The Carolina-to-Buffalo pipeline could deliver again.
The Bills hosted tight end Greg Olsen on a free-agent visit in the last few days. Olsen, 34, was recently by the Carolina Panthers, but has generated plenty of interest on the open market. In addition to the Bills, he’s also planning visits to the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks.
We saw last year when the Bills signed Spencer Long and Kevin Johnson after they were released that General Manager Brandon Beane isn’t shy about getting a head start in free agency. Olsen’s visit has sparked questions about whether he would fit with the Bills, so that is where we’ll start this week’s Bills Mailbag …
Mark L. Finn asks: I think Greg Olsen is too old. Wouldn’t it be wiser for the Bills to spend cap space on a younger tight end?
Warzone asks: What are your thoughts on the Bills signing Greg Olsen, and have you heard anything regarding that?
Rick McGuire asks: What's your take on the whole Greg Olsen scenario? He said publicly that he hopes Chicago calls him. That sounds like Buffalo isn't his first choice. If he signs, how do you think Brian Daboll would use him? Would he start over Dawson Knox, or might Daboll implement a two-tight end offense?
Jay: Olsen would be a nice addition, but not a needed one, in my mind. Dawson Knox showed enough as a rookie to lead me to believe he’s got real promise. His tendency to drop passes was troubling, but I’m willing to bet that improves. If Olsen is agreeable to a short-term deal (one or two years at most), he would provide the Bills an intriguing two-tight end set with Knox.
Counting on him for more than that, though, would be a mistake. Olsen has missed 18 games over the past three seasons because of injuries, and that is not a good trend. He said he feels like he proved himself as durable when he played 14 games last season. He missed two games with a concussion. If he’s looking to be a starter somewhere, Buffalo probably isn’t the best place for him.
To Rick’s point, Olsen did express disappointment that the Bears, who very much need a starting tight end, hadn’t called. The Bills have decent depth at tight end already, so Olsen would be a luxury of sorts.
Jack asks: Think Tyler Kroft is on the roster in September?
Jay: This is directly tied to the questions above. If the Bills can sign Olsen, I’d absolutely part ways with Kroft. Doing so would save the Bills nearly $4.8 million against the salary cap. That’s a lot of money for a backup tight end. Kroft is a good teammate and deserves credit for fighting through injuries to make a big contribution in the Week 15 win over Pittsburgh, but the NFL is a cold, calculated business. If Olsen provides an upgrade, the Bills shouldn’t flinch in moving on from Kroft.
Don Burt asks: Do you see the Bills making any kind of big splash in free agency? I don’t expect the bounty of moves like last year, but they have a ton of money to spend and will have to be willing to give out big signing bonuses due to the cap floor rules.
Tommy asks: Do you think the Bills will make any big splashes in free agency?
Jay: To Don’s question – I wouldn’t worry to much about the spending rules, since that’s calculated over a rolling, four-year period, and some big bonuses are coming for cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebacker Matt Milano and left tackle Dion Dawkins, among others.
To the question of whether the team will make a “big splash,” that depends on your definition. I agree with Don that the team won’t be as active as it was last year in free agency. Given the available cap space, though, one or two big moves can’t be ruled out.
I still think Beane’s top priority will be re-signing some of his own players to extensions, but if he can find an impact starter in free agency, he’ll have the money to make a move.
Ed Helinski asks: Juggling free agency into the mix of putting together a team, and given the fact that almost all rookies need time to acclimate to the NFL, what’s the Bills’ draft priority? Is it the offensive or defensive side of the ball?
Jay: Beane would tell you it’s “best player available” – and I agree. The good part about the depth the Bills have been able to acquire the past couple of seasons is it means they are not locked onto a certain position come the draft. A case can be made for a number of different positions, which puts Beane in an advantageous situation. He can move up or down depending on what his board looks like, or stay put and find a player who should be able to help right away.
My preference would be to add an edge rusher in the first round and then focus on finding a wide receiver on the second day of the draft, but that’s subject to change based on what happens in free agency.
