Buffalo Bills 2022 Offseason Preview

Buffalo Bills 2022 Offseason Preview

by February 23, 2022 0 comments

The Buffalo Bills won 11 games during the 2021 regular season. This was after they won 13 games a year ago for the first time since 1991. The team captured the AFC East Division title for the second straight time. Led by superstar quarterback Josh Allen, the former seventh overall pick enjoyed another strong campaign. He threw for 4,407 yards while tossing 36 touchdowns and rushing for six more. Along with this, the Bills once again were one of the top defenses in the NFL. They led the league in multiple categories, including total yards allowed per play, passing yards per play, third-down conversion rate, and first downs surrendered per contest.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Offseason Previews.

Pending Free Agents 

Buffalo is currently $6.4 million over the projected 2022 salary cap total according to Over the Cap. With multiple aging veterans on the roster, the team can create space and free up money in various ways. They can first restructure players’ deals by converting bonus dollars and asking them to take pay cuts. Furthermore, the team can also release multiple people from the active roster to clear their money off the books. They are right in the middle of their Super Bowl window with Allen still on his rookie contract for one more season. The Bills have 18 players who are set to hit free agency. This will leave general manager Brandon Beane and the rest of the front office with their work cut out for them.

Jerry Hughes

The longest-tenured player on the team, Hughes has spent nine seasons in Buffalo after being acquired in a trade. He re-upped with the franchise on a two-year extension before the 2019 season. The veteran pass rusher will once more hit the open market. Appearing in all 17 games for the Bills in 2021, the 33-year-old played in 52 percent of the team’s defensive snaps while recording 18 tackles and just two sacks. These were the lowest totals since his second year in the league. After spending multiple draft picks on the position over the past few years, the franchise is ready to get younger at the defensive end spot. Set to be 34 before the start of next season, a parting of ways remains the most likely possibility between the two parties.

Levi Wallace

A four-year veteran, Wallace landed with the Bills in 2018 after going undrafted out of the University of Alabama. Over the past few seasons, he has operated as the No. 2 cornerback opposite pro-bowler Tre’Davious White. However, after White went down with an ACL injury during the team’s win over the New Orleans Saints, Wallace was forced to play an increased role. Holding up in one of the strongest campaigns of his young career, he racked up 58 tackles, two interceptions, and ten pass breakups. The franchise was able to bring back the 26-year-old on a one-year deal before the start of last season. However, look for him to get a significant increase in pay on his next contract.

Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders choose to sign with Buffalo last offseason. The team inked the veteran-wide receiver to a one-year $6 million contract while spreading out of the cap hit over two seasons. He operated as the second option opposite of Stefon Diggs in the passing game for a large chunk of the year. This led him to haul in 42 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns. He also tied his career-high with 14.9 yards averaged per catch. Set to turn 35 before the start of the 2022 season, Sanders has already begun to hint at retirement after completing his 12th year in the NFL. With the emergence of Gabriel Davis late in the year and with Cole Beasley under contract for another season, if Sanders wants to return to Orchard Park for another run at the Super Bowl, it will likely come at a lower number.

Potential Cap Casualties

Buffalo is right up against the NFL’s projected salary cap total as the new league year is set to open. They need to free up space to re-sign their own pending free agents to new deals. Along with this, if the team hopes to be active in free agency, they will need to shed money. Choosing to structure the contracts of many of his top paid players with little to no guaranteed money left on their contracts, Beane will be presented with multiple options. With one of the best rosters in football still intact, the team can choose to move on from multiple veteran players with large-cap hits as they look to fill in the cracks.

Cole Beasley ($6.1 Million Saved)

After inking a four-year deal with the Bills in 2019, Beasley enters 2022 on the final year of his contract. Set to turn 33 years old in April, the longtime Dallas Cowboy currently accounts for $7.6 million against the cap. Still one of the most productive slot receivers in the game, the SMU alumn put together one of the finest years of his 10 year NFL tenure in 2021. He tied his career-high in receptions with 82 on a career-high 112 targets. The former undrafted free agent trailed only Los Angeles Rams star wideout Cooper Kupp in catches out of the slot with 69. Possessing the ability to save $6.1 million if they release him before June 1, look for Beasley to be back on a restructured salary.

Star Lotulelei ($1.5 Million Saved)

Choosing to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Lotulelei returned for Buffalo in 2021. He began the season as one of the key pieces on the interior of the defense. However, the 32-year-old would start to see a decline in his performance after contracting COVID-19 during the year. Ultimately losing his starting role to Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips, he finished the year with just 18 tackles and three sacks in eight starts. Currently, the 11th highest cap hit on the team next season; the franchise has multiple options in dealing with the former first-round pick. With no bonuses due for him this offseason, they can elect to hold him closer to June as they fill out the rest of their roster.

Jon Feliciano ($3.3 Million Saved)

A key target of the franchise in free agency last offseason, the Bills brought Feliciano back on a three-year $14.4 million deal. He choose to stay with them on a lower average pay per year than what he could have got on the open market. The team wanted to keep the 30-year-old as one of the protectors upfront for Allen after advancing to the AFC Championship game. Unable to replicate the same success in 2021, the former fourth-round pick battled injuries and a bought with COVID-19. Ultimately replaced in the lineup by Ike Boettger and Ryan Bates, the two backups filled in admirably in his absence. Likely to address the offensive line during the early rounds of the draft, the team also has the ability to kick veteran tackle Daryl Williams inside.

