The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Bills 2021 Recap
The Bills might have been the best team in the NFL last year. After an upset loss to the Steelers in Week 1, Buffalo resumed life as the world-beaters everyone expected them to be. They were one of two teams to finish top-five in points for and points against. Josh Allen staved off regression as well as any quarterback can, finishing top-10 in passing yards and touchdowns. The defense, led by a lockdown secondary, was an immovable object. With a win in Week 18, Buffalo won their division in consecutive seasons for the first time since the early ‘90s. It was also the first time they led the league in point differential since the days of Jim Kelly. The Bills cruised past the Patriots in the Wild Card Round but Patrick Mahomes sent them packing with one of the greatest drives ever put on a football field in the Divisional Round.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 28.4 (3rd)
- Dropback EPA: .17 (8th)
- Passing yards per game: 252 (9th)
- Rush EPA: -.05 (12th)
- Rushing yards per game: 130 (6th)
Allen came back to Earth after setting the league ablaze in 2020. His yards per attempt, touchdown rate, and completion rate over expectation all dropped. Like any other prolific quarterback, a down year for Allen was still well above average. He finished the season ranked as Pro Football Focus’s No. 11 quarterback by passing grade and supplanted his passing dip with rushing production. His 763 rushing yards were four shy of Lamar Jackson and 21 short of Jalen Hurts. Stefon Diggs took the biggest hit from Allen’s regression. He recorded 310 fewer yards on 24 fewer catches while playing getting an extra game on the schedule. The Bills’ coaches spent most of the season trying to figure out their own backfield. They opened the year with Zack Moss as a healthy scratch, elevated him to a prominent role that included goal line duties after that, then scratched him down the stretch. After a brief Matt Breida appearance, Devin Singletary cemented himself as a workhorse in the closing weeks of the regular season.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 17 (1st)
- Dropback EPA: -.11 (1st)
- Passing yards per game: 163 (1st)
- Rush EPA: -.11 (11th)
- Rushing yards per game: 110 (14th)
The Bills were an ironclad defense that held strong by having few, if any, weak links. Tre’Davious White, who most consider their only star on defense, had a down year. Per PFF, he posted the second-worst coverage grade of his career. A torn ACL ended his season in November. His eventual absence was offset by one of the best safety duos in the league and a solid cast of corners. Only one team fielded a roster that featured more players with at least five pass defenses. The Bills were also the only team to have eight players reach three sacks. The Bills were able to rotate play-makers into the lineup at will. It made them a nightmare for offenses.
Bills 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
|CB Levi Wallace, WR Emmanuel Sanders, RG Ike Boettger, DE Jerry Hughes, DE Mario Addison, DT Harrison Phillips
Notes: Buffalo’s total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The Bills save $6.1 million if Beasley is traded or cut. They could also choose to restructure his contract, reducing his cap hit for 2022 while adding years to the end of his deal. Either way, his current cap figure won’t stand for long.
Starting corner Levi Wallace is set to hit free agency while White is coming off a torn ACL. Backup Siran Neal was inked to an extension before he hit the open market but Buffalo can’t view themselves as set at corner yet. They are likely to address cornerback on the first two nights of the draft.
Three of Buffalo’s top-five interior defensive linemen by total snaps are free agents. Ed Oliver is currently the only safe bet of the group. It makes sense to compliment his pass-rush skills with a run-stuffer through free agency or the draft.
Beasley was granted permission to find a trade partner but could be cut if no buyer is found. Emmanuel Sanders, a pending free agent, is reportedly mulling retirement. The Bills might look to give another aging receiver a one-year deal as they have done in the past with Sander and John Brown.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was hired to be the Giants’ next head coach this offseason. Buffalo’s QBs coach and passing game coordinator Ken Dorsey was tabbed as his replacement. Dorsey has been with the Bills since 2019, is respected by Allen and the rest of the players, and knows Daboll’s offense well. His sole responsibility will be to keep anything from changing too drastically.
The team also hired Aaron Kromer as their next offensive line coach. He filled the same role for the Rams from 2018 to 2020, adding the title of run game coordinator to his resume for the final two years of his LA tenure. Kromer also has experience with Buffalo, serving as their offensive line coach for two years under Rex Ryan. Special teams assistant Matt Smiley was promoted to special teams coordinator after Heath Farwell vacated the gig to join Jacksonville. There will be a few new faces in Buffalo, but don’t expect them to change the philosophy in any way.
Buffalo’s cap deficit will prevent them from keeping key free agents at multiple positions, most notably at wide receiver and across their defensive line. The good news is that they have been preparing for these departures in recent drafts. The Bills have spent three first or second-round picks on defensive lineman in the past two years. The trio combined for eight sacks last year, though none of them logged a snap share over 50 percent. Gabriel Davis was stuck at WR4 on the depth chart last year despite posting impressive numbers as a rookie. He let Buffalo’s staff know what they were missing out on by dropping an 8/201/4 line versus the Chiefs in the playoffs.
Buffalo has a stacked roster but the Chiefs have cut their playoff run short in back-to-back seasons. The first step toward pushing past that roadblock is to backfill their vacancies through recent draft picks. Then they can look to the 2022 NFL Draft for playmakers. With an offseason to improve an already-lethal squad, the Bills should have their eyes set on a Lombardi Trophy.