The 2021 season has just ended, and from March 16, the 2022 campaign will open its doors. Touchdown Actu therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Buffalo Bills.
Among the favorites in the AFC, the Bills were there for the playoffs but fell for the second consecutive year against the Chiefs. Explosive offense, best defense in the league, the Bills lack almost nothing. Still, the team fails to break the glass ceiling and reach the Super Bowl. Just a matter of time?
1. Josh Allen (QB)
2. Stefon Diggs (WR)
3. Tre’Davius White (BC)
4. Micah Hyde (S)
Author of a solid new season, although less flamboyant than the previous one, Josh Allen has established himself as one of the best in his position. To his 4,400 passing yards, he added more than 760 on the run. But in addition to being statistically efficient, he is above all the soul of the Bills. A true leader, he pulls his people up. The arrival of Stefon Diggs in Buffalo coincides with the transformation of the quarterback into a star. The receiver has created with Allen one of the most lethal and prolific partnerships in the NFL. No more sulking, Diggs now fully assumes its status. At just 28 years old, he still has many good years ahead of him, to the delight of Josh and Buffalo.
Injured during the year, Tre’Davious White left a big void in the Bills’ backfield. His presence might have offered a different outcome to the crazy end of the match against the Chiefs. In the top 3 in his position for several seasons, White is, by his regularity and his reliability, a weekly insurance for the Bills. Another long-distance player, Micah Hyde has shined since he was in Buffalo. Player under side and too often forgotten when one quotes the best safety of the league, he has like his teammate cornerback put the regularity at the center of his force. Against the ground or in the air, Hyde is always effective and a pillar of his defense.
– Star Lotuleilei (DT)
– Jon Feliciano (G)
Buffalo has already started to make room on its payroll by releasing veteran linebacker AJ Klein. Man of confidence of Sean McDermott who brought him from Carolina where they had already collaborated, Star Lotuleilei does not have the radiation expected since his contract extension. Between “opt out” due to the covid and performance sawtooth, the player is struggling to justify his contract. The option to part ways after June 1 would free up $4 million for the franchise.
Extended last year for 3 seasons, Jon Feliciano was to be a solution to the position of guard, but demoted to the bench during the season, the lineman seems to have had his day in Buffalo. With no money guaranteed in 2022, it was logically cut to clear nearly 3.5 million in payroll.
The summer man
Gabriel Davis (WR)
Unlucky hero of the overtime defeat against the Chiefs in the 2nd round of the playoffs, Gabriel Davis had scored the match of his class, with a whopping 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. With the departures of Sanders and McKenzie, he should take on a bigger role in 2022. After two first seasons as a back-up, the former Central Florida member must now prove he can be a true, capable number two. to be regular and to collect the yards.
The main free officers
1. Levi Wallace (CB)
2. Jerry Hughes (DE)
3. Mario Addison (DE)
4. Harrison Phillips (DL)
5. Emmanuel Sanders (WR)
The others: Mitchell Trubisky (QB), Isaiah McKenzie (WR), Matt Breida (RB), Taiwan Jones (RB), Ike Boettger (OL), Bobby Hart (OT), Efe Obada (DE), Bryan Cox (DE) , Justin Zimmer (DL), Vernon Butler (DT)
Undrafted player, Levi Wallace has managed to find a place in the formidable defense of the Bills in which he has become an important link. Even rising to the challenge this season of replacing Tre’Davious White as number one cornerback after the latter’s injury. At 26, the player logically claims a contract worthy of his talent. Despite his role, the franchise should not offer him an extension given the large contracts of the other 3 holders of the defensive backfield.
In Buffalo for 9 years, Jerry Hughes has long carried his defensive line alone. But now 33 years old and after a season where his impact and his role have diminished, he should not return. With the young guard of pass rushers drafted over the past two years, his succession is already assured. Same observation for Mario Addison who has perfectly fulfilled his mission for two seasons. Soon to be 35 years old, he will also give way to the emergence of Greg Rousseau and the others. The interior of the defensive line will be a major project this offseason. In addition to many changes to the exteriors, the interior will also be remodeled. If the Vernon Butler case is not in doubt given his very poor performance since his arrival, Harrison Phillips has largely proven his importance in the rotation advocated by Sean McDermott. An extension should be in the strings of the Bills who could welcome the return of this duty player.
The freelance was rather successful, even if after a strong start to the season the role of Emmanuel Sanders and his contribution in the attack have rather diminished. At 35, the receiver could continue his NFL tour on another team and let young targets like Davis get bigger. Isaiah McKenzie could for his part re-enlist. Very useful on kick return, it can also play a role in rotation.
Top 5 Needs
1. Defensive tackle
Considering Lotuleilei’s contract status and contract endings, the defensive line needs a big facelift. Ed Oliver performs but struggles to fully justify his status as the 7th draft pick. The addition of one or more talents at his side could allow him to free himself and maximize his potential. A good defender against the run would be particularly welcome. Whether through free veterans or through the draft, the position will be considered.
If the running game showed encouraging signs at the end of the season, the addition of strong forces on the inside of the offensive line could only be a plus to allow Devin Singletary and Zach Moss to express themselves better. Cody Ford did not win and even if Ike Boettger helped out, he only seemed to be a transitional solution and ended the season injured.
Given his injury, White may not be back for the replay or not be 100% for several weeks of competition. With the possible departure of Wallace, and a Taron Johnson positioned in the slot, the team could then suffer from a cruel lack of talent on the exteriors of its secondary. On the last curtain, even if they remain one of the best safety duo in the league, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are both over 30 years old. Predicting their future succession seems like an idea worth exploring.
The rise of Dawson Know in 2021 is not enough to fill all the gaps from which the Bills suffered. When he is absent, the team struggles to find him an alternative. Beyond an additional target, a blocker profile that can help block on the run phases could not be a bad thing.
BJ Hill (DT)
By reworking a few contracts, the Bills could have enough leverage to attract a player who can be an immediate starter. After an honorable start to his career at the Giants, BJ Hill took on a new dimension in 2021 at the Bengals. Luxury liner most of the season, he maximized his playing time with 50 tackles including 5.5 sacks and 12 Qb hits. Excellent against the run, he has largely contributed to the progress of his team in this area. Help that could be invaluable for a Buffalo line that has not always been flawless in the field in recent seasons and could also lose several important contributors. His potential association with Ed Oliver is enticing on paper.
The new blood
Trent McDuffie (BC)
Coming from a university renowned for its cornerbacks (with the exception of Kevin King), Trent McDuffie has the profile and the potential to start as soon as he enters the NFL. Excellent in zone defense and a formidable tackler, he fits perfectly with the defensive system advocated by Sean McDermott. Explosive and intelligent, he excels against the run. If he is not yet a playmaker, his reliability is a very significant guarantee (only 111 yards conceded in 2021). A kind of ideal mirror to White.
General manager Brandon Beane may consider the cornerback position early in the draft. The player also met the Buffalo staff during the combine.
Other possible choices: Kyler Gordon (CB), Roger McCreary (CB), Devonte Wyatt (DL), Darian Kinnard (OL)