The Buffalo Bills Are Winning The NFL Offseason
(Before I get started, let me say this: I am in no way trying to trivialize or minimize the current global pandemic and national health and economic crises. This is a reality that everyone is dealing with and it is jarring and tragic. As I talk about the NFL offseason I am strictly speaking for a sports perspective. It's a distraction. And it's my way of trying to project forward to a time in the hopefully-not-distant future when sports are back and all of this is just a bad memory.)
Go ahead and read the title of this article again.
Let that sink in. Because I know I don't believe it either.
The Buffalo Bills have been a pack of rambling losers since the turn of the century. Mainly irrelevant on the national scene, Buffalo's primary role in pro football has been serving as fodder for the New England Patriots dynasty. And the Bills have had just four seasons above .500 in the last 20 years.
Even their moment of glory in 2017 - snapping a streak of 17 straight years with no postseason appearances - ended in humiliation. Buffalo made the playoffs and then lost 10-3 in Jacksonville in a grotesque excuse for a football game.
The Bills instantly regressed back to their mean, posting a 6-10 season in 2018. But since then things have started to turn Buffalo's way. The won 10 games last year, posted a Top 5 defense, and made it back to the playoffs for the second time in three years.
That momentum has carried into this offseason. Since their 10-7 loss in overtime against the Texans, it seems as if the stars have continued to align for this franchise. Buffalo has had an outstanding offseason. And I can honestly say that when I look at this franchise that I see the foundation set for a team that could be primed for an outstanding run at the beginning of this new decade.
Here are some of Buffalo's best moments and biggest wins from this offseason:
1. Tom Brady Leaves New England
First, and most importantly, Tom Brady ditched the Patriots for Tampa Bay. The Patriots dynasty is officially over. That doesn't mean that New England will be a pushover this season. As long as they have Bill Belichick, they have a chance. And I think that the greatest coach in NFL history will be extra motivated to prove, at least in the short term, that he can win without his Hall of Fame quarterback.
But Brady is gone. And the Patriots don't have a replacement or the cap space available to go out and rebuild the team enough to win with a placeholder. They are kind of screwed, and the Bills no longer have their boogeyman to worry about. Brady's leaving is a psychological win for the Bills as well as a strategic one.
Buffalo nearly beat the Patriots twice last season, losing by seven points or less twice but outgaining the Patriots in both meetings. Now the Patriots are completely vulnerable and without their leader under center. That is a massive impediment lifted out of the Bills' way, and they didn't have to lift a finger to make it happen.
2. Bills Strike Gold In Free Agency
Buffalo is not exactly a marquee destination for free agents. The Bills have embarrassed themselves several times in the past by overpaying for big names in free agency. Yet last season they were able to significantly upgrade their team with several savvy mid-priced maneuvers. And so far this offseason, they have done the same to great effect.
Despite fielding the No. 2 scoring defense and No. 3 total defense in football last year, the Bills have been loading up on that side of the ball. They lost some key pieces (Shaq Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander) this offseason. But they've more than made up for it by signing Josh Norman, Vernon Butler, Mario Addison, A.J. Klein and Quinton Jefferson.
What is impressive about those signings is that all of those players fit into and have familiarity to the scheme the Bills run. Buffalo didn't run out and grab a big name just for the sake of it. They signed several quality veteran players to team-friendly deals in older to solidify what was already a strength.
Oh wait, there's more.
The Bills also ensured they would have all five starting offensive linemen back when they locked up guard Quinton Spain. They also grabbed Daryl Williams from Carolina to further bolster the line, and Williams' flexibility means Buffalo now has all five starters back and three backups that can all play multiple positions along the line. The Bills also bolstered their special teams by inking Tyler Matakevich and Taiwan Jones.
Despite all of these moves, Buffalo still has the 10th most available cap space with more than $20.8 million still available for upgrades this year and a projected $40 million available for free agency next year.
3. The Stefon Diggs Trade
On its face, the Bills gave up too much in order to acquire Diggs. Buffalo sent first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks in this year's draft along with a fourth-round pick in next year's draft for Diggs and a seventh-round pick this year. That's a lot. And the deal looked even worse considering the paltry sum that Arizona gave up to get DeAndre Hopkins.
That said, two of the picks the Bills gave up were ones they had acquired from lesser deals. Essentially, they gave up a first-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick next year for Diggs. Would you make that deal? I absolutely would considering his Pro Bowl bona fides.
With Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and Duke Williams, the Bills have surrounded young quarterback Josh Allen with some serious weapons. They did so without breaking the bank in free agency and without having to deal with bringing in a potential locker room headache or hot head.
Further, the Bills don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft. But if you were ever going to pass on a year to have a first-round pick, this would have to be it. The entire draft process has been demolished by the nationwide shutdown. That will make this year's draft more of a crapshoot than it has been in decades. Buffalo was able to trade out of that uncertainty and land a proven veteran player in return.
Diggs makes the Bills better right now. So at least in the short term they are clearly winning this trade.
4. Continuity Gives Them An Edge
This is obviously a bizarre offseason. The draft is a mess. Mini-camps and OTAs are off the table. There is a chance that training camp could be pushed back later this summer. Virtually nothing is certain at this point.
Well, that's not true. I feel pretty certain about one thing: the NFL is going to have a season this year. Come hell or high water, I believe that the people at the top of the NFL food chain will do absolutely everything in their power to ensure pro football is back this fall. They have enough time to prepare, and there is simply too much money at stake for them not to get things situated.
As a result, teams with continuity - like Buffalo - will have a massive advantage when the league schedule resumes. This is Sean McDermott's fourth season as a head coach. This is Josh Allen's third year as a starting quarterback. The Bills have retained their coaching staff and their core group of players. And the majority of guys that they have added this offseason have at least a passing familiarity with the team, coaches and/or systems.
There is calm amidst the chaos by virtue of their cohesion and constancy. And that's not something I remember saying about Buffalo in a long, long time.
There is not a lot of "winning" going on in this nation right now. No one is "benefitting" from the coronavirus catastrophe. But, just like for everyone else, it is a reality that all 32 teams are going to have to deal with. Prior to the NFL offseason shutting down, Buffalo had been on a roll. And when the dust settles and things get back to normal, I think they have done enough this offseason to position themselves for a big 2020 season, and I think they are poised to be a major factor in the AFC for the next several years.
Robert Ferringo is a professional sports bettor and handicapper for Doc's Sports and is considered one of the top NFL betting experts in the country. You can try out Ferringo's NFL picks for free when you set up your complimentary $60 account here.
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