During the NFL Scouting Combine Bills general manager Brandon Beane spoke with media and shared what he expected out of free agency for his team. Beane shared he wasn't planning on making any big splashes but would assess the talent available and try to retain some of their own.
Just over two weeks later, Beane couldn't help but make a big splash.
"If I do see the opportunity to land someone that I believe can help us at a critical position, I'm gonna take a swing," Beane said on Friday afternoon.
The Bills GM swung for the fences and inked a pass rusher in Von Miller to a six-year deal.
"I don't ever plan to be a big spender," Beane shared. "I want to build and grow our own but I'm never going to shy away from seeing if there's something there. And in this case, we all watched this guy down the playoff stretch and what he's shown he's still got. I've seen pass rushers in the history of the NFL do well late into their career and into the end of their 30s.
"I get the question of this guy's in his early 30s, but you didn't see anything down the stretch with the Rams that said he doesn't have it or he's declining by any means. So that's why it made sense."
Adding a player who has 115.5 career sacks makes sense for any team. But it also had to make sense on Miller's end. Just over a month ago the 11-year veteran won a Super Bowl with the Rams and had the opportunity to stay in Los Angeles.
Instead, Miller wanted to see if Buffalo might be interested.
"Von's agent, he reached out at the time and told us," Beane said. "You never know where someone's interest level is going to be. In the past, I have checked on Von when he was in Denver."
Choosing Buffalo over LA is a big deal. Choosing any team over another is a big deal, and Beane understands that. He wanted to make sure Miller wasn't rushed into signing anything and had the time to tour the facility and get a feel for the place and the people before putting pen to paper.
"He wanted to make sure before he put his name on the contract that he was all in," Beane said of Miller. "And again, when he signed it, he was all smiles and excited to be here. I appreciated how he went through it. He was very open and honest that he wanted to get here and know this was the right thing for him."
Bills players rushed to reach out to Miller to welcome him to the team and they also made sure Beane knew how pumped they were to have a big-time player coming to Buffalo.
"Josh and Stef were excited, and I heard from some others," Beane said. "Tre White gave me a big hug….I think the guys, just like fans, get excited. We all get excited. We all want to add good players and a guy that's got the skins in the game with what he's done in his career, those guys are hard to get."
Signing one of the best players in the NFL to a six-year deal isn't easy when you only have a certain amount of cap space to work with. Beane said he and his department wanted to be ready for something like this even before it happened.
"Obviously, with a number this big you have to get even more creative not only with his deal, but with some other deals," Beane shared. "And so, we started that kind of early on knowing that potentially we could be in on him or another player of that caliber. We've got to structure some other things so that if we do land the player, we can fit it within our cap."
Beane said with a move like this they can get creative by pushing voids or restructures to hit in different years. One thing he wanted to be certain of was making sure they are in a position to be a consistent contender that doesn't have to release 10 players a year just to stay under the cap.
They were willing to work with Miller on a long contract because of the void they feel he will fill.
"I think we're just going to get so much from him," Beane said. "He's a true pro. Obviously he is a heck of a player. Maybe on the field, that closer, that finisher.
"This guy knows how to get to the quarterback. It's proven. He's done it 115 or whatever times. We don't have that on our roster, and this was the only way to get it."
The team hopes Miller will make an immediate impact on the field, and they also expect his veteran presence will benefit young players like Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa.
"He's going to really help these guys, not only because he's out there, but just teaching them," Beane said. "How to rush, tricks, how to read what a tackle is doing. Is he in a run stance, pass stance, what queues is he giving."
A colossal move like this just further proves that Buffalo has become a destination and a team that many want to experience.
"It's exciting to me that the city of Buffalo got chosen over the glamour of L.A. or Dallas or some of these other cities," Beane shared. "That hasn't always been the case, and I think it's cool for our city. I think it's cool for the Pegulas. It's exciting for our community. Hopefully, we'll continue to do things that people will say, 'Hey, I want to be a part of that.'"
A two-time Super Bowl champion in Von Miller chose the Bills over several other teams because that's where he believes he can earn his third ring. That says a lot about how far Beane, Bills head coach Sean McDermott, Bills players and coaches have come since their first season in 2017.
How J.D. McKissic ended up back with Washington
Lots of interactions, conversations and moves happen over the course of free agency. As a team, you hope it all goes in your favor. But sometimes that's not the way it works out.
Buffalo had shown interest in running back J.D. McKissic but after reports came out that McKissick would be a Bill, news quickly changed to show he would instead go back to Washington.
"That was tough," Beane said. "Obviously he was a guy we targeted and in this business, in general, when you have an agreement, it's good. But until there's ink on the paper, and his agent did a great job. Doug Hendrickson and CJ LaBoy did a great job.
"There were some things that went down with the other organization, which is painful, but they chose to do what they did, and I couldn't stop it."
Beane didn't want to get into details of how the whole situation unfolded but he did explain how a deal usually comes together on both sides.
"I've had it before where the agent has agreed with you on something and then someone else calls," Beane said. "And they say, 'Hey, what if I add a million dollars? Or what if I do this? What if I guarantee this?' Once you have an agreement the agent's supposed to say it's over. And this agent did that.
"This agent told the other club it's over. But the other club didn't back off."
Von Miller, Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips and OJ Howard + others arrive in Buffalo to sign their contracts.
Will the Bills target a backup quarterback during free agency?
The Bills still have some holes left on their roster ahead of the NFL Draft at the end of April. One of those holes is at backup quarterback after Mitchell Trubisky and Davis Webb signed with new teams. Beane expects to fill that hole soon.
"I've got some things in the works for there," Beane said of the backup quarterback position. "Hopefully early next week we'll have that resolved, but we do have some things. It's an important position. I feel pretty good that we're going to find the right fit."
What will the rest of free agency look like?
Free agency isn't over just yet, and the Bills will likely make a few more moves before they turn their attention to the draft. With cornerback Levi Wallace signing a contract in Pittsburgh, the Bills might look to add some depth to that position group.
"We're still looking," Beane said of the cornerback market. "You try and fill as many needs as you can, with the resources. You take a swing for Von, you've got to be thinner somewhere else to do that. So, we're going to look.
"There are still corners out there. There is a long process, as I talk to the coaches. The main thing is to get this roster set by training camp, and if it's not set then, I'll keep looking to make sure we're ready to go at least by September."
Beane already made a big splash by bringing Von Miller to Buffalo. Can we expect Beane to be a big spender anywhere else? I would say it's not looking likely but you never know what Beane has cooking.
"We're shopping, please come to us for as cheap as you can, right now," Beane said with a laugh. "We're trying to tell people, sell opportunity, come here and we'll help you improve your value for next year."
Here's a list of players the Bills have signed in free agency this year.