It is tempting to say that the Buffalo Bills have been quiet at the start of NFL free agency.
That’s only partially true, though, because General Manager Brandon Beane made plenty of noise last week.
By re-signing linebacker Matt Milano and offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano, Beane made sure three key starters stayed with the Bills for the upcoming season. He also prevented three holes from opening that he would have had to fill by either signing another free agent or through the draft.
Think of it this way: If Milano, Williams and Feliciano played for a different team last year, and the Bills reached agreements with all three of them in the last couple days, we’d be talking about them as one of the more active teams in free agency. Prioritizing their own free agents instead of other players should not be confused with inactivity.
Nevertheless, Beane’s work is far from finished. The Bills still have needs on both sides of the ball, although it remains to be seen just how many they’ll address in free agency, given a lack of ample salary cap space.
Veteran offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe has reached a deal to sign with the Dallas Cowboys.
While free agency doesn’t officially begin until 4 p.m. Wednesday, several deals have been agreed to over the past two days of “legal tampering.” Here is an updated look at the list of notable players who have reached contract agreements and a partial list of those who are still available at positions of need for the Bills.
Off the market: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team; Jameis Winston, New Orleans; Jacoby Brissett, Miami; Tyrod Taylor, Houston; Andy Dalton, Chicago.
On the market: Matt Barkley, Buffalo; AJ McCarron, Houston; Alex Smith, Washington; Mitch Trubisky, Chicago; Chase Daniel, Detroit; Colt McCoy, New York Giants; Robert Griffin III, Baltimore.
The Bills have a few different options at backup quarterback. If Barkley re-signs, he figures to be the favorite for the job. If not, the Bills could choose to have Jake Fromm and Davis Webb compete for the role. The other option is to sign another player. As shown above, there are plenty of veterans available.
It is expected that the new deal will provide the Bills with some relief under the salary cap in 2021.
Off the market: Carlos Hyde, Jacksonville; Mark Ingram, Houston.
On the market: T.J. Yeldon, Buffalo; Taiwan Jones, Buffalo; Kenyan Drake, Arizona; Phillip Lindsay, Denver; Todd Gurley, Atlanta; Duke Johnson, Houston; Tevin Coleman, San Francisco; James White, New England; Matt Breida, Miami; Mike Davis, Carolina; Rex Burkhead, New England; Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay; Le’Veon Bell, Kansas City, LeSean McCoy, Tampa Bay; Adrian Peterson, Detroit.
The Bills have potentially two job openings behind Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, depending on what happens with both Yeldon and Jones. The free-agent market is overflowing with veteran options, although the draft may be a better option at a position that favors youth.
Off the market: Hunter Henry, New England; Jonnu Smith, New England; Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay; Cethan Carter, Miami; Chris Manhertz, Jacksonville.
Unsigned: Tyler Kroft, Buffalo; Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota; Jared Cook, New Orleans; Jesse James, Detroit; Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville; Jacob Hollister, Seattle; Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams; Marcedes Lewis, Green Bay.
A report Tuesday from NFL Network’s Mike Silver said Gronk turned down a similar offer from the Bills to return to the Bucs on a one-year contract that could be worth $10 million with incentives. That shows Buffalo is serious about upgrading the position. The Patriots doubled down by agreeing to a deal with Henry a day after Smith agreed to leave the Titans for New England. If the Bills are looking for a starter to replace Dawson Knox, they may have to turn to the trade market, because free agency does not look to contain an obvious upgrade. That has turned up speculation that the Bills could have interest in Philadelphia's Zach Ertz.
He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, including each of his two years in Buffalo.
Off the market: Shaquill Griffin, Jacksonville; Ronald Darby, Denver; Michael Davis, Los Angeles Chargers; Mike Hilton, Cincinnati; Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh; Jason Verrett, San Francisco; C.J. Goodwin, Dallas; Tremon Smith, Houston; Chidobe Awuzie, Cincinnati; Robert Alford, Arizona; Janoris Jenkins, Titans.
On the market: Josh Norman, Buffalo; Richard Sherman, San Francisco; Patrick Peterson, Arizona; A.J. Bouye, Denver; Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers; Malcolm Butler, Tennessee; Justin Coleman, Detroit; Mackensie Alexander, Cincinnati; Brian Poole, New York Jets; Kevin Johnson, Cleveland; Xavier Rhodes, Indianapolis; William Jackson, Cincinnati; Quinton Dunbar, Seattle; Troy Hill, Los Angeles Rams.
Arguably the biggest hole in the Bills’ projected starting lineup at the moment is at No. 2 cornerback. The Bills reportedly will not tender a contract offer to restricted free agent Levi Wallace by 4 p.m. Wednesday, which means he will join Norman in becoming free to sign with any team at that time. Those two split time opposite Tre’Davious White this year. Dane Jackson, who spent most of his rookie season of 2020 on the Bills’ practice squad, is expected to compete for that role. Beane, however, has favored adding a veteran to also compete for the position, something he’s done in each of the last three offseasons.
Feliciano, 29, became the third key free agent to re-sign with the Bills – joining linebacker Matt Milano and right tackle Daryl Williams – before the start of free agency.
Off the market: Bud Dupree, Tennessee; Shaq Barrett, Tampa Bay; Leonard Floyd, Los Angeles Rams; Matt Judon, New England; Tyus Bowser, Baltimore; Samson Ebukam, San Francisco; Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati; Carl Lawson, New York Jets; Romeo Okwara, Detroit; Yannick Ngakoue, Las Vegas; Denico Autry, Tennessee.
On the market: Trent Murphy, Buffalo; Jadeveon Clowney, Tennessee; Carlos Dunlap, Seattle; Justin Houston, Indianapolis; Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers; Olivier Vernon, Cleveland; Haason Reddick, Arizona.
No position was more popular at the start of free agency than defenders who can pressure the opposing quarterback. The Bills want to boost their four-man pass rush this offseason, but it’s not a huge surprise the team sat out the first wave of edge rushers signing. Even with a reduced salary cap, that’s a recession-proof position that is always going to cost top dollar that the Bills don’t have right now.