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What they're saying | Bills earn high marks for 2022 free agency moves

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Bills sit atop the NFL.com Power Rankings

No. 1 - Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 3

The huge contract given to Von Miller was a signal of desperation -- but not the bad kind for the defending AFC East champions. The Bills know they are right there. Miller was a difference-maker for the champion Rams, and he fills a significant void in Buffalo's defense. The Bills gave Miller, who turns 33 later this week, a deal they'll probably regret down the line from a financial perspective ... but they'll happily live with the bloat if the future Hall of Famer helps finally bring a Lombardi Trophy to Western New York. The Bills are all in, and Miller is the type of playmaker who can put them over the top

Which is the most improved team after free agency and other moves over the past two weeks?

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst:Buffalo Bills. The Bills added a game-changer in pass-rusher Von Miller, while defensive tackles Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones bolster the interior of the front. Buffalo upgraded the defensive line here to keep the AFC's top quarterbacks in check and make a Super Bowl run.

The Bills Super Bowl window is …

Buffalo Bills: Open

Cowherd's thoughts: "They had the No. 1 scoring defense … and they added Von Miller. … They're very much at the top of a wide-open Super Bowl window. They may have their window more open than anybody. They're still not paying Josh Allen big money yet."

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Draft grades for Von Miller/O.J. Howard

Von Miller to the Buffalo Bills: A

In the end, the 2021 Buffalo Bills' defense could not keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs' furious offense at the end of regulation, or in overtime, of their divisional-round loss to Patrick Mahomes and friends. Perhaps they were one defender away from doing so, and in the end, possibly getting to the franchise's first Super Bowl since the 1993 season.

It appears that general manager Brandon Beane is all over the "one defender short" theory, because the Bills just gave future Hall of Fame edge-rusher Von Miller a six-year, $120 million contract.

Now, Miller turned 33 in February, so you'd expect the actual money to be a bit different. Basically, it is as front-loaded with guarantees as you'd expect.

The Bills are not the first team to bet on Miller short-term, and the results in 2021 were definitive.

O.J. Howard to the Buffalo Bills: B-

… So he'll get to play with Josh Allen, which is a plus, but the Buffalo Bills carved out an even bigger role last year for Dawson Knox in their offense. Beyond that, Buffalo relies heavily on 11, 21 and even 10 personnel, as they rolled out two or more tight ends on just 121 offensive snaps last season, accounting for just 9.6% of their snaps.

So Howard likely serves as a depth option behind Knox in Buffalo. A talented player, but not a signing that moves the needle a ton. Still, he adds depth and the Bills did not exactly break the bank for him, and there is value in having another option behind Knox.

Bills earn high grade for Von Miller signing

GRADE: A-

Sean McDermott has been on a pass rushing tear of late, adding Greg Rousseau, Carlos Basham and A.J. Epenesa in the past two drafts. The intention was clear: if we ever get back to the same playoff game against the Chiefs again, let's just sack Patrick Mahomes on all 65 snaps.

McDermott was a trendsetter in the recent coverage-heavy revolution, which means he needs more pure pass rushing talent to put away games that Josh Allen hands them in the first three quarters. Miller will be especially and perfectly potent in this defense. The Bills' safety tandem already forces quarterbacks to hold onto footballs for far longer than they need to. Not that Von Miller needs any extra time (just watch the Rams' playoff run).

ESPN likes the Von Miller signing for the Bills

Grade: B+

I mean, it's a lot of money for a guy who turns 33 later this month, but there are a couple of very specific reasons to like this move for this team.

First and foremost, having lost to Kansas City in the playoffs two years in a row (and in agonizingly close fashion this year), the Bills rightfully consider themselves on the verge of the Super Bowl. Miller has played on two Super Bowl champion teams, including the most recent one. Rams people you talk to cite the addition of Miller at last year's trade deadline as their most impactful veteran acquisition since he gave their locker room a veteran champion presence it hadn't had before. Energized by a chance to win a title, Miller was a valuable asset to the Rams on and off the field, and they believe he elevated them from a great team to a championship team. Certainly, that's something the Bills could use, if he can be the same guy for them he was for the Rams.

