysis: The Bills are one of the best teams in the NFL. The only person standing in their way of reaching the Super Bowl again is Patrick Mahomes. Buffalo improved its pass rush in an attempt to defeat Mahomes, but the Chiefs also beefed up their offensive line. If the two teams meet again in the AFC Championship, it’ll be a much more entertaining game this time.

Projection: 14-3 (1st in AFC East)

2020 Projection: 11-5. 2020 Actual Result: 13-3.
2019 Projection: 9-7. 2019 Actual Result: 10-6.
2018 Projection: 3-13. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 5-11. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 8-8. 2016 Actual Result: 7-9.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Bills are so close to being the best team in the AFC. Unfortunately for them, they need to defeat Patrick Mahomes. That’s easier said than done, but Buffalo can start by adding great talent to their defensive line to bolster their pass rush. The Bills also need a new running back and tight end.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Buffalo certainly agreed with my assessment that it had to address its defensive line in order to defeat Mahomes. I wasn’t too wild about the Gregory Rousseau choice because he lacks explosion and huge upside, but it was a fine selection. Carlos Basham, conversely, presented great value at the end of the second round. Both players will help the Bills rattle Mahomes.

Protecting Josh Allen is also extremely important, and the Bills recognized that, spending their next two selections on blockers. Both Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle earned “A” grades because they were incredible values.

I love the draft the Bills put together. They obtained great bargains at many of their picks, and they filled most of their important needs. This haul will put them one step closer to winning the Super Bowl.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

30. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami – B Grade
This pick makes so much sense. The Bills need to beat Patrick Mahomes, and they can do that by placing as much pressure on him as possible. Rousseau should be able to help the Bills do that. However, some teams were concern with Rousseau’s lack of explosion, and they believed that he would go in the second round. That’s where I had Rousseau, but I can understand why Buffalo would pick him here, as he projects to be a solid player for them.

61. Carlos Basham, DE/DT, Wake Forest – A Grade
Buffalo’s top priority is beating Patrick Mahomes because he stands in their way of a Super Bowl victory. Getting all the pressure possible on him is the way to do it, and Carlos Basham should help. Basham was very productive at Wake Forest, though he doesn’t have great athleticism or upside, which mirrors their first-round choice of Greogry Rousseau.

93. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa – A Grade
Wow, what a steal! Some teams thought Spencer Brown would be chosen in the middle of the second round, so this is tremendous value. Brown has a couple of issues. He’s raw, and he has an extensive injury history, but the Bills are doing well to take a shot with a prospect with huge upside at this juncture.

161. Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami of Ohio – A Grade
Protecting Josh Allen is the most important thing, so I love this pick from that perspective. Here’s another positive: I know some team was targeting Tommy Doyle in the fourth round. Perhaps they didn’t take him because an unexpected player fell to them, but the Bills did well with the athletic and large Doyle, regardless.

203. Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston – A Grade
I’ve had Marquez Stevenson going earlier than this in every mock draft update, so I’m a huge fan of this pick. John Brown left, so it makes sense that the Bills would obtain a speedy receiver.

212. Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh – B Grade
With Patrick Mahomes standing in the way of winning a Super Bowl, the Bills had to find as many talented defensive backs as possible. Damar Hamlin is someone I’ve had going in this range, so he’s a fine pick as someone who can provide quality depth at safety.

213. Rachad Wildgoose, CB, Wisconsin – C Grade
Another defensive back to help the Bills stop Patrick Mahomes and his receivers. I like this pick less, as I didn’t have Rachad Wildgoose as a draftable player.

236. Jack Anderson, G, Texas Tech – B Grade
Jack Anderson nearly made the cut in my final mock draft. It makes sense that the Bills would add more offensive line depth to protect Josh Allen. Outside of an injury to Allen, a season could derail if there are multiple injuries to the blocking group.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Josh Allen made a huge leap in his third year as a pro, while Stefon Diggs gave him a lethal threat. The result of this was an amazing 13-3 season, as Buffalo finally dethroned the Patriots as champs of the AFC East.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bills sign G Forrest Lamp
  • Bills sign LB Tyrell Adams
  • Bills sign OT Bobby Hart
  • Bills sign WR Brandon Powell
  • Bills sign RB Matt Breida
  • Bills sign TE Jacob Hollister
  • Bills sign QB Mitchell Trubisky
  • Falcons acquire TE Lee Smith from Bills
  • Bills sign WR Emmanuel Sanders
  • Bills sign P Matt Haack

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive End: The Bills could stand to upgrade their pass rush in order to defeat Patrick Mahomes.