The big game asks: We will probably sign someone at running back to replace Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon and back up Devin Singletary. Anyone come to mind?
Jay: I’m not a big fan of paying big money to a running back, so I’m not looking at Derrick Henry or Melvin Gordon. Two players I’d be interested in are the Eagles’ Jordan Howard and the 49ers’ Matt Breida.
Howard is just 25 years old and does a nice job in goal-line and short-yardage situations, which the Bills struggled with in 2019. Breida is just 24. He’s a restricted free agent, but has fallen on the depth chart in San Francisco behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.
San Francisco also has Jerick McKinnon returning from injury, so Breida could be available.
4th and 27 asks: Did Kyle Shanahan learn clock management from the same program that Sean McDermott went to?
Jay: That was a little salty, wasn’t it? If anything, I’d say Shanahan’s approach at the end of the first half showed a lack of faith in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. To that end, it will be interesting to see next year just how much the Bills are comfortable putting on Josh Allen’s plate in similar situations.
John Jarzynski asks: Now that it appears the 2004 quarterback class is nearing its demise, please rank them (include J.P. Losman and even Matt Schaub for kicks).
Jay: It's remarkable how many of them are still playing! My rankings look like this: 1. Ben Roethlisberger. 2. Philip Rivers. 3. Eli Manning. 4. Matt Schaub. 5. Luke McCown. 6. J.P. Losman. 7. Everybody else.
Thomas J. Kennedy asks: There is a lot of hope with the Bills for next season. How easy is their schedule compared to other teams next season, based on this season’s final standings?
Jay: Not that easy at all. The Bills’ strength of schedule in 2020 is tied for the fifth hardest in the NFL. Buffalo’s opponents next season had a combined record of 134-121-1 in 2019. The good news for the Bills is the three hardest schedules next season belong to their AFC East rivals, with the Patriots at No. 1, Jets at No. 2 and Dolphins at No. 3.
Last season, the Bills had the 26th hardest schedule. It would be naïve to say that didn’t have a positive impact on their season.
Of course, plenty can change for teams between now and when they play the Bills, but strength of schedule shouldn’t totally be dismissed. I’ve said since the 2019 season ended that the Bills could be a better team in 2020, but finish with the same or even a worse record.
Sam Ruggiero asks: Do you believe that Tom Brady is staying with the Patriots, as per that Super Bowl commercial that made your wife throw up, or was that just a way to grab our attention?
Jay: I find it hard to believe Brady would leave, but that’s not based on anything more than personal opinion. Nobody in the NFL has any idea what’s going to happen. Brady’s future was a big topic of discussion at the Super Bowl. The Patriots probably still offer Brady his best chance to win. It seems like his return would be best for both sides.
Mike Bauman asks: Will each Buffalo Bills player commit 1% of their salary to a Sabres relief fund?
Jay: When I put the call out on Twitter for mailbag questions this week, I promised it would be a break from the Sabres. I’m a man of my word.
Jeremy T. asks: Does Brandon Beane know hockey?
Jay: OK, just one more Sabres question, since this one made me laugh. From what I know, Beane’s not a huge hockey guy. Sorry to disappoint.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay, great Miami press box food rankings. A-plus effort. Now, in honor of taking our minds off the Sabres for a bit, please rank the following minds: Reminders, masterminds, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Mindy Kaling, Mindhunters season one.
Jay: 5. Reminders – Here’s my theory. If you have to be reminded to do something, did you really want to do it in the first place? Chew on that. 4. Mindhunters season one – We’ve been over this, Louis. I’m the worst when it comes to movies and TV shows. I haven’t seen this. 3. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" – Not surprisingly, didn’t see it. It’s got a cool name, though, and the reviews are pretty good (look at the research I do for the mailbag). 2. Masterminds – We’re not talking the movie, right? Because, you guessed it, I didn’t see it. If it’s the actual person, is it a criminal? I feel like mastermind is only ever used to describe a criminal. 1. Mindy Kaling – A comedy mastermind. See what I did there?
Thanks for all the questions! If I didn’t get to yours, I will aim for next week.