Who Could Replace Trent Murphy?
By: Andy Davies
The Buffalo Bills go into the 2021 season after having a brilliant 2020 campaign, reaching the AFC Championship game but ultimately losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Head coach Sean McDermott will want to take his team one step further next season. The offense clicked all season but their defense, which was impressive in 2019, was largely inconsistent during 2020.
Arizona Cardinals defensive end Jordan Phillips led the Bills in sacks last season with 9.5 and Miami Dolphins defensive end Shaq Lawson was next with 6.5. Both these no longer play for the Bills and this was evident as Buffalo’s leader in sacks during the 2020 season was Linebacker A.J. Klein with 5.
Last season, Buffalo’s sack leader Phillips was tied for 19th in the league in sacks. This season, the Bills’ sack leader Klein was tied for 56th in the league for sacks recorded.
The Bills are missing that presence in their defense, something that could take them one step further.
Here are 5 edge rushers that the Buffalo Bills should target in the 2021 offseason.
1) Shaq Barrett (Linebacker)
This is a player every team should aim to get in free agency. He is arguably the best defensive player available in free agency. Barrett was the 2019 sack leader (19.5) and recorded another eight during the 2020 regular season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55. He adds something that Buffalo certainly lacked last season, being able to get to the quarterback with venom. Barrett was a force to be reckoned with in this season’s playoffs as he recorded four sacks, three of those coming against Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Barrett should certainly be a player that Buffalo looks at.
2) Bud Dupree (Linebacker)
Dupree was a huge miss for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played in the Steelers’ first ten games as they went 10-0. Dupree recorded eight sacks and two forced fumbles, ending the season 21st in sacks amongst the league despite only playing ten games. Dupree has particularly excelled in the past two seasons with 19.5 sacks and 85 tackles across 2019 and 2020. Aged 28, Dupree has plenty of life left in him, and having him for a full season in 2021 would be a real bonus for Buffalo should they go out and get him. Pittsburgh won their first game without Dupree as they went 11-0 but the season would then decide to unravel. It was clear that the Pittsburgh defense was missing something as well as the offense. As we would see with any of the players on this list, Dupree would be a significant upgrade for this Buffalo roster as he will be able to record sacks that the Bills lacked in 2020.
3) Yannick Ngakoue (Defensive End)
Ngakoue has been around the block of late, with time spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, and Baltimore Ravens during the past twelve months. Despite the off-the-field issues, Ngakoue has continued to excel on the field. He managed to record eight sacks, 23 tackles, and 4 forced fumbles in 13 games during the 2020 season. Throughout his NFL career, Ngakoue has recorded 45.5 sacks across his first five seasons. The 2016 69th overall pick has an average of 9.1 sacks a season, with 138 total tackles.
4) JJ Watt (Defensive End)
One of the true legends of the game. Watt has declined in recent years due to age and injury but is a leader. In 2020, he played in a struggling Houston Texans defense but could see a new lease of life in a team competing for the AFC Championship.
5) Gregory Rousseau (Defensive End)
This is a left-field one as the Miami Hurricane is expected to be gone way before the 30th pick that Buffalo holds. However, the Bills should look to trade up in their attempts to get arguably the best pass rusher prospect in this year’s NFL draft. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season but recorded 15.5 sacks in 2019, along with 54 total tackles, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles in the 13 games that he played.