    2. Linebacker: Matt Milano’s importance to the Bills was made apparent when he was sidelined in 2020, and the defense went into the dumpster. He’s now an impending free agent. Re-signed Matt Milano

    3. Right Tackle: Daryl Williams is an important free agent who will need to be re-signed. Re-signed Daryl Williams; signed Bobby Hart

    4. Guard: There are two other offensive linemen – Jon Feliciano, Brian Winters – who are set to hit free agency. Re-signed Jon Feliciano; signed Forrest Lamp

    5. Cornerback Depth: Josh Norman played plenty of snaps and now is set to hit free agency.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Saints. Age: 34.
      Signed with Bills

      Emmanuel Sanders flopped in New Orleans, topping 100 receiving yards just once. He had to serve as the No. 1 receiver when Michael Thomas was sidelined, but he had average production. Turning 34 in mid-March, Sanders doesn’t have much time remaining in the NFL.

    2. Bobby Hart, OT, Bengals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills (1 year)

      Bobby Hart is a solid run blocker, but his pass protection wasn’t good enough to justify his salary (nearly $6 million), which was the reason why the Bengals upgraded him and then cut him.

    3. Matt Haack, P, Dolphins. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills

      Matt Haack has been in the middle of the pack in net punting average over the past couple of years.

    4. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills (1 year)

      NVP Winner Mitchell Trubisky has been a failure throughout his career, but he’s still young and has some upside, so some team will want to develop him.

    5. Forrest Lamp, G, Chargers. Age: 27. — Signed with Bills
    6. Matt Breida, RB, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills (1 year)
    7. Jacob Hollister, TE, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Bills (1 year)
    8. Tyrell Adams, LB, Texans. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills
    9. Brandon Powell (RFA), WR, Falcons. Age: 24. — Signed with Bills (1 year)

    Buffalo Bills Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Matt Milano, LB, Bills. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bills (4 years, $44 million)

      If you want to see how important Matt Milano is to Buffalo’s defense, watch how much worse it was in 2020 when he was sidelined. Milano is a greatly skilled linebacker who is only 26.

    2. Levi Wallace, CB, Bills. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bills (1 year)

      Levi Wallace is a very talented, young cornerback who has tons of upside. He wasn’t healthy for a portion of the 2020 season.

    3. Daryl Williams, OT, Bills. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Bills (3 years, $28.2 million)

      Daryl Williams has a checkered injury history, but we saw what he was capable last year when he finally stayed healthy. He was dominant for the Bills in 2020.

    4. Isaiah McKenzie, KR, Bills. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bills

      Isaiah McKenzie scored a return touchdown and also found the end zone five times as a gadget player offensively.

    5. John Brown, WR, Bills. Age: 31.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      John Brown is a talented receiver, but was released in order to save the Bills nearly $8 million in cap space and allow Gabriel Davis to get more snaps. Brown’s only issue, beyond his age – 31 in April – is his durability. He missed seven games in 2020.

    6. Jon Feliciano, G, Bills. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Bills (3 years, $17 million)

      The Buffalo running backs missed Jon Feliciano’s fierce run blocking when the guard was sidelined with a pectoral injury the first seven weeks of the season.

    7. Quinton Jefferson, DT, Bills. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Quinton Jefferson was one of the biggest surprises for the Seahawks in 2019. He emerged as a potent force in the interior of the trenches, stuffing the run well and generating some pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He was a disappointment in Buffalo, however, resulting in his release. It’s possible that he got fat and happy from his $6.5 million guarantee. He could rebound in 2021.

    8. Brian Winters, G, Bills. Age: 30.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Brian Winters did a solid job filling in for injured Buffalo guards this past season.

    9. Trent Murphy, DE, Bills. Age: 30.
    10. Tyler Kroft, TE, Bills. Age: 28. — Signed with Jets
    11. Ty Nsekhe, OT, Bills. Age: 35. — Signed with Cowboys (1 year)
    12. Josh Norman, CB, Bills. Age: 33.
    13. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Bills. Age: 27.
    14. Dean Marlowe, S, Bills. Age: 29.
    15. Andre Roberts, WR, Bills. Age: 33. — Signed with Texans (2 years, $6 million)
    16. Taiwan Jones, RB, Bills. Age: 33. — Re-signed with Bills
    17. Matt Barkley, QB, Bills. Age: 30.

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

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