1. Continuity for Josh Allen was goal with coaching hires
It took some time, but Buffalo's coaching staff was reassembled and finalized this past week. There are a total of seven new coaches on the staff in addition to two new coordinators, who were promoted from within in Ken Dorsey (offense) and Matthew Smiley (special teams).
On offense specifically, Bills GM Brandon Beane confirmed that continuity was a primary goal to keep things relatively the same for Josh Allen and company.
"We definitely interviewed some other guys and got some different perspectives," said Beane. "But in the end being able to keep so many things the same for Josh was important. Part of our plan when we got started was continuity for Josh, from the coaching staff, the organization, the plays, the protections. Even though we've got a new O-line coach, we don't have to change all the protections. He's coming in to kind of learn our system. The more we can keep the same for Josh, the easier it will be to assimilate. Ken (Dorsey) is going to have his own nuances, everybody does, to how they do things. But a lot will be the same.
"So even though we've lost a lot of people, I don't feel a lot is going to change for Josh, for the most part."
2. Cap space creation coming up soon
One of Brandon Beane's core philosophies is remaining as cap strong as possible year over year to avoid getting into situations like we've seen in New Orleans where they ask players to take sizable pay cuts or restructure contracts to kick money into future years only to have to do it again and again.
Last year's restrictive cap in the wake of the pandemic year of 2020 forced Beane into taking that route just to remain competitive in the free agent market. Some hard decisions were made. Even though the cap did go up this year to just over $208 million, the Bills like other teams aren't completely out of the woods with respect to the fiscal management of a salary cap that hasn't caught up to where it was originally forecast.
"We're glad to see it increasing this year and not decreasing, but honestly, it's still lower than what it would have been," said Beane. "A couple of years ago, we were at $198 million. It would at that point would have probably gone to 208 to 210. We would have been well into I would guess 225 million by now. So, it's going to be a multi-year process to truly recover."
As a result, Buffalo will have some difficult decisions to make again this offseason. Whether that means contract restructuring, extending a player under contract to lessen the cap hit, asking a player to take a pay cut or releasing a player remains to be seen.
Beane would prefer to avoid restructuring knowing it only delays a showdown with prohibitive cap figures, but there will have to be some financial decisions made next week.
"We still have to work our way through it," said Beane. "We've got moves where we've had some discussions. We'll have some more discussions and then hopefully by mid late next week when we get back (to Buffalo) we'll start making some moves to get our cap where we need it so that we can have the resources to sign some guys in free agency. Some of it could be re-signing our own, but also guys from other teams."
3. D-line a priority going forward
Buffalo has some positions that must be addressed this offseason due to the fact that they have free agents at that position or players returning from injury (see: cornerback, wide receiver). But the position that carries the most urgency to address is defensive line.
The Bills have six defensive linemen on expiring contracts that are set to become unrestricted free agents. Restricted free agent DT Justin Zimmer makes seven.
Beane knows it must be his top priority just by sheer numbers alone.
"The D-line as a whole, you know how important that is to me," Beane said in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "You've got to have a quarterback, but you've also got to have the guys to get after the opposing team's quarterback. If we're going to get where we need to get in order to beat some of these top quarterbacks in the AFC, we've got to be strong up there. And you saw that in our draft last year. Every year even if we didn't have three or four unrestricted free agents in there I'd still be looking to see if there are chances to upgrade it. Where do we do it?
"I think it's just an area where I'm never going to relax to say, 'Ahh, we've got the D-line settled.' We run them in waves. And unless I got eight Pro Bowlers, I'm not relaxing."
Buffalo's top priority on their defensive front would appear to be free agent DT Harrison Phillips. The former third-round pick is coming off a strong second half to the 2021 season where he stole the starting role from veteran Star Lotulelei and logged the most snaps of any defensive lineman over the final half of the season.
"We love Harry and I've always said we love to draft, develop and re-sign," said Beane on 'One Bills Live.' "But Harrison has hit free agency, and I think his guys want to get a good feel for his value. He's earned that right and so we'll stay in touch with them, and would we love to have him back? Yes, of course. We love Harry. We're proud of the development he's made. When (Justin) Zimmer went out with the ACL I thought Harrison really was ready to roll and did a nice job the second half the year. He and Ed (Oliver) settled in nicely."
4. A Bills proposal for overtime changes
The NFL's Competition Committee met here at the NFL Combine this past weekend and will be presenting rules proposals to NFL ownership for the upcoming 2023 season. One area of the game that has gotten a lot of attention is overtime in the wake of Buffalo's AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. A game which went to overtime, but was largely decided by the coin toss, won by the Chiefs allowing them to march down the field for a game-winning touchdown. Buffalo, which had scored an identical 36 points in regulation did not have a chance to possess the ball.
More than one team has presented proposals to the Competition Committee and Beane confirmed the Bills presented one of their own.
"We definitely put our stamp on one," said Beane. "Ours is going to be more, without getting into detail, instead of one possession and then you get the other possession is time (oriented). Similar to in basketball where you play five minutes (in overtime). Baseball, both teams get the top half and the bottom half (of the inning).
"So, a time limit and I'm talking about postseason only to have to play it out. And that way, both teams will definitely have a chance and maybe even more than one possession."
Buffalo's proposal figures to be one of many submitted to the Competition Committee. What comes out of it will be up to the owners, who reports say are looking to change overtime for the postseason only. But Beane believes there is momentum to make alterations.
"I do think there will be some changes," he said.
5. Draft class offers more depth than elites
As a whole the 2022 NFL draft class was expected to be one of the deepest in recent memory due in part to the fact that a good number of college players returned to school for one more season. This was prompted mainly by the NCAA's decision to give college athletes an additional year of eligibility after the pandemic wiped out many of their seasons in 2020.
And while the number of draft eligible players is up, the amount of elite talent is not. In fact, it looks as though its elite talent doesn't measure up to the last few classes. But Beane affirmed that there is quality depth particularly in rounds two through four.
"I think there's a lot of depth to be honest with you," Beane said on ‘One Bills Live’ Tuesday. "I don't see this draft having those prospects that everybody fighting to get in the top five, top six for the Chase Youngs or the Myles Garrett, or some of these top quarterbacks that have gone. I don't see that. But what I do see is depth. And I think you may get a player at let's say we're at 25 that some people may have at 12 and vice versa."
Without elite talent at the top that often breeds value consensus, Beane says the depth of good talent will lead to a more wide-ranging value on a number of prospects.
"I think it's going to be more of what's your flavor. What are you looking for as you build your team," he said. "Look at Greg Rousseau a year ago. At this time, a lot of people had him higher. He didn't test as well on his pro day. He sat out a season for COVID. Various things happen on why guys fall. We're just looking for the best football players and I do think there are multiple positions.
"I think there's depth at corner. I think there's depth at O-line. I think there's depth in various positions, the D-line whether you're looking 4-3 or some 3-4 guys. I definitely think there are going to be receivers. There are some tight ends as well in this draft."