Last week, I published my post-combine mock draft projecting the Bills’ picks Rounds 1-5. It is now literally useless.
GM Brandon Beane has been wheeling and dealing as we have transitioned into the legal tampering period and official start of free agency. These moves have unequivocally altered the direction that the franchise will take in the draft, with major short and long-term ramifications. Here’s a recap of what they’ve done thus far.
Anyone with a remote understanding of the Bills’ direction (or a pulse) has anticipated that Tyrod Taylor would not be a Bill beyond 2017. However, with a year remaining on his deal, Beane was able to turn him into the first pick of the third round. Now, Taylor is headed to the most QB-needed franchise, potentially ever, in Cleveland, a team flush with draft picks that could easily afford to send one across Lake Erie. Beane did well in getting a valuable asset for Taylor, a pick that can now be used on shoring up any remaining holes on defense, many of which have been filled over the past few days. In signing McCarron, Buffalo adds a respected signal caller to the depth chart, leapfrogging Nathan Peterman. Ironically, McCarron is headed to Buffalo rather than Cleveland, a transaction that seemed to have come to fruition before last year’s trade deadline, but ultimately did not transpire. McCarron has little NFL experience in his tenure backing up Andy Dalton: in his best season, in which he played in four games due to a Dalton thumb injury, he completed 66% of his throws and threw six touchdowns and two interceptions. With a limited sample size, his ceiling is unknown. However, what we can gather from his contract is that the Bills do NOT view him as a true starter. Instead, look for Buffalo to draft a quarterback in the first round (more on that shortly) and have a training camp competition to determine the Week 1 starter.
Acquired Cincinnati Bengals first round pick (#12 overall) and sixth round pick (#187 overall) in exchange for T Cordy Glenn, the Bills first round pick (#21 overall) and fifth round pick (#158 overall)
This trade made sense for the Bills on so many levels. In dealing Glenn, Buffalo freed up almost $5 million in cap space that they utilized to make several signings on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, with Glenn out of the picture, the team is showing their confidence in second-year left tackle Dion Dawkins. Despite his production, Glenn was banged up for most of 2017 and eventually landed up on the IR- this gave Dawkins the opportunity to start 11 games and ensure his role in the team’s future plans. With Dawkins’ skillset, Glenn essentially became disposable, especially given the team’s vacancies at other crucial positions. Furthermore, trading a franchise-caliber left tackle certainly reaps the benefits, evidenced by Cincinnati’s virtual acquiescence to move down 9 slots in the first round. Now, Buffalo has picks 12 and 22, and the team will draft a quarterback. Beane can go with one at either of the spots, or package them both to move up in the draft, potentially to a slot as high as the Giants’ second overall pick. Cleveland, much like Buffalo, will now likely select a quarterback with their first overall pick and have him compete with Taylor to start. Depending on who they would select as a trade partner, the Bills could select whoever remains of the top four quarterbacks in the 2018 class: Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield.
Agreed to terms with DT Star Lotulelei on a 5 year, $50 million deal
In my now defunct mock draft, I highlighted the need for Buffalo to get help on the interior defensive line. Resigning mainstay Kyle Williams helps, but alone does not solve anything: bringing in big Star Lotulelei, one of Coach McDermott’s guys from his days in Carolina, certainly does. Lotulelei should slide right in to the role previously occupied by Marcell Dareus, who Beane traded to Jacksonville last season. The 6’2”, 2013 fist rounder will clog up the middle and force offensive line attention, freeing up space for linebackers and outside pass rushers. The biggest criticism of Lotulelei in his time as a professional has been his underwhelming athleticism- while valid, athleticism is an attribute the Bills are not asking him to distribute. Simply being a powerful nose tackle who can stop the run, create spacing for the men behind him, and using his frame as leverage to obstruct intermediate routes across the middle of the field will suffice. Another thing to note: the contract made Lotulelei Buffalo’s highest paid player.
Agreed to terms with S Rafael Bush on a 2 year deal worth up to $4.5 million
Last year, the team signed two safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde: both turned out to be major hits, and will return as starters on team friendly contracts. Nevertheless, the Bills had little to no depth behind their two free agent acquisitions. This issue is addressed in signing Bush, a veteran free safety who played in 16 games, two in the playoffs, for the Saints last season. Bush had success with the Detroit Lions in 2016, recording 34 tackles and 2 interceptions while playing a full season; however, he only played 17% of the Saints’ defensive snaps last season, but was notably productive when taking the field. The nature of this contract suggests the Bills view him as a depth piece, and his experience should contribute to an already strong safety group.
Agreed to terms with DE Trent Murphy on a 3 year, $21 million deal (up to $9 million in incentives)
This contract, while fairly pricey for a player coming off a PED suspension and a torn ACL in 2017, was a necessary one. Murphy, a 2014 second round pick, has served mostly as an outside linebacker in his four years with the Redskins, but will play defensive end in McDermott’s scheme. Pass rush was an issue for the Bills last season, and Murphy will help alleviate concerns about the front four’s ability to get to the quarterback. Murphy is expected to line up opposite of Jerry Hughes, the one bright spot in Buffalo’s edge attack in 2017. At 6’6”, 259 punds, Murphy is an imposing force who, performance-depending, might cause Shaq Lawson to lose playing time. As a first-round pick, Lawson has not lived up to expectations, and Buffalo hopes that signing Murphy serves as a wake-up call to the former Clemson standout.
Agreed to terms with LB Julian Stanford on a 2 year deal ($550K guaranteed, up to $3 million in incentives)
The Bills need help at the linebacker position: outside of quarterback, it’s arguably the biggest need that remains. However, while Stanford is listed as a linebacker, don’t expect him to be lining up often for McDermott and DC Leslie Frazier. The six-year veteran has only 69 career tackles, so defensively, he is merely rostered for depth. Instead, he was mostly a special teamer for the Jets last season, playing on 82% of their snaps and wreaking havoc on kick and punt returns. Stanford should carve out a similar niche throughout his tenure in B