Why the Bills have made the “best value” signings this offseason

Bills General Manager Brandon Beane has proved that he is one of the best GMs

By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)

General Manager Brandon Beane has been one of the main catalysts in the complete turnaround of the Buffalo Bills organization. Part of what has made Beane so successful is not just his draft strategy and success but also the value signings he makes every offseason. Beane has been able to regularly fill small roles on Buffalo’s team through free agency signing players that are not too expensive or obvious. Beane has been able to fill out Buffalo’s roster with really solid free-agent additions every season. This offseason was harder for many because of the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, Beane showed his incredible ability to recruit very quality free agents to Buffalo without overpaying them. 

Before Beane’s tenure in Buffalo the Bills would often have to overpay free agents to come to Buffalo and that rarely ever panned out. In Beane’s first offseason he knew that big money signings were going to fail Buffalo. Instead, Beane and his scouting department found value players who had a chip on their shoulder to come into Buffalo and prove something. Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are the perfect examples. Poyer was largely unwanted by most NFL teams and the Packers thought Hyde was worth nowhere near what the Bills offered him. Four years later and both players have been extended and almost every team in the NFL wishes they could have a safety duo this strong. 

This offseason Brandon Beane has completed sixteen free agent signings, not including anyone who was signed to a futures/reserves deal. Beane has covered many positions and left some alone as he maneuvered through the 2021 offseason. While Buffalo was linked to several top players, they refused to pay any unreasonable amount for any player available. One of the big names Buffalo was after was JJ Watt. Watt ended up going to the Arizona Cardinals on a contract that was worth much more than what the Bills were willing to give him. This shows Beane’s patience and negotiating skills. Beane does not budge because he is confident that he will be able to get players of value regardless of if they are a top guy or not. Since there are so many signings, they will be discussed in similar position groupings. 

Quarterback/Running Back/Wide Receiver/Tight End

QB: Mitchell Trubisky

RB: Matt Breida

WR: Emmanuel Sanders and Brandon Powell

TE: Jacob Hollister

This grouping of players is mostly backups, but dang, they are some good backups. Mitchell Trubisky signed a one-year 2.5-million-dollar deal to sit behind Allen giving the Bills one of the best backups in the NFL. While Trubisky was a top draft pick he never panned out as a high-level starter. With that being said he certainly has the talent and capability to start in the NFL. Hopefully, Buffalo will not have to call his number because that would mean Allen is hurt but if that happens Buffalo’s offensive structure and talent will give Trubisky a way higher chance of success compared to what he was working with in Chicago. Not only is Trubisky a great backup but Buffalo got him for an incredible value. According to Spotrac, Trubisky’s market value sits at 8.3 million dollars per year which is over three times what Buffalo paid him. 

At Running Back Matt Breida brings the one thing that the Buffalo Bills lack at the position. Speed. Breida is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL and at his Pro Day in 2017 ran a 4.38 40-yard dash combined with a 42-inch vertical and 134-inch broad jump. Breida had a poor year in Miami last season only registering 59 carries, the lowest in his career. However, over four years in the NFL Breida has accumulated quite the stat line. 

440 carries, 2156 yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 4.9 yards per attempt, 76 receptions, 657 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns, and 125 total first downs. 

Breida may not be a starter, but he can certainly play a really solid backup/3rd down back role where his speed, explosiveness, and pass-catching are used as an asset for Buffalo. Oh yeah, Breida also signed for less than one million dollars in a running back market that saw Devontae Booker, Carlos Hyde, and James White all get a contract for at least 2.4 million dollars. 

Emmanuel Sanders is a player that Buffalo has been attempting to acquire through trade or signing for three years.

Now that Sanders is in Buffalo, he takes the role vacated by John Brown. Sanders is not only an upgrade from Brown, but he is a more versatile player who can be lined up both on the outside or inside of a formation. What makes this Sanders signing so valuable is that the Bills got a veteran wide receiver who not only will excel in their offense but also will be an extra safety net for Josh Allen. While John Brown was very successful as a Bill Sanders brings a strong ability to find open space against zone defenses and quick-twitch routes to get open in man coverage. Signing for only 6 million dollars Sanders will make nearly half as much as Will Fuller and Nelson Agholor…players that Sanders is arguably better than making this another strong value signing for Brandon Beane.

Brandon Powell is a simple signing for Buffalo. Powell has been in the league for two years but has spent more time as a returner than a receiver. Buffalo needs a new return man after letting All-Pro return man Andre Roberts walk in free agency because of his age. Powell will come into camp and compete with players like Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson for the return man job. A zero-risk signing that could end up playing a solid role for the Bills in 2021 if he can make the team. 

