Blueprint: How the Bills can take the AFC East from the Patriots

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are coming off their best season since Flutie Flakes was a thing at the turn of the century. Some reading this article are too young to understand that comparison. This is how bad Buffalo has been over the past two decades.

Finishing 10-6, Sean McDermott’s squad relied on one of the game’s best defenses and an improved young quarterback in Josh Allen on offense to actually compete with the New England Patriots in the AFC East. 

A division that’s been won all but one time by New England since 2002 could now very well be up in the air. Here’s how Buffalo can capture claim to the AFC East in 2020 with a solid offseason plan in the coming months. 

Stay true to the plan: General manager Brandon Beane has had a clear plan since coming over from the Carolina Panthers. Build up the culture with veterans through free agency and rely primarily on the draft. This is something that we fully expect the Bills to do during the offseason. 

One minor caveat: Buffalo is in tremendous position with north of $81 million currently to spend under the salary cap. 

  • While the focus here should still be on the draft, Beane and Co. have an ability to go out there and both re-sign some core players and add to a budding young group. 
  • The better news here is that this team does not have a whole lot of its own free agents to retain. At the very least, not high-priced internal free agents.
  • Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and edge rusher Shaq Lawson could be seen as priority re-signs. Phillips put up 9.5 sacks this past season. He’ll be one of the highest-priced re-signs for the Bills.
  • As it relates to Lawson, the former first-round pick put up 6.5 sacks as a fourth-year player. Buffalo could end up looking for an upgrade there. However, he’s been solid. The market will dictate what Buffalo does in that regard.

Free-agent needs: Buffalo’s two losses to New England came by a combined 13 points. The team scored just 27 points on those two games. More offensive firepower is needed.

  • This has to be the Bills’ No. 1 objective in free agency. They are already in on three-time Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen. He makes perfect sense as a safety valve for Allen.
  • Buffalo is said to be high on Devin Singletary. The team finished in the top eight in rushing this past season. However, if the Bills could add someone of Melvin Gordon’s ilk to the backfield, it would be huge for this offense.
  • Even with Dion Dawkins and Cody Ford as legit offensive tackles, the interior of Buffalo’s offensive line could stand to be addressed.
  • On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills are likely going to sign Tre’Davious White to a long-term extension. They could still use help at safety and nickel corner in the secondary. We also mentioned the possibility of upgrading from Lawson out on the edge.

The draft: Buffalo has nine picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. It is one of the very few playoff teams from a season ago sitting pretty heading into the annual event in Las Vegas this coming April. Here’ a look at how we envision this playing out.

1- Solomon Kindley, guard, Georgia

We already know Buffalo is looking to build a bully. It helped this physical team to a 10-6 record and playoff appearance in 2019. 

Dion Dawkins has solidified the tackle position for the Bills after a surprising 2019 season for the team. That enables Sean McDermott and Co. to get physical with a mauler and potential All-Pro performer at guard. While we originally went with Creed Humphrey, he’s returning to Oklahoma. Kindley provides the same type of physicality inside for Josh Allen and Co.

2- Ashtyn Davis, safety, California

The idea of adding a true cover safety in the defensive backfield seems too good for the Bills to pass up. Davis is that centerfielder. And while he flew under the radar in the Pac-12, the draft community has taken note.

We wouldn’t be surprised if this elite cover guy becomes a Day 1 starter. Add in the Bills’ tremendous success out on the perimeter with the above-mentioned White and Levi Wallace, and this would create a shutdown secondary.

3- Lynn Bowden Jr., wide receiver, Kentucky

Sure the Bills are looking to remain physical on offense. Even then, it would not hurt if this team had an explosive playmaker that can play multiple positions.

Bowden was even seen playing quarterback during Kentucky’s bowl game. That’s how flexibile he is on offense. Here’s a dude that went for nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 1,100 receiving yards in his final two seasons with the Wildcats.

Bottom line

Buffalo has the cap space and draft pick assets to narrow the seemingly minor gap between itself and New England during the offseason. Beane has worked wonders from the front office. Sean McDermott has been a godsend for this organization.

If the Bills are able to add a couple core long-term pieces in free agency while retaining their own top-end free agents, it would go a long way in overtaking the Pats in the AFC East.

The likes of Greg Olsen, Melvin Gordon and potentially even New Orleans Saints guard Andrus Peat would do this on offense. With little need on the other side of the ball, that’s where the focus should be.

The Bills are definitely on the upswing. It’s now up to Beane and Co. to continue that momentum this spring. For the first time in a while, we’re confident that will happen.