There was a whirlwind of activity at One Bills Drive in the negotiating window leading up to the opening of the free agent market for the Bills. Buffalo came to terms with eight players who were set to become free agents on Wednesday.
Bills GM Brandon Beane spoke for the first time since the signings and provided his take on what they added, what kind of flexibility they still have and what quite frankly ticked him off.
1. Aggressive in adding offense
All eight free agent signings by the Bills were made on the offensive side of the ball. There was a clear purpose to Buffalo’s early pursuit of free agents.
“Obviously our cap was in a position where we could be aggressive in spots where we needed to be, but again try to be smart with our money,” Beane said. “Our offense, we knew where we ranked statistically, and it held us back in some games. We were looking in all areas (on offense), other than quarterback, to improve. I think we got some guys who will come in here and compete. We told every single one of them nothing is guaranteed.”
2. Plenty of cap room to seek upgrades
Beane acknowledged that the pro personnel department was able to cover most of their free agent checklist in this first wave of free agency. Though their main focus will begin to shift toward the 2019 NFL draft, in no way will they shy away from the right opportunity if it presents itself.
“We covered a lot of areas. You’re always greedy. You’re always saying you can try to upgrade here or there. Free agency is not over,” said Beane. “It doesn’t mean because I’m standing here that we’re done. We’re continuing to work. Someone could call in a week and say, ‘Hey we signed this other guy, do you want to trade for this guy?’ Most of our attention after this weekend will be back on the draft, but if there’s a guy who comes available via cap release or trade, we’ll continue to try to find upgrades to our roster.”
Beane currently pegged Buffalo’s cap room between “the high 30s and low 40s.”
“We’ll tally it up once we’re done this week,” he said. “We still have plenty of room to maneuver, should the opportunity be there for a marquee player becomes available via trade or release.”
3. The ‘not wanting to come to Buffalo’ narrative was pure ignorance
When asked to set the record straight on the narrative that cropped up last week when trade talk between Buffalo and Pittsburgh for Antonio Brown didn’t materialize, and it was assumed that Brown didn’t want to come to Buffalo, the Bills GM was still visibly perturbed by it.
“I’m trying to keep my words. That pissed me off to be candid,” he said. “It was an ignorant comment. I’m not on social media, but if you live in Buffalo and know anything about Buffalo… don’t speak about Buffalo if you don’t know this city and what this fan base is like.
“It really pissed me off because it’s not true. When you talk to players… how many guys flowed through here today? Eight or nine? And we could’ve had more. We don’t have that narrative.
“It started with a bad rumor on that whole Antonio Brown thing. People looking for reasons why and they didn’t have all the facts.
“Again, people who have been here, I can’t tell you how many players commented, ‘This is amazing. This is awesome. What a facility. What a place. What a culture.’ All that stuff that we have going here.
“This city, we love it. All I’m going to say is anybody who says that doesn’t know Buffalo and really is just speaking out of ignorance.”
4. Excited about revamped offensive line
The number of linemen signed was a strong indication of what a priority it was for Buffalo’s front office to rebuild an area of the team that needed improvement. Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano and Ty Nsekhe will all have the opportunity to start, along with Spencer Long, who signed back in February.
Beane and his staff made a concerted effort to find players who had an edge to their game and made a point of finishing their opponents at the line of scrimmage. That’s why he’s eager to see how this re-tooled offensive line takes shape when OTAs begin in May.
“We looked on the O-line for guys who had position flex with experience,” Beane said. “Some guys have started a lot of games. Some guys have been backups who have come in and played and we feel played well and fit our style.
“It’ll be fun to roll this O-line out. I know we’ve probably turned that over the most. It’ll be fun with these new coaches and new players to see them get going this spring.”
5. McCoy and Gore will push one another
Frank Gore admitted that his good friend LeSean McCoy played a role in recruiting him to Buffalo. The mutual respect they have for one another will motivate them to raise their respective games. Beane sees this as a win-win for each of them and their offense.
“Those are two competitors. I think those two guys will drive each other,” said Beane. “Frank is one of those guys that says, ‘You worry about the age, I’m going to make plays.’ When you turn on the film, if you don’t know anything about him and watch him play you wouldn’t say that’s a guy in his mid-30s. Age is a factor at any position at this level, but sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. He is the ultimate competitor.
“Just getting to talk to him. When he talks to you he sits in the edge of his chair. He starts dropping a few words that you might hear on the field. His intensity starts ratcheting up quick. He walked down the hall with a Bills helmet on his head. The guy is serious. To bring him here, he is a pro’s pro. He’s going to be a guy that off the field players can model themselves after. I look forward to him coming here and being an influence on our locker room.”
6. Nothing concrete on Ziggy
Beane confirmed that free agent pass rusher Ziggy Ansah did make a visit to One Bills Drive and met with Buffalo’s front office and coaches.
“We visited with Ziggy. He’s a great, young man,” said Beane. “We met with him. He’ll continue on his (visit schedule) and nothing on that front, but we enjoyed visiting with Ziggy.”
Knowing Ansah missed half the season due to a shoulder injury, the visit was likely a due diligence effort with respect to the pass rusher’s physical health first and foremost.