Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Billy Moy will be contributing to BNblitz.com all season long.
With the Buffalo Bills being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the look ahead to 2019 can officially begin.
The Bills are expected to have about $92 million in cap space this offseason. If Buffalo wants to go after some big-money free agents, they’ll have the ability to pay top dollar. If they want to load their roster with veteran depth to surround their young core, they have that flexibility.
Using Pro Football Focus analysis, here's an early look at some potential free agents who could bolster the Bills next season, and ones they could consider targeting in the free agent market.
1. Matt Paradis, C
With money to spend – and few premier free agents hitting the market at offensive skill positions – it’s time for the Bills to rebuild the line. Paradis, of the Denver Broncos, is one of the league's best centers and would represent a significant upgrade over Russell Bodine, who will be coming off surgery for a broken fibula and will be a free agent after the 2019 season.
Oddly enough, Paradis is coming off a similar surgery as Bodine. Paradis had not missed a single snap in his 56-game career until he suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage Nov. 4 against Houston. The injury is not expected to impact his value on the free agent market.
Paradis is our third-highest graded center for the season with a 79.0 overall PFF grade. He’s never graded lower than 74.0 in any of four seasons (by comparison, Bodine has never graded more than 70.0), and he’s just two years removed from earning an elite 90.2 overall grade.
2. Ja’Wuan James, RT
Signing James would net the Bills one of the best available right tackles on the market while also plucking a starter from division rival Miami.
James ranks 29th of 78 qualified tackles this season with a 69.5 overall PFF grade, and he’s been floating right around the above-average tier (we consider grades better than 70.0 to be at least above average) for three consecutive seasons. He earned a career best 75.9 overall grade in 2016. James would be a pretty big upgrade over current starter, Jordan Mills, who ranks 65th among tackles with a 56.7 overall grade and has never earned a grade higher than 62.7 (2014) over his six-year career.
3. Maxx Williams, TE
Charles Clay is still a serviceable tight end and will be under contract for 2019. The Bills could use depth at the position, with Jason Croom being the only other tight end under contract after 2018.
Williams has been squeezed down the depth chart in Baltimore, but he’s played well when on the field over his first four years in the league. Williams has above average career grades as both a run blocker (71.1) and in pass protection (74.2). As a receiver, he’s dropped just one of 64 catchable balls thrown his way and his 98.4 catch percentage ranks third among the 79 tight ends who’ve been targeted at least 50 times over the past four seasons combined
4. Rodger Saffold, G
The Bills will enter the offseason with only Vlad Ducasse, Wyatt Teller and Ike Boettger under contract for the 2019 season. Saffold, from the Los Angeles Rams, ranks 10th among 79 qualified guards with a 72.3 overall PFF grade, and he’s been an above average player at his position for much of his career. He's earned overall grades better than 70.0 for three consecutive seasons (including an 80.4 grade in 2017).
Acquiring Saffold would allow Ducasse and Teller to compete for the opposite guard spot. Whomever loses that position battle would provide depth behind the starters, although it's also possible that the Bills release Ducasse.
If Buffalo somehow were able to land all three linemen on this list, they’d enter 2019 with a starting unit of Dion Dawkins/Saffold/Paradis/Ducasse or Teller/James with Bodine, Teller or Ducasse and Conor McDermott serving as backups.
5. DeMarcus Lawrence, EDGE
Lawrence signed the Cowboys’ franchise tag this past offseason and is set to see big bucks in free agency.
A year after racking up a career-high 91.6 overall grade and 79 QB pressures, he has 55 pressures and a 90.1 overall grade in 2018. His edge rushing presence would be a welcome addition to a defensive line that struggles to get home with pressure other than Jerry Hughes.
Lorenzo Alexander is the only other Bills defender with 30 or more pressures, but he is almost halfway behind Hughes’ 62 with only 32 on 207 pass-rushing snaps.
6. Clay Matthews, EDGE
Matthews has undoubtedly lost a step from when he was a perennial pass rusher for the Green Bay Packers early in his career. He’s still a solid defender who could step in and fill Alexander’s role if the Bills are unable to re-sign Alexander.
Alexander spends time both off-ball and on the edge for the Bills, and Matthews offers experience in both of those areas. Matthews ranks 39th over the last two seasons out of 138 edge defenders who logged at least 300 defensive snaps with a 75.4 overall PFF grade. He’s graded as an above average defender in run defense (75.9) and as a pass rusher (71.0).
7. Bryce Callahan, CB
Callahan has been dominant for a revamped Bears secondary full of playmakers. Playing the majority of his snaps out of the slot, Callahan would fill a big void on the Bills' defense.
Chicago and Buffalo each run Cover-1 about the same amount (22.4 percent for the Bears, 20.5 percent for the Bills). Each possess similar numbers in either form of Cover-1 or Cover-3 (62.1 percent for Chicago, 56.1 percent for Buffalo).
Each team plays a primary single-high safety look so Callahan’s prowess in the slot would go a long way. He is the fourth-highest graded cornerback from the slot this season and is tied for second with two interceptions from inside.
Callahan suffered a broken foot against the Rams on Sunday.