Bills open NFL free agency with a bang
Bills general manager Brandon Beane signs top defensive free agent along with brining back fan favorites
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BUFFALO, N.Y, (3-18-2022) - Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said his team would make a splash in free agency this offseaon but with limited cap space, it seemed impossible.
The team also faced embarrassment when free-agent running back J.D. McKissic returned to the Washington Commanders after initially signing with the Bills. Fans felt things looked even more grim when they saw Chandler Jones being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
However, on March 16, 2022, the start of the new-league year, the team made a free-agent signing that shocked the NFL world.
On his Instagram, Los Angeles Rams linebacker Von Miller announced he would be signing with the Bills after spending the second half of the 2021 season with the Rams where he helped the team win its second Super Bowl. The team signed Miller to a six-year deal worth $120 million on with $51.5 million guaranteed, and $45 million of it will be fully guaranteed at signing, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Giving Miller a huge contract showed how bad the team wants to get to the Super Bowl, no matter the cost.
Miller brings a lot of experience to the Bills, especially in the postseason. Miller spent 11 seasons with the Denver Broncos where he broke the franchise record for career sacks with 110.5 and contributed to the team's Super Bowl 50 championship which would see him winning Super Bowl MVP. In 2021, the Rams acquired Miller in exchange for a second and third-round draft pick. Miller had 31 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble for the Rams and helped them win Super Bowl 56 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite Miller's accomplishments in the NFL, the signing does come with skepticism form fans. Miller will turn 33-years-old before the season starts in September and fans believe his age might have a negative effect on his production. However, Miller will get to work with head coach Sean McDermott, who might be able to help Miller shake off the rust.
During an interview with ESPN's Alaina Getzenberg, Miller said how excited he was to get the chance to play for a team that built a strong culture in the locker room.
"When I left Denver and I went to LA, I said I'm not going back. I said I'm not leaving," Miller said. "And it had to be something special. It had to be the Buffalo Bills. What they've created here -- it had to be the Bills Mafia. This environment that they've created here, it drawed me away from that. It's not gonna be the weather. The weather is gonna be the weather. But what they're doing inside this facility, what they're doing in this community, what they're doing on the football field and off the football field, man, I had to be a part of that."
Adding Miller to the roster wasn't the only addition the Bills made to their defense. The Bills also signed defensive tackles DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle from the Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders respectively. Both had mediocre stats with their teams. However, with the release of DT Harrison Phillips, the Bills need to provide depth for the front seven.
Just when fans couldn't be more excited about the news with Miller, two fan favorites announced they would return to wear the blue and red.
Cardinals defensive tackle Jordan Phillips announced he would resign with the Bills after being released from the Cardinals on his Instagram Wednesday night. Phillips previously played for the Bills from 2018-2019 after the team claimed him off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. During his time with the team, Phillips recorded a total of 50 tackles and 9.5 sacks. The team also allegedly brought back former defensive end Shaq Lawson on a one-year deal, according to Tom Pelissero. Lawson also had decent stats with the team, recording 108 tackles and 16.5 sacks.
The two slowly became fan favorites as whenever Phillips made huge plays, he would gesture to the fans to get hyped up. Phillips did this even when the team played against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville during week five of the 2019 season. That same season both Phillips and Lawson impersonated Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot's trademark gesture of eating cereal after the Bills beat the Cowboys 26-15 on Thanksgiving.
In an interview with Syracuse's Matt Parrino, Phillips said even after he left the team he never lost contact with his teammates.
“I didn’t miss a game. You can ask me anything about a game and I could probably tell you,” he said. “I talked to the guys constantly, stayed in touch. When I left, it was a real close-knit group. It was the first time I felt part of a football team that’s like more of a family.”
Phillips also said how he felt seeing the Bills lose that thriller AFC Divisional Round against the Chiefs and how it makes him more excited to help this team push to a Super Bowl.
“I don’t want to say I’m not sad that a Super Bowl didn’t happen,” he said. “But I’m happy I get a chance to be a part of it. I’ll say that.”
Beane didn't ignore any needs on offense either. After acquiring Miller, the team added Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. Howard played five seasons with the Buccaneers, recording 1737 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. His pairing with Rob Gronkowski contributed to the team winning Super Bowl 56 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the emergence of Dawson Knox, who had a career season recording 587 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, the Bills searched for someone to be a solid no. 2 option should Knox get injured.
As for the o-line, the Bills signed Pro-Bowl guard Rodger Saffold to a one-year deal from the Titans. Saffold played 160 and started in 157 with both the Rams and the Titans.
In order to accommodate these signings Beane, had to make significant adjustments to the team's cap space. On Thursday, March 17, the front office restructured $5.68 million of safety Micah Hyde's contract into a signing bonus, according to ESPN's Field Yates. The team did the same thing with linebacker Matt Milano, creating $5.172 million in cap space.
Later that day, the team also released wide receiver Cole Beasley after failing to find a suitable trade partner, according to Getzenberg.
The release of Beasley could give receiver Isaiah McKenzie a bigger role on the offense along with Jake Kumerow, both of whom resigned with the Bills last week.
While the Bills have made significant additions in the last 48 hours, the team still needs to find a cornerback to pair up with Tre'Davious White as he recovers from his ACL tear. Especially with conerback Levi Wallace signing a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Middle linebacker may also be something the Bills want to address as rumors swirl about Tremaine Edmunds future with the team.
The team currently has $16 million left to spend, according to Sportstrac. So, they could still sign some big names before the 2022 NFL Draft takes place on April 28-30 in Paradise, Nevada. The Bills currently hold the no. 25 overall pick and should consider adding more pieces to their team to progress to the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona.