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What Beane said, what Beane did as he continues to strengthen Bills' roster

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Brandon Beane news conference (copy)

Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane addresses the Bills' moves in free agency at Highmark Stadium last month.

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A few days after the Buffalo Bills’ season ended, general manager Brandon Beane forecast his approach to the offseason.

“We'll have to make some moves, but I wouldn't see us being big spenders or anything like that,” Beane said in January.

The Bills, however, were big spenders.

A few weeks later, after signing Von Miller for $120 million, Beane explained any moves that might have contradicted his earlier comments were all rooted in capitalizing on the right opportunities. He's been open to surprising himself in the past. 

“I couldn't have told you two years ago we were going to trade for (Stefon Diggs), I really couldn't,” Beane said in March. “You try to prepare yourself, you try to pay attention to what's going on at the other 31 teams. … "If I do see the opportunity to land someone that I believe can help us at a critical position, I'm going to take a swing."

Any NFL general manager has to stay nimble, even within the constraints of the salary cap, and Beane has followed through on just about everything he set out to do in the offseason so far. That includes a four-year contract extension for wide receiver Stefon Diggs on Wednesday. 

Here's a look at some of what Beane said, some of what Beane did and what it means.

Extended Stefon Diggs

What Beane said, March 28: "I think the world of Stef, I think what he's brought our team has been great. He's been great for Josh (Allen). He's been great for our offense and his leadership has stepped up, and we want to see Stef in Buffalo for years to come."

What Beane did, Wednesday: The Bills and wide receiver Stefon Diggs agreed to a deal that will keep him under contract for the next six seasons. Diggs, who turns 29 in November, wrote on Instagram on Wednesday night that he is "beyond happy" to know he will playing the rest of his career with the Bills.

What it means: Beane has locked in Josh Allen’s top receiver in a way that should benefit both sides. Beane and coach Sean McDermott have both pointed to Diggs’ influence on the team as a whole as a critical reason to keep him around, on top of his franchise records. Diggs has said how much he loves being in Buffalo, but as the wide receiver market surged, it made sense for the Bills to make sure he was properly compensated. He and Allen built chemistry on the field quickly, leading to Diggs setting an NFL mark for most catches (230) in the first two years with a new team. Diggs’ new deal goes through 2027, with Allen’s running through 2028.

Pass rush

What Beane said, March 1: “You've got to be good up front both sides of the ball. And you've got to have a quarterback. The next thing you got to do is you've got to get the other team's quarterback down. And so it's a position every year, whether it's, again, free agency, the draft, trades, I think you've got to look and be as strong as you can.”

What Beane did, March 16: The Bills signed Von Miller to a six-year contract, their splashiest move of the offseason, convincing him to come to Buffalo, instead of re-signing with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. There were other moves made to bolster the defensive front, with the signing of Tim Settle, DaQuan Jones and the returns of Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson.

What it means: Beane has focused on the defensive line in the early rounds of the last few drafts with A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham. Now, he's added Miller, and he thinks this could be the push the Bills need to win the Super Bowl.

While he didn’t want to take away from what the defense accomplished last season, Beane seized on an opportunity to improve.

“This was a No. 1 defense, and did a lot of really good things,” Beane said. “Was every game perfect? No. Was the pass rush where we wanted it all the time? No. … It had some really great games, some really good moments, whether it was versus the run or our pass rush, but lacked consistency.”

Backup quarterback

What Beane said, March 1: “That's an important position. We know the quarterback position is the ultimate in all sports. So it'll be our job to find a suitable replacement.”

What Beane did, March 20-21: The Bills traded a seventh-round pick to Cleveland for veteran quarterback Case Keenum and signed Matt Barkley.

What it means: Experience was key here. In multiple instances talking about the backup quarterback role, Beane said the Bills would look in free agency and in the draft, but there always seemed to be the underlying message that experience would win out.

Keenum has nine years, 76 games and 64 starts under his belt. Barkley has had less time on the field, but his two and a half years with the Bills were significant. Beane said that could give Barkley a leg up to start in the competition for QB2. Either way, Barkley’s rapport with Allen was critical in constructing a quarterback room that will support Allen in Year 5.

Tight end

What Beane said, Jan. 26: “Dawson (Knox) did really well. Maybe some depth there (at tight end) to compete with him.”

What Beane did, March 16: The Bills signed sixth-year tight end O.J. Howard during free agency.

“Going through the season and seeing how things played out, not getting much playing time, it was starting to get in my head like, ‘Hey, let’s just keep getting better. Chances are going to come in the offseason, you’re going to get a new start to flip the chapter,’ ” he said. 

What it means: The hope is that Howard can push Knox to build off his breakout season, and the team could see an increase in two tight-end sets. There will be some adjustments in the Bills offense under new coordinator Ken Dorsey. Even ahead of his promotion, Beane alluded to tight end usage in tweaking the offense.

“There's various ways to run an offense, whether you run two tight ends, whether you run five wide, whether you run two backs,” Beane said in January. “You really just want to find different pieces, and it doesn't have to fit exactly. We don't have to go just find a tight end or go find just a certain receiver, we'll find pieces and that's where … it'll be on the offensive coordinator to kind of put it together and utilize their skill set.”

Cornerback

What Beane said, March 1: “I think it's definitely something we've got to address. Levi (Wallace) in an unrestricted guy, so right now the two starters that started the year, one's an unrestricted free agent and one's coming off ACL. Fortunately Dane (Jackson), I thought, really held his own, did a nice job, and we brought Siran (Neal) back and Cam Lewis. We've got some depth pieces there, but we definitely have to take a look and make sure – that's an important position – and make sure we've got that answer.”

What Beane did, TBA: Here’s the main area that still needs addressing. Levi Wallace is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, having signed an two-year deal in March.

What it means: Cornerback was an area of need even before the AFC as a whole reloaded on offense in free agency. Diggs’ extension could give the Bills a little room to work with to sign a cornerback, or they’ll look to the draft. It could indicate some optimism on Tre’Davious White’s timeline, though the Bills have been careful not to set a concrete expected return date. Still, the Bills will need some depth and security at corner heading into the season.

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 “I told Beane at the end of the season, I want to be a Bill and I want to stay in Buffalo. And thankfully, it came to the conclusion where I get to stay in Buffalo for the next four years, which is an unbelievable opportunity,” Bates said.

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