Buffalo Bills Rumors & News

Offseason In Review: Buffalo Bills

The Bills have gone an NFL-worst 17 years since their most recent trip to the playoffs, and offseason upheaval has unsurprisingly been commonplace during their post-1990s fall from grace. Buffalo has shuffled through various coaching staffs and front office setups during its embarrassing postseason drought, and after a seven-win showing in 2016, the club once again turned its football department over to a new regime.

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The changes began in earnest last December with the late-season firing of brash head coach Rex Ryan, who was more style than substance during his 15-win, 31-game stint in Western New York. While interim head coach/offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn looked like the favorite to succeed Ryan, the Bills ended up hiring Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, leaving Lynn to accept the Chargers’ head coaching job. The businesslike, process-driven McDermott comes off as the antithesis of Ryan, and the neophyte head coach so impressed Bills owner Terry Pegula that he quickly became the the team’s chief decision maker on football matters.

The initial expectation was that McDermott and general manager Doug Whaley would coexist, but the latter’s influence at One Bills Drive seemed to shrink by the day after the former’s introduction. At the end of April, right after the draft and nearly four months after McDermott’s January entrance, the Bills handed Whaley his walking papers. Thanks to the odd timing of that move, Pegula and McDermott had to operate an early May GM search – one that concluded with the hiring of a McDermott confidant, former Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane. Because the GM switch occurred well after the key stages of the offseason had come and gone, Beane hasn’t had an opportunity to make his mark on the franchise. As such, the roster the Bills put on the field this year will be a Whaley/McDermott product.

Notable signings:

Micah Hyde

In exchanging Ryan for McDermott, the Bills committed to a scheme overhaul on defense, the area they primarily focused on in free agency. The Bills didn’t dole out any exorbitant contracts, but they did sign former Packers defensive back Micah Hyde to a fairly sizable deal and award $5MM in guarantees to anonymous ex-Brown Jordan Poyer. Those two figure to form the top safety tandem in Buffalo, which axed its previous starting duo of Corey Graham and Aaron Williams over the winter.

Even though Graham and Williams fared well with the Bills, both players remain on the unemployment line, with age likely to blame in the soon-to-be 32-year-old Graham’s case and neck issues the obvious culprit for Williams. While Hyde, 26, should be a solid addition for the Bills, having been a quality contributor to Green Bay’s defense from 2013-16, it’s less clear what they’ll get from Poyer. Also 26, the unproven Poyer has just 10 starts in 48 appearances on his resume, and he’s coming off a six-game season in which his performance ranked a below-average 70th among Pro Football Focus’ 90 qualified safeties.

Judging solely on 2016 output, the Bills’ most noteworthy free agent transaction was the re-signing of linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who broke out under Ryan last season. A journeyman who tallied just 9.5 sacks over his first nine NFL campaigns, Alexander stunningly piled up 12.5 in 2016, his age-33 campaign, en route to second-team All-Pro honors. As great as Alexander was last season, he’ll have to prove himself all over again this year. Not only is he an aging player with a limited track record, but Alexander will no longer operate in the 3-4 scheme in which he was a force as an edge player. Rather, he’ll play strongside linebacker in the Bills’ 4-3, and if Alexander turns back into a pumpkin without Ryan, the Bills will be able to escape the second year of his contract next winter without much difficulty.

Gerald Hodges (vertical)

Among those joining Alexander in the Bills’ linebacker corps this year will be Gerald Hodges, whom the team plucked from the bargain bin in May. The signing of the talented Hodges is reminiscent of the Bills’ pickup of fellow linebacker Zach Brown last year. It was a head-scratcher that Brown had to settle for a minimal deal in the spring after he had three productive years in Tennessee. Sure enough, Brown went on to serve as a terrific buy-low acquisition for the Bills, with whom he starred in 2016 before heading to the Redskins in free agency.

The potential exists for Hodges to offer a similar return on investment, given that the 26-year-old registered 80 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions last season in San Francisco. Along the way, he ranked an outstanding 21st among PFF’s 88 linebackers (Brown was 18th). Now, it appears Hodges, Alexander, Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland, who missed his rookie year with a torn ACL, will function as the Bills’ top LBs.

