What Bills fans can expect to see in the 2020 free agency period

031620-cole-beasley
Cole Beasley touchdown and leap into the fans. Buffalo Bills vs Philadelphia Eagles, October 27, 2019 at New Era Field. Photo by Bill Wippert

The 2020 free agency period is set to begin today with the negotiating window opening at 12 noon on Monday and free agency officially beginning on Wednesday at 4 pm ET. It will be an opportunity for the Bills and the 31 other NFL clubs to take the first big step in re-shaping their rosters for the upcoming fall campaign.

While there is a good deal of uncertainty as to what will unfold, due in part to an unprecedented supply of veteran quarterbacks, here's a look at some of what has been widely anticipated going into this spring's open market.

What positions will be in high demand?

There's usually a high demand for quarterback and pass rusher help every offseason in the NFL, but with quarterbacks determining the fortunes of teams more than ever, league-wide demand for an answer at the position is at an all-time high.

Even teams that had veteran quarterbacks like the L.A. Chargers or top homegrown draft pick quarterbacks like Tampa Bay will potentially move on from their current signal callers. Fortunately, all these clubs seeking upgrades at the game's most important position have a glut of veteran talent hitting the market.

ESPN NFL analyst Field Yates believes upwards of 20 teams will at least explore a way to upgrade their quarterback situation.

"There are about 12 teams in the NFL that I think you can cross off the list of going quarterback shopping this offseason, and then everybody else," said Yates. "Some of them are clear and obvious. Some of them are wildcards but it's going to be as zany a quarterback offseason as I can recall."

Two of the teams in Buffalo's division, Miami and New England will make some kind of offseason decision at quarterback. So too could two other Bills 2020 opponents (Chargers and Raiders). The Titans reportedly agreed with Ryan Tannehill to a four-year extension.

The other position that will have a strong buyer's market is defensive end. Teams are always looking for a consistent producer off the edge, and this year's free agent market is only strengthened by the fact that the defensive end class in the draft is relatively thin after the top tier.

"When you look at some positions, maybe not quite as deep in the draft, edge rusher, linebacker and tight end," said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. "Just a little bit of a shallow group there."

That should put free agent pass rushers like Seattle's Jadeveon Clowney and Tampa's Shaquil Barrett in a favorable spot when it comes to holding to certain average annual salary demands, provided they're not given the franchise tag by their respective clubs.

There's a strong likelihood that's the case for Barrett who may be tagged by the Bucs.

With Shaq Lawson a free agent for Buffalo and Trent Murphy entering the final year of his contract, the Bills figure to be surveying their options at the position this offseason.

What positions could see a soft market?

The free agent market is rarely good for running backs as more and more teams shy away from handing out big second contracts to players who shouldered a lot of work over the course of their rookie deals. Teams that have done that in recent years, more often than not.

Add in the fact that this year's draft class offers a strong and deep class of ball carriers, and outside of perhaps Tennessee's Derrick Henry and L.A. Chargers' Melvin Gordon there doesn't figure to be big spending for running back talent.

"Everyone is talking about the wide receiver class in this draft," said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, "Even though we might only have one back in the first round, this is a really good running back class."

The other position that could have a soft market is the aforementioned wide receiver. With six to seven receivers projected to be first-round selections in this spring's draft, it could convince some teams that they don't need to pay a premium on the free agent market.

NFL clubs might see a high-end receiver entering his seventh or eighth NFL season as a bigger risk than an ultra-talented rookie with a high ceiling.

Couple that with a crop of free agent talent at the position that drops off steeply after the top tier and some free agent receivers might be waiting for the phone to ring longer than they anticipate.

With the free agency period opening on March 18, scroll through to see some of the most impactful free agent signings in team history.

What makes the most sense for Buffalo?

The vast majority of NFL analysts believe the Bills must still focus on improving their offensive production. Both general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have made it evident they realize their offense has to score more points.

But what should take priority in free agency for Buffalo?

Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey liked what John Brown and Cole Beasley did for Buffalo's offense as free agent additions last year, but he believes more is help is needed outside.

"The Bills could use a bigger, field-stretching wide receiver to complement the skills of Brown and Beasley," said Linsey. "On the season, Bills receivers caught just 40.3 percent of their contested catch opportunities (28th in the NFL). Adding someone who excels in those tight-window situations would give Josh Allen another weapon to work with."

Other NFL analysts believe protecting Josh Allen should be a top priority.

"The Bills brought in seven new offensive linemen for Josh Allen last season, and their young quarterback reaped the benefits of extra protection," said ESPN's Bill Barnwell. "Now the Bills need to figure out how they can get that line to the next level."

Barnwell believes there should be a free agent addition or two up front.

There are still others who think the Bills should spend significant money on a high-end pass rusher.

"There obviously aren't too many weaknesses on this Bills defense, yet there is a glaring need… pass rusher," said NFL.com's Adam Maya. "Shaq Lawson will test the market after his fifth-year option wasn't exercised, and even if he returns, it won't be enough. Buffalo, which has lacked an elite edge rusher for years, has the means to swing big this offseason."

Beane, in an appearance on the Eric Wood podcast, gave indication that his thoughts run parallel to most of those assessments.

"We have to be better on offense," said Beane. "We improved, but we have to take the next step. I have to continue to make sure our O-line is where it needs to be. We have a couple of guys there who could be free agents. And I have to give Josh more weapons with different skill sets so that they can complement each other. So we'll continue to do that. We also have a good defense and I think defense is very important. Most teams that win the Super Bowl have a good defense."

The only question is which of those needs is addressed first?

Related Content

Advertising