Cleat Geeks

On The Clock: Buffalo Bills 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the Buffalo Bills.

Team: Buffalo Bills
2015 Record: 8-8
Draft Pick: #19


Season Summary

rex-ryan-bills-15yrsWithin months of becoming the Buffalo Bills head coach, Rex Ryan’s notorious ambition seemingly rubbed off on his defense. During training camp, players such as Nigel Bradham and Marcell Dareus took to the media to say that they had the potential to be the best defense ever.

Unfortunately, those aspirations never cam to fruition. While the Bills defense was loaded with talent, it translated into a relatively average unit, ranking just 15th in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed. This ultimately resulted in an 8-8 finish to the season and marked the 16th straight year in which Buffalo failed to appear in the playoffs, which is now the longest active streak in professional sports.

Re-Signings & Cuts

After franchise tagging offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, the Bills are a bit strapped for cash, so they will likely have to let most of their other free agents walk this offseason. The most notable of these players are wide receiver Percy Harvin and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham.

Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

One player they should attempt to re-sign is offensive guard Richie Incognito. After bouncing around the league for a decade and stirring up controversy in Miami in 2013, Incognito came back to the NFL after a one-year hiatus. In his second stint with the Bills in 2015, he emerged into one of the NFL’s premier interior linemen, becoming a true mauler on the offensive line. Buffalo would definitely miss him if he leaves, but he may be a little out of their price range.

The Bills front offense was busy last week, making a flurry of moves in an effort to clear up some cap space. The most notable of these moves was releasing defensive end Mario Williams. He, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, and guard Kraig Urbik were all let go to create more than $15 million in cap space. Players such as tight end Charles Clay and safety Corey Graham also restructured their contracts in order to lower their cap hit for the 2016 season.

Maybe Buffalo can use some of this space to extend quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who won the starting job during training camp and never looked back.

Free Agency Needs

Thanks to some creativity from Buffalo’s accountants, they now have some wiggle room in regards to their cap space. At this time last week, the Bills were just $1.5 million under the cap, but that number has now increased to over $13 million. If they want to avoid running into similar cap issues down the road, it would be wise for the Bills to use some of this money to re-sign their own, and otherwise scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to free agents. The two positions I could see Buffalo shopping in free agency are wide receiver and defensive end, but once again, they shouldn’t go after any of the premier names.

Buffalo has a true #1 wide out in Sammy Watkins, but they are in desperate need of a #2. In fact, thanks to loss yardage due to sacks, Watkins finished one week with more receiving yards than his team had total passing yards. This really illustrates the drop off between Sammy Watkins and their second option. The Bills could get their potential #2 receiver in free agency without breaking the bank. Names like Jermaine KearseKamar Aiken, and Andre Holmes should all come with low price tags, and all have the potential contribute to this offense.

To replace Mario Williams, Buffalo could look to another veteran defensive end to come in and help their pass rush on a team-friendly deal. It depends on how much of a pay cut they would be willing to take, but Charles JohnsonChris Long, and Dwight Freeney all come to mind as potential candidates.

Potential Draft Picks

TreadwellIf the Bills don’t find a wide receiver in free agency, they could pair Watkins with another young playmaker such as Laquon TreadwellJosh Doctson, or Corey Coleman. Any three of these receivers could immediately fill the role as the Bills #2 receiver.

Offensive guard Cody Whitehair would be another good pickup in the first round. The Bills interior line is in need of an upgrade, and Whitehair can play either the guard or center position.

On the defensive side of the ball, Alabama’s Reggie Ragland is the kind of 3-4 inside linebacker the Bills need. They could also look to bolster their pass rush by drafting either Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson or Kevin Dodd. Interior defensive linemen that may draw the Bills interest include A’Shawn RobinsonSheldon Rankins, and Jarran Reed.

In round two, Buffalo would be smart to grab a wide receiver or defensive lineman – whichever they didn’t get in the first round. Wide receivers that may be available here include Mike Thomas and Braxton Miller. This draft is very deep defensive line, so quality starters such as Chris JonesVernon Butler, and Maliek Collins will likely be available in the second round.

braxtonMillerThe Bills have recently told the media that they view quarterback Tyrod Taylor as “average”, and they are considering selecting a quarterback in the draft. This is likely a negotiation tactic by the Buffalo front office, but if it is true, they could pull the trigger on Connor Cook in the second round. Another option would be waiting until the fourth or fifth round for Dak Prescott, though he is more of a developmental player who won’t be ready to start until at least his second or third season.

With running back LeSean McCoy likely to miss significant time next season due to an altercation at a Philadelphia bar, Karlos Williams will have to shoulder the load in his absence. He is a very talented runner, but the Bills may still look to draft a player to complement him in the mid-late rounds. Players such as Kenneth DixonPaul Perkins, and Aaron Green all come to mind.

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