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Bills LB Battle "Wide Open"

Bills DT Adolphus Washington Arrested

Bills defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was arrested on a firearms charge outside of Cincinnati on Sunday, according to Bob Strickley of the Cincinnati Enquirer.Adolphus Washington (Vertical)

Washington, a third round pick out of Ohio State in the 2016 draft, allegedly “reached for and displayed a gun while sitting inside his vehicle, just feet away from officers,” and didn’t report the presence of a firearm to the police before the interaction. The 22-year-old was released from custody on Sunday night.

As Strickley notes, Washington has run afoul of the law before, as he plead guilty to solicitation of prostitution while at Ohio State in 2015. While Washington wasn’t handed an NFL suspension for that incident since it happened before he turned pro, he could see a league-imposed ban for the firearm incident, regardless of whether he’s found guilty of a crime.

Washington started 11 games during his rookie campaign, but only played on roughly 30% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. In that time, he posted 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and graded as the league’s No. 72 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Taylor, Bills, Patriots

Will Tyrod Taylor be the Bills‘ starting quarterback in 2018? That’s not happening unless he guides Buffalo to the playoffs, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com argues, and that appears to be a longshot. The Bills are already armed with two first-round picks in 2018 and that could give them the needed ammunition to get a top talent in the 2018 draft class like Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.

Taylor agreed to a restructured deal with the Bills this offseason, giving him a two-year, $30.5MM pact. However, the structure of the new deal guarantees him little beyond 2017. Only $1MM of his $10MM salary in 2018 is guaranteed and he’ll be due a $6MM roster bonus early on in the 2018 league year. If the Bills want to go in a new direction after this season, they can cut ties with him without much financial penalty.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Aside from Stephon Gilmore, Mike Gillislee could have the highest impact of any Patriots free agent this year, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss opines. However, he’s not sure as to whether the former Bills running back will be a clear upgrade over LeGarrette Blount. He’ll have support from Rex Burkhead (a fellow free agent addition), James White, Dion Lewis, and maybe D.J. Foster, but Gillislee will be the running back charged with replacing Blount’s production.
  • The Dolphins are considering sixth round pick Vincent Taylor as an option for the No. 3 defensive tackle role, but there are doubts about whether he is ready for such responsibilities. “I think [fifth-round pick Davon] Godchaux will be a solid rotational guy. But I thought Taylor stunk,” one AFC executive tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “I gave him a free agent grade. Stiff as hell. Just wasn’t that good a player.” Jackson continues to indicate that the No. 3 DT spot is a problem area for Miami, though they have yet to make a play for any of the available veterans at the position. If they can’t find a clear winner among journeyman Nick Williams, Lawrence Okoye, Godchaux, or Taylor, they might rethink that stance.
  • Beyond receiver, the Dolphins‘ best bottom of the roster competition is at defensive back, Jackson writes. Walt Aikens, who can play both safety and corner, is the frontrunner for a spot. After him, there’s Jordan Lucas, undrafted rookie Maurice Smith, Lafayette Pitts, and A.J. Hendy competing for either one job or two jobs. It will be two jobs up for grabs if the Dolphins opt for ten defensive backs in total during T.J. McDonald’s eight-game suspension.

Shaq Lawson Wasn't Comfortable In 3-4

  • The Bills‘ move back to a 4-3 look will benefit its personnel more than Rex Ryan‘s 3-4 did, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News writes. In addition to Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams moving back to their natural spots inside, the Bills should have a better chance of seeing what they have in Shaq Lawson. Carucci notes Lawson never felt comfortable as a 3-4 outside linebacker — a position he’d never before played — and is a much better fit as a 4-3 end. Meanwhile, the Bills should be able to coax more from Jerry Hughes now that he’s back at end, with Carucci pointing out Ryan’s schemes at times called for the natural pass rusher to execute pass-coverage assignments. Hughes totaled 10 sacks apiece as a 4-3 end during the 2013 and ’14 seasons but combined for just 11 over the past two years.

Carucci: Bills Forced To Rely On TE Charles Clay

  • It’s been more than a decade since the Bills have had a “difference-making tight end,” writes Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. The organization did little to improve the unit during the draft or free agency, meaning the team will have to rely on former restricted free agent Charles Clay. The team inked the 28-year-old to a contract prior to the 2015 season, and he’s averaged 54 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns during his two years in Buffalo. Clay counts for $9MM against the cap, which presumably dissuaded the front office from pursuing reinforcement at the position. As a result, Carucci says the team will have to “get by with what they have.”

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Bills Eyeing Vlad Ducasse As New RG?

  • On the subject of offensive lines, the Bills‘ is tentatively taking shape. The respective injuries of Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood are hindering the group, though. With Glenn still sidelined from the ankle injury he suffered last year, something new HC Sean McDermott called “a concern,” rookie Dion Dawkins took his place at left tackle during the offseason workouts. Dawkins was drafted to compete with Jordan Mills at right tackle, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News notes. Glenn being expected to return by camp may shuttle Dawkins over to the right side come August. Carucci adds that journeyman Vlad Ducasse was signed to push John Miller at right guard. The two split reps during OTAs and minicamp. Carucci also notes Wood’s 2016 broken right leg setback was not as severe as the broken left leg injury he sustained as a rookie in 2009. Wood participated sporadically in Buffalo’s offseason work.

Bills’ Jonathan Williams Avoids Suspension

Good news for the Bills and Jonathan Williams. The running back will not be disciplined under the league’s substance abuse policy, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jonathan Williams (vertical)

Williams was accused of driving while intoxicated last summer in Arkansas, just months after the Bills selected him in the fifth round. He was found not guilty of the charge earlier this month, but the NFL has been known to suspend players even in situations where they are acquitted by a court. The Bills were bracing for the possibility of not having Williams at the start of the season, but they now know that they will have him on the roster for Week 1 as LeSean McCoy‘s backup.

Last year, Mike Gillislee made a name for himself as McCoy’s primary understudy and Williams could make a similar leap this year. In 2016, Williams had only 27 carries in eleven games, but he should be used a lot more this year. Free agents Mike Tolbert and Joe Banyard are also in the fold in Buffalo, along with fullback Patrick DiMarco.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fred Jackson To Participate In July Showcase

Fred Jackson is still looking for an NFL job and he’s hoping that a mass audition next month will help make that happen. Today, the Spring League announced that it will host a special showcase game in California on July 15 featuring the former Bills running back (via PFT). Fred Jackson

In addition to Jackson’s debut, controversial defensive end Greg Hardy will also be making his return to the upstart league. Anthony “Boobie” Dixon, who was in Buffalo with Jackson in 2014 and 2015, will also be on hand at Napa Memorial Stadium in Napa, California. The game will be contested between the “Spring League California” and “Spring League East” teams. Terry Shea will coach the California team while Donnie Henderson will coach the East squad.

The Spring League Showcase will provide the NFL with additional opportunities to evaluate players just before the start of training camps,” Spring League CEO Brian Woods said in the press release.

Jackson spent the 2015 season with the Seahawks and had just 26 carries for 100 yards and 32 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, he was out of football. Still, at the age of 36, Jackson is out to prove that he can perform at a high level. Jackson’s last quality season as a runner was arguably back in 2013 when he ran for 890 yards off of 206 carries (4.3 yards per carry average) with nine scores. In 2014, he had a career-high 66 catches for 501 yards but didn’t fare as well carrying the ball.

Between 2011 and 2013, Hardy averaged 56 tackles and 10 sacks per season season. Even in a down year with Dallas in 2015, he ranked as the league’s 28th-best edge defender out of 110 qualified players, according to Pro Football Focus. However, NFL teams have stayed away from Hardy due to all of his baggage.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Impressed With Tre'Davious White

Bills first-round cornerback Tre’Davious White is performing so well during Buffalo practice sessions that new head coach Sean McDermott has scarcely noticed the rookie on the field, as Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News writes. “Really, I’ve had to sit back in my office up there and ask myself why haven’t I noticed Tre’Davious, in terms of why am I not concerned about him?” McDermott said. “As a defensive coordinator I was a lot closer to the defense at times, so I’ve been asking myself is it because of that or is it because he’s just integrated himself so smoothly into the NFL and what we do? He’s mature beyond his years.” The Bills traded down from No. 10 to No. 27 before selecting White, who projects as a Week 1 starter opposite Ronald Darby.