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Brandon Beane on signing Duke Williams, LeSean McCoy's O-line comments, free-agency approach

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – By now, you’ve probably seen the clip.

Edmonton Eskimos receiver Duke Williams is off screen. BC Lions cornerback Garry Peters is in the picture – taunting Williams, signaling to him to "bring it on." Peters immediately regrets that, as Williams runs him over in a clip that instantly became an all-time great.

So, yes, it’s fair to say the Buffalo Bills’ newest wide receiver plays with a physical edge. That’s part of what attracted the team, General Manager Brandon Beane said Tuesday during an interview at the East-West Shrine Game.

“That clip, that is who he is,” Beane said. “That wasn't just an ‘I'm mad at this guy.’ He plays with an edge in the run and pass game. We want receivers that are selfless and willing to go block and do things. I think you'll see that from him.”

The Bills signed Williams to a reserve-future contract earlier this month. That follows a workout the team conducted with several Canadian Football League players in late December.

“You do pay attention to other leagues,” Beane said. “We keep up with who's playing well over there. We brought in several CFL guys who had good years and good production, late in December for tryouts. Duke was one of those. I think there was maybe two weeks left in the season when we did that.”

After the workout, Beane had a chance to go over with Williams what happened during his college career at Auburn. He was dismissed by the Tigers after allegedly punching four people at a bar following a win over San Jose State in 2015.

One of the Bills’ pro scouts, Curtis Rukavina, came to the team from the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.

“So he's very connected,” Beane said. “After (Williams) worked out well and it was a good visit, I said, ‘Spend the next couple of weeks and research and find out how he's been.’ Everything was very positive. This guy is ultra-serious about ball. He feels like, ‘This is my chance to prove myself. I want another opportunity in the NFL.’ Everybody in the CFL was just saying this guy busted his chops and did a great job. He does have an edge. He's excited about the opportunity to get back in the NFL and show what he can do. He'll obviously have a good chance.”

Williams, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was named a CFL All-Star in 2018 after leading the league with 88 receptions for 1,519 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"He's a size guy, but he's not slow,” Beane said. “He's not huge, but he's going to be one of the bigger ones we've got. He is physical. He's got some thickness to him. He's going to be able to be physical obviously as a blocker, but getting off press. It helps when you've got the strength to muscle through some of the corners.”

Shrine Game gives Bills a chance to unearth hidden gems

Here are a few other topics addressed by Beane during a 20-minute interview:

Q: During the college football national championship game, LeSean McCoy made reference to wanting the team to draft “just one” of Alabama’s offensive linemen. What was your reaction to that?

A: “I think LeSean understands that's not how we do business. He's a passionate guy, but we don't do it on social media. He doesn't mean anything by it, but at the same time, we don't condone that. ... We want all our players to be mindful of what's on social media. That's the scary part about social media. You talk to your kids about it. You talk to everybody about it. Everybody's reading it, and once it's on there, it's on there. You're conversating with everybody. You're not just having a one-on-one conversation with somebody. So, I think he understands that.”

Q: In retrospect, did replacing Richie Incognito and Eric Wood prove to be a bigger challenge than you anticipated it would?

A: “I knew it was going to be a challenge. I can't say if it was more or not, they were good players. They brought leadership and an edge. I thought we lacked that edge up front this year, and we were out of sync. I think we had players there that have talent, we just didn't mesh.

“It's so important, of all the groups, the O-line, those guys (have) to be in sync because they're counting on each other. … That's what we've got to work on and get it fixed. We know where the problems lie. We knew it would be hard. You don't replace an Eric Wood and a Richie Incognito. It was unfortunate. Eric was the one guy I extended right before the 2017 season knowing we were probably going to draft a quarterback, (thinking he was) a guy to settle down the front, and then what a crazy thing (his neck injury) was. It stinks for him and it stinks for us.”

Q: You’ve used the word “judicious” to describe what your approach to free agency, but when you have a team in your division (the New York Jets), sitting on as much cap space as you are, don’t you have to be aggressive to make sure you get your guy?

A: “They identify things that they look for in players, and we do as well. Like anything, they'll probably target players that maybe we don't and vice versa, but then I'm sure there will be some guys that we're fighting over. But we've got to be smart, because if you vastly overpay a guy, you're setting expectations that are unattainable.

“It would be like drafting a guy you have a third-round grade on in the first round out of a need or because you don't want somebody else to get him. Well, now the expectations in our building, in the locker room, the media, the fans, is, ‘Wow, this guy's a first-round pick. I'm expecting him to be like all first-rounders.’ When in reality (if he’s not), it's not his fault. He's going to have a hard time. You're setting him up to fail when you do that, and that's the thing that can happen in free agency. You pay a guy a big number, and there's going to be expectations from coaches, players, the media, fans, everybody. They're going to go, ‘Man, they paid this guy $12 million a year. He's going to be a big-time player.’ Well, not if he's really a $7 or $8 million player.”

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