As free agency gets underway, the Bills' newly acquired free agents have started making their way to One Bills Live. This week multiple players were in the building to sign their contracts and speak with the media.
This is what we learned from the new Bills players this week:
1. For Jordan Phillips, it's like he never left
Jordan Phillips wishes he never left Buffalo. His goal was always to come back and he's glad his wish came true. Phillips spent the past two seasons in Arizona, but he always kept up with this Bills team.
"I didn't miss a game," Phillips said. "You can ask me anything about a game and I could probably tell you. I talked to the guys constantly, stayed in touch. When I left it was a real close-knit group. It was the first time I felt part of a football team that's like more of a family. So, it was easy. I'd go see the guys in the offseason, we still hung out."
Phillips had the best season of his career in 2019 – his last season in Buffalo. With 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits, he brought a lot of energy and production to this Bills defensive line. His impact on the field was strong, but the connection he made with his teammates was stronger. With all the success that the Bills have had in the past two seasons and the family-like atmosphere, it was a no-brainer for Phillips to come back.
"You have the best quarterback in the league," Phillips said. "You have one of the best receivers in the league. We just signed the best pass rusher in the league. Ed's playing really well. You're going to get Tre'Davious White back. You have the two best safeties in the league. You've got one of the best linebackers in the league. Why wouldn't you come back?"
2. Why Tim Settle is pumped up to play for Buffalo
Throughout Tim Settle's introductory press conference, you could feel his energy and excitement about being one of the newest Buffalo Bills. Settle, who was there with his family, said it wasn't just time for a new chapter but a whole new book.
Settle is excited to join last year's number one ranked defense and wants to make his presence felt right away.
"This atmosphere, just who this team is, the energy they bring, and the family is welcoming," Settle said. "I feel like when it came down to picking, the decision, it was really easy. Just seeing what this team does every year and who they have and what they're capable of, I feel like adding a penguin step in there. I feel like we can make something shake."
Settle was in Buffalo during the Week 3 game against Washington where the Bills won 43-21. He got an up-close view of what this Bills team is about and how rowdy Bills Mafia can get. It was then that Settle fully realized the great team culture up in Buffalo.
"It looks like they want to win," Settle added. "Everybody looks like they want to win. They play like they want to win; you could tell every week they want to win. It's a winning culture here, that's what we want to be a part of. From the bottom to the top, they want to win, and everybody's bought in."
3. O.J. Howard explains why he chose to come to Buffalo
For O.J. Howard, this free agency period was the first time since high school that he's been able to choose where he wants to play football. After taking some time to decide, he was drawn to Buffalo because he believes that this team has a chance to do something special.
"The proof's in the pudding," Howard said. "You look at this team the last couple years, they were so close to going all the way. I feel like for myself and the guys that are here, I can help this team get over the hump. Just take that next step whatever it may be, just playing consistent football. But these guys are so close and it's just a great spot to come to with a quarterback like Josh and seeing all the talent around him, I was like 'myself will fit in well here.'"
The Bills might have come up on Howard's radar just a few months ago but the Bills have had him on their radar since the 2017 NFL Draft. Howard was taken 19th overall in that draft, eight spots before the Bills' selection at 27th overall. Sean McDermott believes that Howard's best football is in front of him.
"Obviously, a highly touted guy coming out a few years ago," McDermott shared. "He was high on our radar then and obviously was when the chance came up here to circle back and try to get him again. A big, tall body that can get down the seam and box people out. …
"I know to this point maybe he hasn't been able to do what people thought that he would do coming out. So again, I think just getting him under our roof and getting him to a spot where he's having fun playing football again and become the best version of himself."
4. McDermott sends a message to departing players
Before Sean McDermott opened up his press conference for questions on Thursday, he wanted to address the free agents that the team had to say goodbye to this week.
"Let me first start off by saying, obviously when we've added some players over the last few days here, today in particular with the signings, some players then, obviously leave," McDermott said. "Wish we could keep all of them. We can't. That's the reality. The players that are leaving, can't thank them enough for their contributions, their families' sacrifices, time, and what they've meant to the Buffalo Bills over the last couple of years here. I take that part seriously. It's important to us."
