The Bills were early players in free agency signing a total of seven players, who became unrestricted on Wednesday. Pairing that group with Spencer Long and Kevin Johnson, who were able to sign prior to free agency, here’s a look at some areas where Buffalo’s roster is significantly stronger.
1. Starting caliber talent
The Bills knew they had to make upgrades to their roster, particularly on offense. Every single player that was added in free agency has at least one full season as an NFL starter.
Most of the signees are proven starters with consistent production on their NFL resumes like Cole Beasley, John Brown and Mitch Morse.
Kevin Johnson was an up-and-coming starter before injuries sidelined him, and players like tight end Tyler Kroft and tackle Ty Nsekhe were stuck behind former first-round picks on their previous team depth charts. But when they stepped in for those starters when injured they performed admirably.
2. Team speed
Buffalo’s passing game looked better in the second half of the 2018 season. It was due to the addition of speed, primarily in the form of wide receivers Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie.
Signing receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley takes Buffalo’s offensive speed quotient to another level.
Brown gets up on the toes of defensive backs so quickly he forces them to make a decision sooner than they like. Defensive backs either turn their hips early so they can run with Brown, or they’re getting burned for a long touchdown.
So when defensive backs flip their hips that’s when Brown breaks his route off and works back to the quarterback to make plays in the intermediate area. If they don’t, he’s behind them for a big play or a touchdown.
With Brown and Foster among the Bills options on the outside, NFL secondaries will need to think twice about putting a safety down in the box to stop the run. Going single safety high against those two with a quarterback in Josh Allen, who can throw it a mile, will be a very risky proposition.
Beasley is more quick than fast, and that’s a good thing working out of the slot. The former Cowboy is very slippery even in tight spaces and will offer Allen a frequent third-down option to keep drives alive.
3. Room leaders
Head coach Sean McDermott has said numerous times that they’d like to have a player leader in every position room in the building. One was missing in the offensive line room after Eric Wood had to unexpectedly retire following a career-ending neck injury.
Buffalo’s new center, Mitch Morse, will capably fill that void. A proven performer in the pivot, Morse will help to lead the offensive unit with Josh Allen.
John Brown and Cole Beasley both know what it takes to deliver in crunch time and each have playoff experience, two things the bulk of Buffalo’s receiving corps has yet to experience. They can work together to head-up a receiver room with a lot of youth.
And Frank Gore isn’t only a room leader for the running backs, he can be a locker room leader. Gore is a revered player in this league. His mere presence will serve as a reminder to every young player about the commitment it takes to be successful in the NFL for the long haul. Young players will follow his lead purely on reputation.
4. Offensive stability
The first two seasons under head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills offense has seen a lot of turnover in terms of personnel whether it was the offensive line, the receiving corps and of course quarterback. Entering year three there is a clear pecking order at most of the positions.
The addition of Beasley and Brown provide a reliable pair of targets for Josh Allen.
Frank Gore could be a dependable third-down player as a pass protector and short yardage option.
And though there will be competition, linemen like Spencer Long and Mitch Morse solidify two interior positions going forward.
All these additions bring much-needed stability to an offensive unit that has seen a heavy rotation of talent rolling through.
Buffalo’s front office always gives a player high marks if they offer position flexibility. They added that to their roster with half of the players they signed.
Though Cole Beasley is primarily a slot receiver, he’s demonstrated an ability to split out wider and make plays when necessary.
Kevin Johnson is capable of playing press-man coverage and is a physical player in zone coverage. He can additionally play in the slot or on the boundary.
Offensive lineman Spencer Long can play guard or center. Tackle Ty Nsekhe has been a swing tackle capable of playing on both the left or right side as needed.
And Tyler Kroft is a two-way tight end. He is known as an aggressive in-line blocker and has the athleticism to make plays in the passing game.
Injuries have largely compromised the last three seasons of Kevin Johnson’s career. But the physical talent of the fourth-year cornerback is undeniable. Johnson was a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft for a reason.
Former NFL draft analyst and current Oakland Raiders GM Mike Mayock, called him the cleanest defensive back in the entire 2015 draft class.
If Johnson can stay on the field, he could be an absolute steal for Buffalo’s secondary.
Kroft is a tight end that simply needed an opportunity. He figures to have every chance to earn the starting tight end job in Buffalo. In the one season he had a chance to start regularly Kroft pulled in a touchdown once every six receptions. It’s an indication of what the tall and lanky tight end could be in the red zone for Josh Allen.
With the 2019 free agency period officially open, here's a look at Buffalo's acquisitions.