After finishing 13-3 and into the AFC Championship Game, the Buffalo Bills find themselves as one of the luckier teams heading into the 2021 campaign.
They don’t have to spend as much cash to appease themselves, ownership, or the fan base. They’ve already re-signed some critical pieces from last year’s run and can approach the 2021 NFL Draft with aplomb — knowing each selection is only bolstering a locker room that’s minutes away from making it to the Super Bowl.
So, just how bold could Buffalo get in the next 6-8 weeks?
1) Do absolutely nothing remarkable for the rest of this offseason.
So, it’s hard to do absolutely nothing in an offseason, and the Bills have already made a few splashes for depth by signing former Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, former New Orleans Saints slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders, former New England Patriots tight end, and Josh Allen college teammate in Jacob Hollister, as well as former Miami Dolphins punter Matt Haack.
Buffalo still has the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, where it owns several quality picks to provide more youth and vitality to the roster.
Perhaps the boldest move the Bills could make from this moment until the kickoff of the 2021 regular season is to do nothing. Don’t trade up in the draft. Don’t make any other major acquisitions. Don’t shake up the depth chart too much.
After making the 2020 AFC Championship game — and then watch teams like the Patriots ($215+ million), New York Jets ($125+ million), and Dolphins (limited to $32 million in cap) make considerable moves in the offseason — the Bills have the division scrambling for answers.
Allen had more than 4,500 yards passing and 400 yards rushing in 2020 with 45 passing/rushing touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. The big 2020 off-season acquisition, Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, absolutely blistered defenses for 127 catches and more than 1,500 yards. Cole Beasley nearly had 1,000 yards receiving. The defense secured 15 interceptions and held teams to under 40% on third down.
Run it back with this crew, and don’t even think twice about it.
2) Trade up and draft Clemson RB Travis Etienne.
Yeah, yeah. It just said, “do absolutely nothing.”
But let’s be bold. Let’s be beautiful. Let’s take a bouquet of beautiful picks, and offer them as bounty for Clemson’s electric running back in Travis Etienne.
The Bills had the second-best offense in 2020 (just ahead of the Tennessee Titans, and just behind the Kansas City Chiefs) thanks to Allen’s arm and his prolific receivers, but finished 20th in rushing at 107.7 yards per game.
Certainly, there are different schools of thought here, as the Titans were the third-best offense behind controlled tempo and 2,000-plus yards from an unstoppable Derrick Henry, while the Chiefs only rushed for 76 more yards than Buffalo on the year. And this isn’t an indictment on the Bills and their complementary backfield, as Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are a pretty fun duo.
Most receiving yards after catch in college football last season
💥 DeVonta Smith – 953
💥 Travis Etienne – 646
💥 Amari Rodgers – 613
💥 Jaelon Darden – 571 pic.twitter.com/5JFVQKBXfF
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) March 24, 2021
Etienne, however, could be an offensive game-breaker for the Bills. A four-year workhorse and primary target of 2021’s projected top pick in QB Trevor Lawrence, the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder finished his collegiate career with more than 6,000 yards from the line of scrimmage and 78 total touchdowns. His pass-catching only got better each season, culminating in 48 receptions and 588 yards a year ago, and his dual-threat presence could change the Bills just as former LSU star Clyde Edwards-Helaire sparked the Chiefs in 2020.
Buffalo brass would almost certainly have to manufacture something to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft, as Etienne is expected to be a top-15 selection and the second running back off the board behind Alabama’s Najee Harris.
A first-round mock from CBS Sports, published on Wednesday, doesn’t even have Etienne in the top 32 picks. What a dream scenario that would be.
3) Sign veteran DB Richard Sherman.
From Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” to being San Francisco’s top defensive back on the way to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019, free agent defensive back Richard Sherman has the pedigree and profile to add moxie and madness to any defense in the league.
It’s exactly why Buffalo needs to offer up a spot for the former Pro Bowler — if only to see what’s left in the tank.
Conventional wisdom should usher caution in signing a skill player north of 30 years old but that doesn’t favor the bold.
Sherman, at the moment, is spending considerable time campaigning for himself on social media after moving on from the Bay area, and for good reason. He still believes in himself (as anyone would), and it’s likely he’d be more willing to sign with a contender at this point of his career — rather than just a sunny destination.
Buffalo already possesses a deep corps of talent at the corner position in Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, Cam Lewis, Siran Neal, Levi Wallace, and Tre’Davious White — which is strong depth on the outside and nickel spots. Could Sherman help there, or, perhaps, provide another safety net alongside Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer? Perhaps.
But a team hellbent on keeping the window open for a Super Bowl run could never go wrong adding someone to the roster who’s actually been there. Others on the Bills’ roster with the SB experience also include Sanders, Mario Addison, Star Lotuleilei, and Vernon Butler.
4) Select Washington DE Joe Tryon in the second round.
At the suggestion of ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques, Buffalo should strongly consider picking up some pass rushing in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. After all, everyone saw what happened when the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Kansas City Chiefs had their offensive timings upset by relentless pass-rushing courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their Super Bowl run. Beat Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, AND Patrick Mahomes in succession? Sure, why not.
If the Bills don’t want to shuffle up or down too much in the first 90 picks, a guy like Washington’s Joe Tryon might be at No. 61 when it comes time to pick up the phone.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pounder opted out of the 2020 season who could be a sleeper agent in this class, after finishing with 41 tackles and eight sacks in 2019.
ESPN Insider and NFL.com both grade Tryon as an eventual starter within the next two years, and his size and speed would also allow him to fall back into coverage situations to protect the flats and between the hash marks.