Tight End Jacob Hollister spent two years with the New England Patriots and two with the Seattle Seahawks. In 50 career games, Hollister has accrued 74 receptions, 652 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Most of that has come in the last two seasons where he has served as the backup tight end in Seattle. Hollister is a versatile player who can play tight end, H-back, or Fullback on offense. A former teammate of Josh Allen at Wyoming Hollister signed a one-year deal worth 1.2 million dollars. A deal that several other players who have much less NFL production than Hollister also received. Hollister was not one of the top tight-end free agents available. Regardless, he will play a really solid role on the Bills and his contributions will exceed his compensation from Buffalo. 

Offensive/Defensive Line

OT Bobby Hart

OG Jamil Douglas

OG Forrest Lamp

OG Steven Gonzalez

DE Efe Obada

DT Treyvon Hester

What is incredible about the signings that Brandon Beane made in the trenches is that only two of these players will likely make the 2021 roster. While all of them are talented enough to do so. 

Bobby Hart has had an extremely rough career at this point, but Buffalo signed him before they took two tackles back-to-back in rounds three and four the 2021 Draft. The Hart signing was more of a backup plan in case Buffalo did not take tackles in the draft. Do not expect Hart to have any chance of making the roster and Hart being cut will not cost the Bills a dime. 

Guards Jamil Douglas and Forrest Lamp are likely competing against each other for one of the backup guard spots on game day. Douglas has 46 games and 11 starts as a guard while bouncing around six different teams being cut eight different times. Douglas is a solid player who has shown some promise in his eleven starts but never any serious potential. Douglas brings good competition for Buffalos offensive line in training camp. Lamp on the other hand is a little more experienced starter after playing every single offensive snap for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020. In 2020, Lamp only committed one penalty. A former second-round pick Lamp did not get the chance to start until 2020 where he had a really solid season. 

With Lamp’s experience starting at an above-average level of play I would not be surprised if he was the top backup guard for Buffalo. Lamp is only making a mere 1.05 million dollars for Buffalo which is a steal for a player of his caliber. Lamp is far from an All-Pro but at a million dollars he is one of the best value backups on the Bills roster. 

Guard Steven Gonzalez played 50 games at Penn State and spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals in training camp. A camp body Gonzalez brings extra competition at the bottom of the Bills roster. 

Defensive end Efe Obada could be the most impactful signing by Brandon Beane this offseason. Obada joins Christian Wade as the second player on the Bills from the International Player Pathway Program. Last season in Carolina Obada had 5.5 sacks and 21 pressures while only playing 39% of defensive snaps. If Obada were to play 100% of the snaps his numbers were on pace for 14 sacks and 53 pressures which would have been 2nd best in the NFL in both categories. While playing 100% of the snaps is unrealistic it is just meant to show that Obada has some legit NFL potential. Obada has huge upside considering he has only played football since 2014, per Ben Coles of The Telegraph. As one could predict, Brandon Beane got Obada on a contract for much less than his peers with the same productions. Obada is only making 1.5 million next season. Obada is making less than players such as Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins, Jihad Ward who combined for 8.5 sacks with 770 more snaps combined too. Obada is entering a crowded room at defensive end but do not be surprised if at the end of the season he is being talked about has one of the best offseason moves in the NFL. 

Treyvon Hester has bounced around the league since being drafted in the 7th round by the Oakland Raiders. While he does not have a ton of NFL games to his name, he does have one of the most notable plays in the 2010s. The famous Double Doink by Cody Parkey which led to the Eagles beating the Bears 16-15 in the 2019 NFC Wild Card Game was tipped by Treyvon Hester. While this signing is likely meaningless because Hester has a tough road to the 53-man roster, he certainly brings solid competition to training camp. 

Linebackers/Specialists

LB Tyrell Adams

LB Marquel Lee

LB Mike Bell

LB Joe Giles-Harris

P Matt Haack

Buffalo returns all its linebackers from last season, so it is slightly surprising that Beane signed four of them in the offseason. While some of them may have a hard path to the 53-man roster several of these players could be used more as strictly special teams players as opposed to playing the linebacker position. 

