MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Buffalo Bills will get an up-close-and-personal look at both of Sunday’s Super Bowl teams during the 2020 season.
The champion Kansas City Chiefs will visit New Era Field next year, while the Bills will travel to the home of the runner-up San Francisco 49ers for a game, part of a schedule that, on paper, looks to be more challenging than the one the team faced last season.
Buffalo’s opponents in 2020 had a combined record of 131-121-1 in 2019, a winning percentage of .525 that ties for the Bills for the fifth-hardest schedule in 2020. The Bills’ schedule was just the 26th hardest in 2019. The good news for the Bills is that their three AFC East rivals occupy the three top spots on the list in 2020. New England has the hardest schedule (.537), followed by the Jets (.533) and the Dolphins (.529). The 49ers are fourth (.528).
Plenty will change between now and September, though, so strength of schedule is far from the only factor that will determine a team’s success or failure. The Bills will be a different team in 2020, as will the 49ers and Chiefs. Perhaps Bills General Manager Brandon Beane watched Sunday’s game with an eye toward the future. Here is a look at 10 impending free agents who played in the Super Bowl that could interest the Bills, ranging from the top of the free-agent class to depth players.
49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders: It’s well-known the Bills will be in the market for a wide receiver (or two). Sanders joined the 49ers in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos and was highly productive, making 36 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns in nine games with San Francisco. He had three catches for 38 yards against the Chiefs. Sanders turns 33 next month, so he would be a shorter-term addition.
49ers RB Matt Breida: There might not be room in the San Francisco backfield for Breida, who is a restricted free agent. Raheem Mostert took over in the playoffs as the team’s primary running back, and the team also returns Tevin Coleman and the injured Jerick McKinnon to the backfield. Breida, 24, has a career average of 5.0 yards per carry in 43 regular-season games. Because Breida entered the league as an undrafted free agent, the 49ers would not receive any compensation if they gave him the lowest tender, which last season cost $2.025 million. If they gave Breida a second-round tender, it would cost more than $3 million, which is likely too much for a third- or fourth-string running back. Breida, who played 15 snaps on special teams against the Chiefs, could provide a second option for the Bills behind Devin Singletary.
49ers DE Arik Armstead: A move like this would come at a much steeper price. Armstead is a former first-round draft pick out of Oregon coming off a career year. He finished with 54 tackles, a team-leading 10 sacks and two passes defensed in the regular season. He had a sack in each of the 49ers’ first two playoff games before being held to three tackles and one quarterback hit in the Super Bowl. The Bills could use another proven pass rusher, but even with ample cap space, Armstead might be too expensive.
Chiefs DT Chris Jones: The same thing goes for Jones. A 25-year-old former second-round pick, Jones is one of the NFL's best interior defensive tackles. Pursuing him would be diving into the deepest end of the free-agent pool. He finished with 36 tackles, nine sacks and 20 quarterback hits in 13 games in the regular season. The Chiefs can prevent him from hitting the open market by using the franchise tag, at an estimated cost of nearly $16 million. The team doesn’t have a lot of cap space, though, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes will soon get a monster contract extension, so there is a chance Jones sees the open market. If he does, he figures to get a deal that tops his franchise tag cost. Given that the Bills drafted Ed Oliver ninth overall in 2019, they don’t seem like a fit for Jones, even though any team would love to have him. Jones had one tackle and three passes defensed against the 49ers.
Chiefs DT Mike Pennel: A more realistic option if the Bills wanted to poach from the Chiefs’ defensive line might be Pennel, a 332-pound defensive tackle who might help improve the run defense and isn’t in line for a big contract. With Jones dealing with a calf injury, Pennel started the Chiefs’ first two playoff games. He totaled 24 tackles, including two for losses, and a sack in eight regular-season games. Pennel had one tackle, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed against the 49ers. The quarterback hit came on a play in which Pennel rushed a throw by 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, leading to an interception.
Chiefs DE Emmanuel Ogbah: Yet another option along the Chiefs’ defensive line is Ogbah, a former second-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns who was traded to Kansas City last summer. Ogbah, 26, had 27 total pressures in just 10 games with the Chiefs, including 5.5 sacks. He landed on injured reserve after Week 10 because of a torn pectoral muscle, but he should be healthy by the start of 2020.
Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson: A fourth-round draft pick in 2016, Robinson got lost at times on the loaded Chiefs’ offense. That included the Super Bowl, as he finished without a target despite playing 39 offensive snaps. Robinson did have a career-best 32 catches for 449 yards and four touchdown in the regular season. There will be questions about just how much he benefited from the talent around him, but if he’s seeking a bigger opportunity, it should be there for him, either in Buffalo or someplace else.
Chiefs CB Morris Claiborne: A healthy inactive in the Super Bowl, Claiborne is coming off a season in which he played just eight games in the regular season, making one start. Claiborne turns 30 this week. He’s clearly a depth player at this point in his career, but the Bills could use depth at cornerback, especially if Kevin Johnson departs in free agency. Claiborne is exceptionally close with Bills star cornerback Tre’Davious White, with both of them having grown up in Shreveport, La. Claiborne would provide the veteran leadership in the cornerback room that coach Sean McDermott likes to have in every position group.
Chiefs CB Bashaud Breeland: Like Claiborne, Breeland earned $2 million last season on a one-year contract. The difference is, he played a lot more. Breeland took 82.5% of the team’s defensive snaps in the regular season, which was fourth on the team. He led the Chiefs in the Super Bowl with seven tackles and also intercepted Garoppolo. Breeland, 28, will likely be in the market for a multi-year contract.
Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy: Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention. McCoy will be a free agent, but a reunion in Buffalo is quite a stretch.