Free agency in Buffalo looks a lot different this year than it has in seasons past. It's not because of the increased salary cap number. It's thanks to one player.
"If you get the franchise quarterback, life gets a lot easier both in free agency, the draft and in every other way of team building because you have that one key piece in place," NFL columnist Rick Gosselin said on One Bills Live.
Check and check. The Bills have exactly that. If any questions remained about Josh Allen's production, those were squashed this year after the world watched him do the unthinkable and give his team a chance to move onto the AFC Championship game.
"One could argue that Josh's performance in the divisional playoff game was just unbelievable," ESPN NFL analyst Greg Cosell said. "People and players understand that this is a quarterback league for the most part and if you don't have that guy, then too many other things have to go exactly right during the course of the season. Whereas if you have that guy, he can, in any given week or in any given stretch, compensate for and camouflage for any other concerns throughout your team."
That's Allen in a nutshell. His ridiculous athletic ability gave the Bills a chance in several games and situations that without him wouldn't have been possible. The small bubble of Buffalo has known this version of Allen for a couple of seasons but now, others are taking note.
Some players who have never envisioned themselves playing for a team who plays in sub 30-degree temps are now reconsidering because of Allen.
"If you ask me right now who the best player in the game is, it's Josh Allen," NBS Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. "We hear too many people who talk about it all the time, whether it's going to Tampa to play with Brady, Cincy because of Burrow or Kansas City because of Mahomes. Players are smart. They realize when there's a great quarterback you get a chance to win every game even if the team kind of fails to a degree."
"Whether it's young players that want that first shot at a ring or veterans that want that last shot at a ring, a quarterback like Josh Allen is the ultimate draw for talented free agents who want that opportunity," USA Today Touchdown Wire writer Mark Schofield added. "That's what puts Buffalo in a great position right now because when you have that elite quarterback that can deliver game in and game out, that's a huge draw for talent."
Playing for a guy like Allen or a team like the Bills doesn't just give players a chance to win, it also helps players understand their role from day one.
"When you have an exceptional top end, elite quarterback, it makes everyone else's positions far more known," NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund said. "For example, wide receivers have a better chance of knowing how they'll be used. You can map together your free agency and draft moves in such a way that really unites all the different things that they're doing."
Many call the quarterback the most important position in all of sports because of the impact they have. That impact is far greater than their ability to only put points on the board. It's an influence that can help a team become a complete team because of how it allows a general manager to fill out a roster.
While Allen is a big reason why Buffalo is an attractive place to play, there are more reasons than just QB1 that make Western New York a desirable destination.
"I think if you're a defensive player, Sean (McDermott) and Leslie (Frazier) make it a really attractive spot," Cosell said of Buffalo's head coach and defensive coordinator. "I know for a fact that those are two guys who are really highly respected around the league. And the way they coach as well, the manner in which they teach and coach is really attractive to players. So I think if you're a defensive guy, you would absolutely like to be part of that."
There aren't many rosters in the NFL that are as complete as Buffalo's when you look at their offense and defense. They finished the regular season ranking fifth on offense and first on defense. It's not easy to have that type of balance on both sides of the ball. The culture plays a part in that and has helped mold players to expect that level of play.
"If you look over the past few seasons, what Sean's done, all these different things, everyone's in lockstep," Frelund said. "It's a fun organization. It's not toxic. I'm around a lot of different organizations and this one is extremely egalitarian.
"People are valued, their opinions are valued, they feel as though they're a part of the team. It's a really special situation between the quarterback, GM, coaches and of these different pieces are really in alignment."
"One of our goals was to make the Bills, again, relevant to the point that people wanted to come here and wanted to play for the Bills," Bills head coach Sean McDermott shared. "I think that's huge, and we've done that, but it's also been because of the people. People want to come and play alongside of Josh Allen. People want to come and play alongside of the Tremaine Edmunds', the Micah Hydes, Stefon Diggs'. I could go on to probably half of our roster, that's really who helps build the culture."
It's Josh Allen, a top-tier defense, an incredible culture and a scouting department and coaching staff that combine together to form one of the most desirable places to play in the NFL right now. Buffalo is a hot ticket to get, and players are willing to make sacrifices to get in their foot in the door because of the opportunities that come with it.
"It's a chance to go get a ring," NFL on CBS Analyst Charles Davis said of the attraction of playing in Buffalo. "It's a big deal. And that means more to these guys than anything, I don't care who you are. It's a big-time destination.
"You've got 15 guys right now who are unrestricted free agents. I wouldn't be surprised if a good number of them are going to want to stay there. Look at Matt Milano last year. Think about what he did contract-wise because he wanted to be in Buffalo."
The free agency negotiation period begins on Monday, March 14. Several players who were on the team last season and are now free agents may do what they can to stay in a place that gives them a chance to win it all and play in some unforgettable games. Many other free agents may do what they can to come be a part of what they've heard is a great situation. Whatever you make of what's happening in Buffalo, it's thanks to years of hard work from the coaching staff, scouting department, several talented players and a quarterback who can take a team to new heights.