The player with the best shot at making the roster is Tyrell Adams. In twelve starts for the Texans, last season Adams had 125 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Adams is more of a run stopper than a coverage backer as he did struggle in coverage last season allowing a 120-passer rating and 4 touchdowns when targeted. Marquel Lee is a former Las Vegas raider who racked up 104 tackles and 6 tackles for loss across 3 seasons where he made 19 starts at inside linebacker. Just like Adams, Lee is a more physical run-stopper how struggles in coverage. Both Adams and Lee could be additions in response to Buffalo’s poor defensive showing against the run last season however with the linebacker depth chart already quite full both will have to show strong special teams play in training camp to make the team. Both players are strong niche-type role players which Beane landed on low-risk minimum deals. 

Mike Bell and Joe Giles-Harris both took part in the Buffalo Bills rookie minicamp although neither were rookies. After the minicamp, both were signed to participate in the training camp. These guys are just camp bodies who do not have a chance to make the team but bring added competition to the linebacking room in training camp. 

Punter Matt Haack could be Beane’s most underrated signing on this list. Last season the Bills got incredible production statistically from Punter Corey Bojorquez. However, what Bojorquez excelled at was not the style of punter Buffalo desired. Bojorquez has a massive leg that can change flip the entire field if necessary. However, he barely qualified for leading the league in yards per punt because the Bills rarely punted. Bojorquez struggled with his precision punting which led to him not being resigned even after a strong year. Matt Haack is essentially the opposite of Bojorquez and exactly what Buffalo wants. A precision punter with extremely solid hang-time Haack seventh in the NFL with 26 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and he did that with only 2 touchbacks which were at least 3 touchbacks less than every punter who had more punts downed inside the twenty. Haack also finished tied fourth with 22 balls fair caught which was 20 more than Bojorquez had in 2020. 

This is such an underrated signing because it changes Buffalo’s special teams’ strategy. Because the offense is so explosive and rarely goes three and out Buffalo needs more precision than distance in their punts. With a punter who is elite at downing teams inside their twenty-yard line, Buffalo will be able to control field position much more effectively. Haack signed a three-year deal that pays him around 1.5 million dollars per year. That is half of what some of the top punters in the NFL get. Haack may not wow you with 70-yard bombs, but he will lock teams into bad field position when they face the Bills, and the ability to control field position that well is nearly priceless. Beane did a fantastic job of not only finding the right punter for the Bills but finding him at a steal of a price on a multi-year contract. 

Final Thoughts

Brandon Beane has shot from someone relatively unknown to the common football fan to the general manager that teams are trying to copy from when building a team. Beane has done a fantastic job building the Bills from the ground up and a very strong part of that is his strategy in free agency. Beane signs players knowing that the biggest names may not always have the biggest impact. Beane also tries to maximize the amount of competition at each position on the roster. For example, last season the Buffalo Bills struggled to sack the quarterback. Beane then signed Efe Obada for a bargain price and drafted two defensive ends. Beane’s ability to improve position groups while not mortgaging the Bills future is a talent that not many general managers have. Beane made a plethora of signings that could have a huge impact this season. Matt Breida, Emmanuel Sanders, Jacob Hollister, Efe Obada, Forrest Lamp, and Matt Haack could all make very significant contributions this coming season. What is so impressive about that is combined those six players are making twelve million dollars. 

All of this does not include the players that Brandon Beane was also able to retain in Buffalo this offseason. Linebacker Matt Milano had a market value of $13.8 million according to Spotrac and only has a cap hit of $7.8 million this season. Right Tackle Daryl Williams had a market value of $7.9 million and has a cap hit of only $6.1 million. Guard Jon Feliciano had a market value of $8.4 million and has a cap hit of only $3.2 million. Brandon Beane is not only a master in free agency but also at resigning players whose play warrants multi-year deals. A major reason why Buffalo has been so successful in recent years is that Beane never puts all his eggs in one basket and values adding competition across all positions as opposed to using all your cash to get one or two players. What Brandon Beane has done as general manager for the Buffalo Bills is being noticed by the league and there have already been other general managers beginning to use his style of building a team to replicate the success Beane has had with the Buffalo Bills. 

Brandon Beane is the reigning executive of the year in the NFL, and he starts his reign with an extremely strong offseason that featured some of the best value signings in the NFL. Beane did not overpay a single free agent and all of his multi-year deals have convenient outs for Buffalo after year one or two. Beane set out to bring tons of competition to Buffalo and is going to cut several NFL starting-caliber players to make his 53-man roster. Not many other teams in the league are cutting starting-caliber players but when the team is built on value signings where money is never really tied up that becomes the case.

*All player statistics are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

* All contract numbers are from Spotrac.com unless otherwise noted

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