McDermott was asked about Levi Wallace and Harrison Phillips, who were both part of the 2018 Draft class. Each player has been productive and has meant a lot to this Bills team in their four seasons here. That makes it so much harder to say goodbye, but McDermott just wants the best for them in the NFL careers.
"I'll forever be their fan," McDermott added. "I'm a big Harrison Phillips fan, a big Levi Wallace fan. Those are tough. Especially ... it's tough anytime but, in particular when you draft players, and they move on. But in some way, you're happy for them because if we weren't doing things right here, they wouldn't have gone on to do what they've done and accomplish the goals that they have for themselves and their families as well.
"So, although it's disappointing that we couldn't get things worked out, there is a little bit of pleasure knowing that they've improved their lives and their family's lives as well. I just want the best for them. But yeah, it's a little bit sad to see guys move on that you have spent so much time with."
5. Bills' sports performance center was a big draw for O.J. Howard
Throughout Howard's NFL career, injuries seem to have plagued him. Howard missed the final two games of his rookie season with an ankle injury and missed the final six games in 2018 due to the same injury. In 2019, he missed two games due to a hamstring injury and in 2020, he tore his Achilles in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season.
Now in the offseason before the 2021 season, Howard changed up his routine and got some advice from former teammate Rob Gronkowski about how to deal with injuries.
"We did a regimen where I would go hang out with him and we would take care of our bodies together all week long, and then do things off the field," Howard shared. "As far as seeing different people, massage therapists, things like that. So, he taught me all about that, some different hacks to get warmed up. So that's definitely something I stole from him, learning how to stay healthy off the field."
The changes seem to be working for Howard because, in 2021, he played a full season without any injuries for the first time in his career. With the number of weapons, the Buccaneers offense had last season, it was hard for Howard to get playing time even when healthy. Howard played only 31% of the offensive snaps and had 21 targets throughout the season.
With his injury history, the Bills state-of-the-art sports performance center was something that intrigued Howard. He is glad that the organization is doing so much for its players and keeping them as healthy as possible.
"I did the research on it before I came and signed here," Howard said. "I looked at the YouTube videos and I saw the facility and it amazed me because the first thing that jumped out was like a college. An Alabama or, you don't usually see this from NFL organizations.
"And then getting a chance to see it in person today and listen to the different people mentioning it and the things they do to help you stay healthy and things like that. It just shows me that it's a great chance that I could put in my regimen that I didn't know about to help me stay on the field longer."
6. Tim Settle is thrilled to be reunited with Tremaine Edmunds
Tim Settle just signed with the team, but he already has a strong connection with Tremaine Edmunds. The new Bills teammates both played for Virginia Tech from 2016 to 2017. The pair worked well together back then where Edmunds was named first-team All-ACC and Settle second-team All-ACC in 2017.
Since their college days, Settle knows he can rely on Edmunds for anything, and he's excited for the opportunity to be teammates with Edmunds for a second time.
"Yeah, I definitely talked to Tremaine," Settle said. "We already have a connection. I know how he plays, he knows how I play, so everything should feel perfectly fine, and perfectly normal. It's definitely gonna feel good to be able to play with Tremaine again."
7. Jordan Phillips explains his relationship with Leslie Frazier
Jordan Phillips has a lot of respect and admiration for Leslie Frazier. He's been one of the best coaches he's had in his NFL career, but their relationship got off to a bumpy start.
When Phillips first got to Buffalo, Frazier got after the defensive tackle following a poor practice. Phillips thought his time in Buffalo might have been over before it started.
"We sat there and the first thing he said to me was, 'I don't care how many tackles you had or how good you played if you do that sh*t again you're not going to be here.'" Phillips shared. "So immediately we started bumping heads and I'm like, 'Oh, God. This is gonna be another bad situation.'
"But then slowly but surely, he started working with me and really showed belief in me and gave me opportunities. And not a lot of coaches do that in this league. So, I just kind of latched onto him and he latched onto me, and we've had a good relationship since."