- The Bills‘ WR corps is pretty thin overall, so second-year wideout Zay Jones — whom the team selected in the second round of the 2017 draft — is generally considered to have a stranglehold on Buffalo’s No. 2 wideout job opposite Kelvin Benjamin. However, Jones has dealt with some issues this offseason, as he was arrested in March and underwent knee surgery, and new GM Brandon Beane said the East Carolina product will not be handed anything. During an interview with WGR 550 (via Ryan Talbot of NewYorkUpstate.com), Beane said, “He’s not just going to necessarily go right to the top of the line. He’ll have to earn his way. Part of that will just be just getting his feel. He’s only played with Nathan Peterman. He has not got to play with Josh Allen or A.J. [McCarron] yet. So that bond there will just have to form.”
- Lorenzo Alexander is not a lock to make the Bills‘ 53-man roster, Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News notes. Two years removed from a 12.5-sack season, one that secured him a two-year contract, the 35-year-old linebacker is unlikely to be a starter in 2018, per Skurski. Alexander started 11 of Buffalo’s 16 games last season, doing so in a 4-3 defense after he thrived in the 2016 Bills’ 3-4 look. Skurski notes rookie Tremaine Edmunds and 2017 fifth-rounder Matt Milano are the frontrunners to be the Bills’ three-down ‘backers.
- Despite playing only half of last season, one halted by a PED suspension and subsequent Jets release, Jeremy Kerley appears to be a lock to not only make the Bills but play a key role, Skurski writes. The veteran slot receiver is entrenched alongside Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones among Buffalo’s top three, in Skurski’s view. Kerley, 29, finished as the 49ers’ leading receiver in 2016 before signing a San Francisco extension. The 49ers then cut him before last season.
- Speaking of unlikely starters, Nathan Peterman may have a reasonable chance of starting for the Bills in Week 1. While A.J. McCarron is the assumed stopgap while Josh Allen learns, ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak calls Peterman a serious contender for the starting job. This would be a strange turn of events after Peterman’s one rookie-year start went so poorly, but it appears McCarron might not have an automatic route to the job.
Over the past week, we’ve asked you which team had the best offseason from the AFC North, NFC West, and AFC West. Today we’ll take a look at the offseasons of teams from another active division, the AFC East.
The Jets started things off by making a bold move to acquire their quarterback of the future when they traded up to get the third overall pick from the Colts. They ended up selecting Sam Darnold, and also signed Teddy Bridgewater to complete their quarterback room that will return only Josh McCown from last year. They released Bryce Petty and traded Christian Hackenberg, giving up on both of their former draft picks. They signed cornerback Trumaine Johnson to a huge contract in free agency, and also picked up kicker Cairo Santos and running back Isaiah Crowell. They cut longtime headache defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and signed Terrelle Pryor to bolster last year’s woeful receiving corp. They fired offensive coordinator John Morton and replaced him with Jeremy Bates. The Jets shocked everyone last year with how competitive they were able to be, and will look to build on that progress in 2018.
The Bills also had a bold draft strategy. They too traded up for their quarterback of the future, taking Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick. They took linebacker Tremaine Edmunds later in the first to be the quarterback of their defense. They lost guard Richie Incognito to retirement, and were mostly quiet in free agency aside from signing Star Lotulelei to a five-year deal. They did add A.J. McCarron to compete with Allen to be the starting quarterback, and fired offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, replacing him with Brian Daboll. The biggest move they made however, was trading their starting quarterback from the past three seasons, Tyrod Taylor, to the Browns. The Bills ended the longest active playoff drought in major professional sports this past season, and will look to build on that progress with a first-time starter under center in 2018.
The Patriots had a relatively quiet offseason in terms of transactions. They did trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams for a first round pick, but didn’t make many moves in free agency. The real story of the Patriots’ offseason was all the drama surrounding Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and Rob Gronkowski. They took two players from Georgia with their two first round picks, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel. The Patriots will return mostly the same roster from last year’s AFC-winning team, and will hope Brady can continue to play at an MVP level as he gets another year older.
The Dolphins mostly stayed pat like the Patriots, presumably due to their dire cap situation. After lots of speculation they would look to add a quarterback in the first round to replace Ryan Tannehill, they ultimately selected Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick. Their offseason was mostly defined by the players they got rid of, like Ndamukong Suh, Julius Thomas, Mike Pouncey, and Lawrence Timmons. They did sign receivers Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, and veteran running back Frank Gore. The Dolphins had a disappointing season last year after Tannehill re-tore his ACL, and the team’s success in 2018 will be nearly entirely dependent on his health.