Open Market Free Agent Targets

Free agency is set to open in a few weeks. One of the busiest times on the NFL calendar is nearly here. Home to one of the deepest rosters around the NFL, the Bills have little to no needs as they look to get over the Super Bowl hump next season. The salary cap will constrain them as they choose what players to target on the open market and spend their money on. This means the team will need to focus on veteran players and guys who will come in at lower numbers to fill their remaining holes. With depth needed along the offensive line and at the cornerback position, here are a few free-agent targets for Buffalo.

Austin Corbett, Los Angeles Rams

Corbett was the starter at the right guard spot for the Super Bowl champion Rams. He has handled the position for 2.5 years. A former second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, the Reno, Nevada native has improved every year since arriving in Los Angeles. Appearing in all 17 games for the team in 2021, he played over 1,000 offensive snaps while surrendering just three sacks. Along with this, the 26-year-old committed just two penalties while earning a grade of 68.8 from Pro Football Focus. With experience playing center, Corbett would provide the Bills with a versatile piece along the interior of their offensive line.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Commanders

Fitzpatrick inked a one-year deal with the Commanders before the start of last year. He was expected to be the starter for Ron Rivera‘s group. However, the 39-year-old would see his season become cut short after undergoing hip surgery. Mitch Trubisky is set to hit the open market. The former first-round pick will be searching for the opportunity to compete for a starting job after spending a year on the bench in Buffalo. The perfect backup for Allen as an insurance policy for the star quarterback, Fitzpatrick would provide the franchise with the ability to come in and win games at a moment’s notice. With experience in Orchard Park already during his past tenure with the group, he provides a cheap value option.

Rasul Douglas, Green Bay Packers

Douglas has bounced around after being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 2017 draft. He has spent time with the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, and Las Vegas Raiders. Plucked off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad in October, the 26-year-old quickly became of the stories of the year in the NFL. Starting in nine games for the Packers, he led the team and tied for fourth in the league with five interceptions. Along with this, he allowed just a 50 percent completion rate when targeted in coverage. A playmaker at the defensive back spot, he has the length to be a shutdown corner opposite White. The perfect playmaker to pair with their star safety duo, signing Douglas would require some cap maneuvering from Beane and company.

Previewing the 2022 NFL Draft

Buffalo was defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. This means they will hold the 25th selection in the first round of the draft. The team will also pick 57th in the second round and 89th in the third round to close out their first two days. Rounding out their draft haul, the Bills are currently slated to make six selections in rounds 4-7. Opting to inject youth into the defensive line over the past few drafts, the team could go multiple ways with their first few selections. They have needs at cornerback, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and guard.

Round 1, Pick 25: Cornerback

The Bills have one of the elite secondaries in the NFL. They finished first in the league last season in passing yards allowed per game with just 179.4 surrendered per contest. The team is led by their outstanding safety duo in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Along with this, they also have an all-pro defensive back in White to man one side of the field. However, the group has been searching for a strong number two option at their No. 2 cornerback spot. Playing well in stretches in 2021, Wallace is set to hit unrestricted free agency and will command a pay raise on the open market. While the franchise is high on former seventh-round pick Dane Jackson, grabbing a cornerback early would be smart business.

Round 2, Pick 57: Wide Receiver

Possessing one of the deepest wide receiver rooms across the league, the team will once again be led by Diggs. Enjoying another stellar season in 2021, the 28-year-old hauled in 103 receptions for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns. Along with this, Beasley will likely return for another season in Orchard Park to man the slot in new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey‘s offense. Davis should see an increased role after hauling in eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns in their playoff loss to the Chiefs. With Sanders and speedster Isaiah Mackenzie set to hit free agency, continuing to add weapons for Allen should be a point of emphasis for the franchise. They need a speed threat to take the top off the defense.

Round 3, Pick 89: Defensive Tackle

Buffalo needs to add a one technique defensive tackle in the interior. Their defense became easily blown off the ball at times, causing them to be susceptible against the run. Struggling to hold up against big physical offensive lines, the group gave up 182 rushing yards and five touchdowns to Jonathan Taylor. Along with this, they also surrendered 222 yards on the ground in their Week 13 loss to the New England Patriots. Oliver finally showed strides of becoming an every-down defensive tackle late in the season. Nonetheless, with Phillips and Vernon Butler entering free agency, the team may also choose to move on from Lotulelei as a cap casualty. A deep class at the defensive tackle spot, options include Eyioma Uwzurike and Haskell Garrett.

Early 2022 Expectations

Buffalo is one of the elite teams in the game. They have been knocking on the Super Bowl window for the past two seasons. Ultimately falling to the Chiefs in back-to-back years, the franchise currently heads into 2022 with the highest odds of winning the big game at +700, according to Fan Duel. Home to one of the NFL’s bright young superstars in Allen, look for the California native to once again be in the MVP conversation in 2022. Needing to sure up the protection in front of their star player, the Bills also need to continue to add pieces on the defensive side of the ball to slow down the other high-powered passing attacks in the AFC.

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