It’s all led up to this.
Brandon Beane inherited a less-than-ideal salary cap situation when he took over as Buffalo’s general manager in the 2017 offseason. He spent his first year-and-a-half on the job attempting to remedy the problem, accumulating over a reported $50 million in dead money in the process.
Now, Beane and the Bills enter the 2019 offseason with more than a reported $80 million in cap space. The general manager now has the opportunity to put his stamp on the roster - he just has a bit of housekeeping to take care of first.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Bills’ roster entering the 2019 offseason.
1. Unrestricted free agents
The Bills have six players who are set to enter unrestricted free agency. Should they not sign an extension with the Bills before March 11, they can begin to negotiate with other NFL teams. They cannot officially sign these contracts until March 13 at 4:00 p.m., the start of the new league year.
RB Taiwan Jones
Voted a team captain by his teammates before the start of the season, Taiwan Jones finished the 2018 campaign with five special teams tackles, the third-highest total of any Buffalo player. A neck injury bothered Jones throughout much of the season, and he was placed on injured reserve after Week 8.
WR Deonte Thompson
Noticing a lack of speed in its receiving corps, Buffalo signed Deonte Thompson ahead of its Week 12 matchup with the Jaguars. He appeared in five games for the Bills throughout the rest of the season, reeling in three passes for 37 yards.
OL Ryan Groy
A strong preseason allowed Ryan Groy to enter the 2018 campaign as Buffalo’s starting center. Struggles across the entire offensive line prompted the Bills to make a change at center in Week 3, moving fifth-year lineman Russell Bodine up the depth chart. While Bodine anchored the line, Groy served as a rotational lineman, often seeing time at guard. Bodine went down with a season-ending leg injury in Week 13, and Groy started the remaining four games of Buffalo’s season at center.
OG John Miller
After starting just four games in the 2017 season, John Miller bounced back in the 2018 campaign, starting 15 games at right guard. He played on 83 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps throughout the season.
OT Jordan Mills
Jordan Mills has started every game at right tackle for the Bills since the 2016 season and started 53 of the 58 games in his four seasons in Buffalo. He played 1,011 snaps in 2018 – the second highest total for a Bills offensive lineman.
DT Jordan Phillips
Jordan Phillips played largely played in a rotational role after being claimed from the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. He finished the season with 19 tackles and three pass deflections. He captured the hearts of the Buffalo faithful with his fan-oriented style of play, often attempting to get the raucous New Era Field crowd involved in games.
2. Restricted free agents
The Bills have two players who are set to become restricted free agents, or free agents who have accrued exactly three seasons worth of professional experience. Should Buffalo place a tender on these players, it will have the opportunity to match any contract offer that they receive from other teams. Teams must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by March 13 in order to retain their rights.
TE Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas produced 12 receptions for 77 yards. He was also a key special teamer for the Bills, playing on 43 percent of the team’s special team snaps.
CB Lafayette Pitts
Lafayette Pitts has been a mainstay on Buffalo’s special teams unit over the past two seasons. He played on 64 percent of the Bills’ special teams snaps in 2018, totaling six tackles. He also played on 83 defensive snaps, tallying nine tackles.
3. Exclusive rights free agents
The Bills are set to have four exclusive rights free agents, or free agents with less than three accrued seasons who are unable to negotiate with other teams. Buffalo must submit an offer to these players by March 13 in order to retain exclusive negotiating rights.
DE Eddie Yarbrough
Eddie Yarbrough largely played in a rotational role in the 2018 season, totaling 29 tackles on 307 defensive snaps. He also saw time on special teams, playing on 78 special teams snaps throughout the season.
LB Deon Lacey
Over the past two seasons, Deon Lacey has developed into a key special teams contributor for the Bills. He played on a team-high 68.11 percent of Buffalo’s special teams snaps in the 2018 season, totaling five tackles. Though Lacey will be 29 when the 2019 season kicks off, he’s only been on an NFL roster for two seasons, hence why he’s an ERFA. He spent the first three years of his professional career in the Canadian Football League.
P Matt Darr
Matt Darr joined the Bills late in the 2018 campaign, suiting up for the final five games of the season. He averaged 40.5 yards per punt.
LS Reid Ferguson
Reid Ferguson has been Buffalo’s long snapper for the past two seasons. It looks as though he’ll be sticking around, as he recently tweeted that he’ll be “back in Buffalo” for the 2019 season.
4. Fifth-year contract options
Though Shaq Lawson is under contract for the 2019 season, Buffalo’s brass will have to make a decision on his future this offseason. The team must decide whether or not they will pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal by May 3. Should the team pick up his option, Lawson’s contract will be extended into the 2020 season, his salary determined by the average between the third-and-25th highest paid defensive ends in the league.