Second, and not to be ignored, is the fact that the Bills are trying to get a new stadium built that will involve a lot of public financing, and it's to their benefit to keep enthusiasm for the team as high as possible. It's not just signing Miller for star power (though he has plenty of that). Letting the fan base know, "Hey, we're going for it. We aren't content to just keep getting this close every year" is helpful for trying to make taxpayers feel better about shelling out to help build billionaires a new stadium. We expected the Bills to make a splashy move or two this offseason for that reason, and this is a splashy one. There could be more to come, but Miller fills a wide variety of Buffalo's needs and desires. -- Graziano

What this means for the 2022 draft: Even after drafting pass-rushers with their first two selections last year, this was a need for the Bills. With wide receiver expected to be a focus in Round 1, the Bills are free to draft there now. Jameson Williams, Chris Olave and Treylon Burks all fit the need and value. – Miller

PFF pleased with Bills' free agency moves

BUFFALO BILLS: ABOVE AVERAGE

The Bills addressed a weak spot of their defense in a major way, as the Miller signing overshadowed two additional strong acquisitions on the interior in Jones and Settle. An underrated component of the Miller addition is his run defense prowess, as he's never earned a run defense grade below 80.0 in his career. Over the last two seasons, Buffalo's run defense grade (45.2) ranks 23rd.

Buffalo also continued their recent trend of turning over the guard spots, adding Saffold in the process, whose 80.0 run-blocking grade over the last five seasons ranks eleventh among guards.

The loss of Wallace to the Pittsburgh Steelers is notable, especially at two-year, $8 million price tag. Obviously, the Bills know their former 2018 undrafted free agent signing better than anyone, but with star cornerback Tre'Davious White still on the mend from an ACL torn late in the 2021 season, outside corner becomes the thinnest unit in Buffalo.

Bills get high marks for free agent acquisitions

Buffalo Bills: A

Key additions: QB Case Keenum (Browns), TE O.J. Howard (Buccaneers), OG Rodger Saffold (Titans), DE Shaq Lawson (Jets), DT Tim Settle (Commanders), DT DaQuan Jones (Panthers), OLB Von Miller (Rams); key re-signings: WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie, CB Siran Neal

Von Miller will be a huge difference-maker for an already-stout defense, even if his deal was bigger than expected. They basically swapped out Daryl Williams for Saffold, which isn't an obvious upgrade. But Settle is another solid pickup for the D-line, as is Howard for the offense, giving Josh Allen a high-upside Dawson Knox complement.

ESPN tabs Bills as winners of free agency

Winners: Buffalo Bills

As usual, the Bills seem to have a coherent, thoughtful plan for the free-agent period. They've done a few reasonable deals to retain players, including center Mitch Morse (two years, $19.5 million), cornerback Siran Neal (three years, $9 million) and Isaiah McKenzie (two years, $4.4 million), who should step into the slot receiver role about to be vacated by Cole Beasley.

The Bills don't have a ton of cap space, but I also like the moves they've made outside the organization. Bringing in Rodger Saffold III from the Titans gives Buffalo a solid starting guard and a replacement for Daryl Williams, who was cut one year into his three-year extension. DaQuan Jones' two-year, $14 million deal nets Buffalo the third defensive tackle it needed after losing Harrison Phillips to the Vikings.

Brandon Beane & Co. have generally been content to shop in the middle class of free agency for the majority of the GM's tenure. It has usually worked. Sean McDermott and his coaching staff deserve plenty of credit for getting more out of players in Buffalo than their former organizations, but the Bills continue to make the sort of reasonable moves they employed to climb to the top of the AFC East.

The Bills are big winners in Free Agency

Winner: Buffalo Bills

In this highly subjective exercise, judging the Buffalo Bills is largely a reflection of how you grade the Von Miller signing.

Spoiler alert: Love it.

While the flashy numbers are six years and $120 million, Spotrac noted it's practically a three-year, $53 million deal. Miller, in theory, becomes the high-end pass-rusher that Buffalo didn't have in 2021. Only one Bills player registered more than four sacks last season; Miller notched four in the postseason alone.

Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips headed to the Minnesota Vikings, and the Bills released Star Lotulelei for cap reasons. Yet they added Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips there, then replaced offensive guard Jon Feliciano with Rodger Saffold.

Buffalo still needs a cornerback, but the two-time reigning AFC East champs are moving in the right direction.

PFF thinks this under-the-radar signing could pay off big for the Bills

BUFFALO BILLS SIGN DI TIM SETTLE FOR TWO YEARS

If the Settle signing wasn't "under the radar" when it was signed, it is after the six-year, $120 million deal Buffalo recently struck with Von Miller.

Settle hasn't been able to find the field consistently through the first four seasons of his NFL career, but a lot of that has to do with the names in front of him on the depth chart in Washington — Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis. Settle has impressive flashes as a pass-rusher on his tape for a player coming in at over 325 pounds and has earned PFF pass-rushing grades north of 72.0 in each of the last two seasons.

The Bills should offer more opportunity for Settle to build on that success in a limited role after Harrison Phillips left for Minnesota in free agency. Settle will still have to compete for snaps with Ed Oliver and fellow free agent signings DaQuan Jones and Jordan Phillips, but there is plenty of reason to be excited about his upside in Buffalo at $4.5 million per year.

Here's a list of players the Bills have signed in free agency this year.

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