ORCHARD PARK (AP) – After three consecutive seasons of turning the bills into AFC competitors, Brandon Beane isn’t making big promises this year.
Though the bills have needs, the general manager explicitly emphasized a desire to expand Buffalo’s line of defense and improve a sputter barrel attack, stressed Beane that he needed to be more creative and frugal.
As with many NFL teams, the Bills have less wiggle room as the NFL’s salary cap is expected to fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beane said the bills have already tied nearly $ 175 million in salaries for the next season, which is close to the lowest forecast where the cap could be set once the league’s new fiscal year kicks off in March.
“This will not be a free agency where we can be aggressive,” said Beane on Wednesday in a one-hour video press conference at the end of the season. “We’re going to fill a few holes here and there. But I wouldn’t expect any blockbuster moves. “
He’s enjoyed many of them through a series of franchise changes that began with Buffalo selecting quarterback Josh Allen on the first round of drafting for 2018, followed by recipients Cole Beasley and John Brown signing in the free agency for a year later and ends with the takeover of receiver Stefon Diggs in a deal with Minnesota in March.
The steps were critical in building a team that had a breakthrough season in which Buffalo (15-4) won its first AFC East title in 25 years and appeared in its first conference championship since 1994.
And yet the Bills received a sobering reminder of how separated they are from reaching the Super Bowl after a 38:24 loss to defending champions Kansas Chiefs on Sunday.
“They’re the gold standard,” said Beane, referring to the chiefs. “They were clearly better than us. We definitely have work to do. “
Last off-season, Beane put more emphasis on scoring more points after a 22:19 loss in Houston in a wildcard playoff, leading him to win Diggs for a first-round draft pick.
The move paid off immediately. The Bills set a team record of 501 points and Diggs became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in catches (127) and yards (1,535).
That postseason, Beane cited losing to the Chiefs as exposing Buffalo’s shortcomings in the season from being unable to play the ball consistently and an undersized defensive front struggling to stop the run and quarterbacks under pressure to put.
“Maybe a little more balance of the running game, and I’m not saying you run it 20 times, throw it 20 times,” said Beane. “I’m just saying the ability to do it when you have to.”
Take Josh Allen’s 88 yards away on Sunday and the bills only made 41 against KC. Overall, Buffalo has reached 100 yards just nine times this season, including playoffs, after having done 13 times in 17 games last year.
Beane was careful not to put the blame on just the setbacks for Devin Singletary and rookie Zack Moss, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, saying it was an entire team problem. Buffalo’s offensive line spent much of the season in the river due to injuries and production.
On the line of defense, Beane said, “We were probably still a little light for my comfort.”
The Bills were forced to retool their front lines after losing Jordan Phillips at the free agency and star Lotulelei unexpectedly dropped out on COVID-19 in July. The lack of size resulted in linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano battling through more blockers to stop the run.
Coach Sean McDermott raised similar concerns the day before, immediately saying, “We need to be able to play football better.”
On defense terms, he expected production to decline due to the off-season headcount losses and focused on Buffalo upgrading its offensive and specialty teams. Yet McDermott acknowledged that defense was not a complementary role at times.
Beane declined to learn details of contract-related issues regarding pending vacant agents or when he could start negotiations with Allen, who enters his fourth year of his rookie contract. Buffalo also has the right to keep Allen during the 2022 season by exercising its fifth year option this spring.
Allen has had a season setting numerous franchise scoring and passing records and finished fourth in the NFL with a 69.2 percent completion rate, a 10.4% jump from last year.
Milano is Buffalo’s most famous player to be admitted to the free agency this offseason, followed by attacking linemen Jon Feliciano and Darryl Williams.
“We would like to get Milano back. He knows that, ”said Beane, discovering the player had missed time with an injury for the past three seasons, including five games this year. “Unfortunately there are going to be some tough decisions for us to make, whether to put guys on this squad or watch guys leave.”