Lawson is coming off a 2018 campaign in which he totaled 30 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and five pass deflections.
5. Returning starters
Nineteen starters are slated to return to Buffalo for the 2019 season. They include:
QB Josh Allen
Josh Allen finished his rookie season off strong, going 3-3 in his final six starts. He set franchise records for the most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback (18), most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (631), most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (135). He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 200 yards and run for 100 yards in consecutive games (Weeks 13-14).
RB LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy signed a five-year extension after being acquired by the Bills in the 2015 offseason. Now entering his fifth year with the team, McCoy is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the 2020 offseason. He’s rushed for 3,814 yards and 25 touchdowns throughout his time in Buffalo.
FB Patrick DiMarco
A trusted blocker in the run game, Buffalo periodically got Patrick DiMarco involved on offense throughout the 2018 season. He picked up 71 yards on four touches.
WR Zay Jones
Zay Jones emerged as a foundational piece for the Bills in his sophomore season, leading the team in most receiving categories. He finished the season with 56 receptions for 652 yards and seven touchdowns.
WR Robert Foster
Following a lackluster six-game stretch in which he caught just two passes for 30 yards, undrafted free agent Robert Foster impressed in the second half of the campaign, reeling in 25 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns over the final seven games of the season.
TE Charles Clay
Injuries hampered Charles Clay in 2018. He’s coming off a 2018 campaign in which he appeared in 13 games, catching 21 passes for 184 yards. From 2015-2017, Clay became the first Bills tight end in franchise history to produce 500 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons.
OT Dion Dawkins
Dion Dawkins started all 16 games at left tackle in the 2018 season. He caught his first career touchdown pass in Week 10 against the NY Jets – becoming the first Bills OL with a touchdown since Jason Peters in 2005.
C Russell Bodine
Russell Bodine took over as Buffalo’s starting center early in the 2018 campaign, a job he held onto until he went down with a season-ending leg injury in Week 13. He’s currently the only center under contract for the 2019 season.
OG Wyatt Teller
Wyatt Teller took over as Buffalo’s starting left guard in Week 10, holding onto the job throughout the remainder of the season.
DE Jerry Hughes
The most tenured player on Buffalo’s roster, Jerry Hughes is entering his seventh season with the Bills. He’s been a dominant pass rusher for Buffalo, totaling 42 sacks throughout his time with the team. He’s coming off a bounce-back 2018 season in which he led the team in sacks with seven.
DT Star Lotulelei
One of the team’s major offseason acquisitions, Star Lotulelei was impactful in his first season as a Bill, excelling as a run-stuffer while also recording 17 tackles.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Tremaine Edmunds made discernible development throughout his rookie campaign. He was the only player in the NFL with 120+ tackles, 12+ passes defensed, 2+ sacks, 2+ interceptions and 2+ forced fumbles. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in December.
LB Matt Milano
Matt Milano put his innate nose for the ball on display throughout his sophomore season, recording 78 tackles. He ended his injury-shortened campaign with six total takeaways (three interceptions, three fumble recoveries).
LB Lorenzo Alexander
Lorenzo Alexander played all over the front seven in the 2018 season. He entered the campaign as Buffalo’s starting strongside linebacker, also periodically seeing time as an edge rusher. The Bills also used him as an interior rusher on third-down packages, getting the most that they could out of the 35-year-old. He started eight games throughout the campaign, totaling 74 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and nine pass deflections.
CB Tre’Davious White
Tre’Davious White followed up his breakout rookie campaign with a solid sophomore season, recording 54 tackles, eight pass deflections, and two interceptions.
CB Levi Wallace
Levi Wallace played well after being thrown into Buffalo’s starting lineup in Week 10, tallying 37 tackles and three pass deflections over the final seven games of the season.
S Micah Hyde
Micah Hyde was a key cog in a Buffalo defense that allowed an average of just 179.2 passing yards per game last season, recording 58 tackles and five pass deflections.
S Jordan Poyer
Jordan Poyer tallied a career-high 100 tackles in the 2018 season, also leading the team in interceptions with four. He was the only NFL player with 95 tackles, one forced fumble, 2.0 sacks and four interceptions in 2018.
K Stephen Hauschka
Stephen Hauschka has been one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers since signing with the Bills in the 2017 offseason. He finished the 2018 season 22 of 28 on field goals, four of which were made from more than 50 yards out. He’s made 54 of 55 extra points over the past two seasons.