What a difference six months has made for the Buffalo Bills’ offense.
With a flurry of activity over the last two days, the team added protection and weapons for young quarterback Josh Allen – which was the stated goal at the start of the offseason. Those moves – signing offensive linemen Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano and Ty Nsekhe, tight end Tyler Kroft, running back Frank Gore and wide receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown – became official just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the NFL’s new league year began.
“I think it's obvious that we've been trying to build our offense,” coach Sean McDermott told The Buffalo News after a sponsor event at Highgate Heights Elementary School on Wednesday. “Look, we have good pieces in our locker room. Let's not forget that. That’s A. B is, how can we improve our football team by going out there and trying to add guys with our DNA – in this case veteran players that have experience? We're going to add them to what we already have and continue to try and put a team together for this season.”
While the Bills have had an impressive haul thus far in free agency, one potential big fish got away when the team explored a trade with Pittsburgh for wide receiver Antonio Brown, but the deal never came to be.
“You always look. It doesn't mean we pull the trigger,” McDermott said. “Somewhere in the process of looking, whether it's early or late in the process, when you come across things that tell you it's not going to work out for one reason or another, then you go on to the next one. But for us not to look would be, at times, ignorant. You hear things, but let's do our due diligence and our research and make sure. At the end of the day, you see the end result of that due diligence.”
It was noteworthy that the Bills were in the running for Brown on two different fronts. No. 1, it shows that General Manager Brandon Beane is unafraid to pursue the bold move, and No. 2, the team will not always shy away from players with “character” concerns, of which there are many with Brown.
“We have a lot of respect for him as a player. He's tough to go against,” McDermott said. “That's what leads you initially on the path to try and find out more about him. Going against him, I know how hard he is to defend. You watch him on TV – I watch him like you do, like the fans do – he's entertaining and fun to watch. That's what leads you down that path for a player with that type of name recognition.”
The players signed by the Bills don’t come close to having the same type of name recognition, but they will be important parts of what the Bills hope is a much better offense in 2019. That starts with Morse, who became the highest-paid player at the center position in the NFL by agreeing to a four-year deal worth up to $44.5 million.
“When you watch what Mitch was able to do and the style of football he played, we feel like it was a fit,” McDermott said. “Again, we've got to get him in and integrate him into what we do, and we'll know more. There's always a projection, like there is with the draft or any player for that matter. Unless you really know them – and you try and get to that point where you really know them, by calling people, doing your research like we talked about. But there's always that piece of an unknown. We'll integrate him and we’re anxious to get to know him a little bit more.”
The one signing that raised some eyebrows was the addition of Gore, who will be 36 in May. The Bills already had the two oldest running backs in the NFL under contract for the 2019 season in LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory, but McDermott isn’t bothered by their collective age.
“I've never met him. I've only gone up against him from a coaching standpoint, but everything we've heard is about the way he approaches the profession,” McDermott said. “He's highly competitive. Tough, so what of those traits don't we like, right? So to add a guy with those traits to our locker room and the field, that's the right type of characteristics we’re looking for.”
The Bills officially did not tender contract offers to tight end Logan Thomas and punter Matt Darr, making them unrestricted free agents.