Bills' Top Players to Avoid in 2021 NFL Free Agency
The Buffalo Bills have to turn their pass-rusher search in a different direction after missing out on signing J.J. Watt.
Buffalo has to learn from the signings made in 2020, and it needs to find players who will produce sacks at a high level, or at least get to opposing quarterbacks at a decent rate.
There are plenty of pass-rushers on the free-agent market, but a handful of them are not worth the pursuit because of injuries or recent production issues.
While defensive line should be Buffalo's top offseason area of improvement, it also needs to find the right fit at tight end to give Josh Allen another dangerous weapon to work with to improve over Dawson Knox.
If Bud Dupree did not tear his ACL late in the 2020 regular season, he would have been one of the most coveted free agents.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end should still receive plenty of interest, but the Bills should stay away because of his recent injury history.
Buffalo needs its new defensive linemen to be healthy right away as it fends off challenges from the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. The Bills can't afford to lose too many games overall as they try to nail down the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
In 2020, the Bills did not have a single player record more than five sacks. A.J. Klein and Mario Addison led the defense with five each.
Dupree recorded 19.5 of his 39.5 career sacks in the last two seasons. His 2020 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 12.
The 28-year-old's value should drop a bit because of the significant injury. Although Buffalo could take a risk on him, there are other healthier pass-rushers worth chasing.
Haason Reddick appears to be the classic case of a player who overperformed in a contract year.
The former first-round pick totaled a career high 12.5 sacks for the Arizona Cardinals in 2020. He had 7.5 sacks in his first three seasons.
Reddick's totals across the board were inflated compared to his first three years in the NFL. He doubled his career quarterback hits total and went from 18 tackles for loss in a career to 15 in a single season.
The significant difference between his pass-rushing stats should be a warning sign for Buffalo, who needs a consistent edge rusher.
Some of Reddick's success can be attributed to playing on the same unit as Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks, who both command the attention of opposing offenses because of their prowess around the ball.
Reddick could prove at his next destination that 2020 was not a fluky season, but the Bills have to be wary of how those totals compare with the rest of his career. That makes him too much of a risk with more consistent pass-rushers available.
Jonnu Smith experienced a similar uptick in production to Reddick during his contract season with the Tennessee Titans.
Smith emerged as a larger red-zone threat by scoring eight touchdowns. He had eight total touchdown catches in his first three seasons.
Tennessee's offense adapted to the attention gained by A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, which made Smith a perfect red-zone option for Ryan Tannehill.
If he signs in Buffalo, Smith might have to be the No. 2 option in some situations behind Stefon Diggs, which would garner more defensive attention.
In his four seasons, Smith has not earned more than 500 receiving yards in a single campaign, so that would not be a significant upgrade over Knox, who caught 24 balls for 248 yards in 2020.
If the Bills want to dip into the tight end market, they should look closer at Hunter Henry, who had back-to-back seasons of at least 55 catches and 600 receiving yards for the Los Angeles Chargers.
If Buffalo can get Henry-like production, or better, from the tight end position in 2021, it could be even more of a force offensively than it was in 2020.
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Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.