Which team do you think had the best offseason in the AFC East? Vote in PFR’s poll below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
- Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News wonders if wideout Brandon Reilly could end up making the Bills. The former undrafted free agent spent most of the 2017 season on Buffalo’s practice squad, but a shallow receiver depth chart means he could earn a promotion in 2018. Skurski notes that Kelvin Benjamin is really the only wideout with a guaranteed roster spot, although he assumes Zay Jones and Jeremy Kerley will make the team. Otherwise, Reilly could realistically beat out any of the other receivers sitting on the roster.
After a strange couple of months, former Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito says he still hopes to play in the NFL this year. Two weeks after being placed on psychiatric hold by Florida police, Incognito says he remains focused on resuming his career.
Incognito hit the free agent market last month when he was released by the Bills. The lineman, who has already flip-flopped on the possibility of retiring this year, will have some explaining to do to NFL teams. Two weeks ago, police placed Incognito in a mental hospital after he reportedly toss weights at a Florida gym and told officers the government is spying on him.
On the field, Incognito has been nothing short of stellar in recent years. The veteran has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl trips and, from a talent perspective, profiles as the best interior lineman on the open market today. It remains to be seen whether clubs will give Incognito what is essentially his second chance following the Dolphins bullying scandal of 2013.
Last year, Incognito graded out as the 12th best guard in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He ranked seventh amongst all guards in 2016 and second in ’15, making him the Bills’ top-rated offensive lineman of the last three years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Bills rookie first-rounder Tremaine Edmunds “seems destined to start from Day 1” according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Despite being just 19 when he was drafted, Edmunds is expected to be an every down player at middle linebacker for the Bills. La Canfora adds that rookie quarterback Josh Allen was “hardly perfect” in Thursday’s OTA session, and that he’s likely to begin the season on the bench behind A.J. McCarron. While Edmunds could make some of the Bills’ veteran linebackers expendable, the Bills will likely keep McCarron around since he’s due a relatively cheap $5MM salary, unless Allen is lights out during the preseason.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has had nearly three months to reflect on his trade from the Bills to the Browns. While in Buffalo, the veteran’s hold on the starting gig was tenuous, and he discussed that situation with Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Specifically, Taylor touched on his relationship with Bills head coach Sean McDermott.
“Whether I was or whether I wasn’t [his guy], I’m not there anymore. That’s his decision moving forward,” he said. “I still feel that I’d done more than enough to stay where I was. But at the end of the day, they made a decision to move forward. And that’s their decision.”
Taylor acknowledged that he expected major changes when the team first hired McDermott in 2017. He was also appreciative that the head coach and general manager Brandon Beane kept him informed about the trade that would eventually send him to Cleveland.
After his breakout 2015 campaign, Taylor proved to be a reliable, turnover-limiting quarterback. While his job seemed relatively secure when he was playing for Rex Ryan, McDermott was never willing to full commit to the former sixth-rounder. Despite being benched one game for Nathan Peterman, Taylor still put up solid numbers in 2017, completing 62.6-percent of his passes for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He also compiled 427 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries.
Still, while his tenure with the Bills ended unceremoniously, Taylor still has fond memories of his time with the team.
“It was special to be a part of a team last year that was able to break a 17-year (playoff) drought,” he said. “We didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to, but at the end of the day, we were able to change the culture. That was something that I set as a goal for the team. The main goal, to win a Super Bowl, wasn’t accomplished, but we were able to do some very special things in the three years that I was there and I have nothing to regret or to hang my head (about) in my time there. There’s nothing to be disappointed about.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Bills have officially released center Eric Wood. Wood, who retired earlier this offseason due to a neck injury, has agreed to an injury settlement with the team.
Wood, 32, was Buffalo’s starting snapper from 2009 through 2017. Prior to his retirement, he was Buffalo’s second-longest-tenured active player behind defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Over the course of his Bills tenure, he was team’s top center under six different head coaches, or seven if you count Anthony Lynn‘s one game as interim head coach.
Remarkably, he started in all 16 of the Bills’ regular season games last season, plus their playoff game against Jacksonville. Wood managed to play through the pain all year, but the malady was too serious for him to continue on the field.
Wood graded out as the No. 16 center in the NFL in 2017, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. In 2015, the season in which he his first and only Pro Bowl, PFF had him ranked in the top five league-wide.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.