The Buffalo Bills will enter a new era of team building starting in 2020.
They need to start keeping their own.
The Bills have not drafted well enough nor had enough head-coaching continuity to keep enough of their own players on second- or third contracts over the past decade.
No more. Locking up some of the team’s quality young players will be one of the top priorities for General Manager Brandon Beane in the coming year.
The Bills have a ton of money to spend in 2020. They currently rank fifth in the NFL in 2020 cap space, at $89 million, according to the sports business website Spotrac.com.
The Bills will enter 2020 with two glaring roster needs: A starting wide receiver and an edge rusher.
Neither is particularly easy to fill, although the crop of wideouts in the 2020 draft class is exceptional.
Beane and coach Sean McDermott have a decent stockpile of draft choices at their disposal.
And they need to make good decisions because the 2020 schedule seems sure to be much tougher than the 2019 schedule. Besides AFC East foes, the Bills face the rugged NFC West, the AFC West, and second-place AFC divisional finishers Pittsburgh and Tennessee.
Key Bills who are subject to contract extensions are four players whose contracts run out after the 2020 season: safety Jordan Poyer, linebacker Matt Milano, tackle Dion Dawkins and guard Jon Feliciano. The Bills could hold off on one of them, perhaps Dawkins, if they desire. And the contract of star cornerback Tre’Davious White runs out after the 2021 season. Most players with two years to go don’t get extensions. But the Bills might well want to get ahead of the market curve by dealing with White this offseason.
“That’s definitely the headline for this team right now,” said Michael Ginnitti, Spotrac managing editor. “As far as the flash goes, it’s going to be who do we keep and how much do we pay them?”
The most important players who are due to enter free agency in March include: defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, defensive end Shaq Lawson, guard Quinton Spain and cornerback Kevin Johnson. Spain and Johnson will be easier to retain. Beane has tougher decisions on how high he wants to bid on Phillips, who had 9.5 sacks this season, and Lawson, a 2016 first-round draft pick who is playing the final season on his rookie contract. The Bills declined to pick up his fifth-year option before this season.
The surplus of cap space will allow the Bills to go shopping for either a receiver or edge rusher, if there’s a player who they think fits their scheme and culture. Based on Beane's short track record, he is not likely to go on a spending spree for multiple bank-busting free agents from other teams, like the New York Jets did last year.
From a draft perspective, the Bills have all their own picks for the first six rounds in place for the next two years. They have an extra fifth and two extra sixths in 2020. They will not be getting any compensatory picks in 2020, because of all their free-agent shopping last spring. They have an extra fifth and acquired a seventh in 2021.