Who could Buffalo pick up in the second wave of Free Agency?
The Buffalo Bills have been busy this summer and made several small signings while retaining most of the big names from the 2020 roster who were about to hit the market. General Manager Brandon Beane has resigned linebacker Matt Milano, tackle Daryl Williams, guard Jon Feliciano, linebacker Andre Smith, running back Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, and cornerback Levi Wallace. In the market, Buffalo added tight end Jacob Hollister, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, punter Matt Haack, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Brandon Beane has been busy and while he has slowed down after the first couple of days in free agency there are still plenty of players on the market who Beane could target.
Buffalo still has a couple of positions of need after the moves they have made this offseason. First, Buffalo still lacks a really solid starting cornerback to pair alongside Tre’Davious White. Levi Wallace has been functional however there is a reason that he only makes a million dollars per year. Additionally, on the defense, Buffalo lacks a serious pass-rushing threat next to Jerry Hughes. Hughes has been Buffalo’s best pass rusher during his whole tenure in Buffalo but has never had a partner that concerns an opposing team. Lastly, while Buffalo was able to retain Williams and Feliciano, they let some depth players on the offensive line walk in free agency. Both Ty Nsekhe and Brian Winters have signed with other teams and leaves Buffalo with less depth than Beane would like to have.
Malcolm Butler (Cornerback, Age: 31)
Buffalo is likely in the market for a veteran corner just like they were last season when they signed Josh Norman to compete with Levi Wallace. Norman ended up being Wallace’s backup so if Buffalo brings in another player it is likely a vet who is still a starting-caliber player. After Malcolm Butler signed a five-year contract with the Tennessee Titans in 2018, he was disappointing as the top corner on a team. However, he improved every season he was with Tennessee and had his best year yet in 2020. The Titans cut Butler because of their complicated cap situation making him a free agent. Butler is slightly undersized but in a Buffalo secondary that has three pro-bowl caliber players, Butler should be able to thrive in a role where he does not have to cover the most talented receiver on the opposing team with below-average safety help from his teammates. Buffalo cannot offer a significant amount of money, but neither can most teams who are serious contenders next season. If Butler cares more about winning than the money, he can sign a one-year deal with Buffalo and leverage that into one final larger multi-year deal before he retires.
Bruce Irvin (Defensive End, Age: 34)
Bruce Irvin is old and coming off an ACL tear in his final season as a Seattle Seahawk. While Irvin is an older end and would make Buffalo’s defensive end group quite old with Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes, and Bruce Irvin all being over 33 years old. However, Buffalo just needs a one-year fix until they can garner up enough cap space to either sign an elite pass rusher or develop one through the draft. There aren’t many players on the market that have not shown a significant decline over the past couple of seasons. Irvin is an exception. Due to injury, Irvin missed essentially all of the 2020 season but the three seasons before that he had a combined 23 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, and 41 quarterback hits. Across those three seasons, Irvin had essentially the same production every season. What makes this such a value signing is that Irvin is old and coming off an injury which always makes this a risk but also makes a potential deal so cheap. Even if Irvin is not his usual talent, he would be an above-average backup pass rusher and even that would help Buffalo who are thin at the position. In addition to that, Irvin has playoff experience and is another veteran who can help develop some of the young defensive line talents that Buffalo has.
Joe Dahl (Offensive Guard/Tackle, Age: 28)
Cut just weeks ago by the Detroit Lions Joe Dahl came into the NFL as a tackle and shifted to guard. With experience in both spots, he becomes a great backup lineman considering he can be shifted along with four spots. Dahl has never been a great lineman but with 21 starts under his belt, he certainly has enough NFL experience to handle his own in a small backup role.
Buffalo’s weakest spot on the offensive line is on the inside and we saw several different combinations of guards play due to injury or poor performance. Dahl would essentially replace Brian Winters in a backup role on the line and also offer some protection at the Tackle position as he can slide to the outside if any significant injuries happen to Buffalo’s tackles. Dahl is the perfect kind of player to be a depth option on Buffalo’s line and would give the Bills solid depth behind their starting five linemen.
While Buffalo is strapped for cash and certainly will not bring in three players of this caliber adding one of these players or a player similar to the players on this list is likely. As free agency goes on longer the market crashes for the middle of the pack veterans as the number of available spots on teams or in lineups dwindles due to more free agent signings and the NFL draft. It has been reported that the Bills have offered a significant number of free agents but with a very low amount of money so big names did not bite. In the second wave of free agency, there will be more older vets who are looking to be on a contending team for potentially one of their final seasons.