Bills' Top Players to Prioritize in 2021 NFL Free AgencyMarch 10, 2021
Bills' Top Players to Prioritize in 2021 NFL Free Agency
The Buffalo Bills have to be prepared to suffer a few key losses in free agency.
Linebacker Matt Milano and offensive tackle Daryl Williams could depart for larger deals, which would force the AFC East champion to bring in replacements on a tight budget.
At the moment, the Bills have $1.9 million of salary-cap space available, but that figure could soon grow if the franchise restructures contracts or releases players.
Sean McDermott's team could also look to the draft to replace Milano or Williams, which would then allow it to focus on other positions in need of improvements.
One area where the Bills could be aggressive in free agency is at tight end. They have not received great yardage production from Dawson Knox and could upgrade with a handful of intriguing players available.
Even though Milano appears to be on his way out, the Bills should prioritize keeping the linebacker in western New York.
The 26-year-old is poised to cash in on a large free-agent deal because of the pressure he put on opposing quarterbacks in 2020. Although he played just 10 regular-season games, he recorded career highs with 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits.
The Bills did not utilize the franchise tag on Milano, which means they are willing to fight with other teams that have more salary-cap room for his services.
If they keep the Boston College product, the Bills would not have to replace their most important player at the position and could focus on improving at other spots on the field.
How Buffalo gets to a deal with Milano will be interesting due to the lack of cap space, but if it wants him back that bad, it can find a way to make a deal work.
A team-friendly, short-term contract is likely off the table because of Milano's exploits in 2020, but the Bills could try to work that out if he believes he can get a larger deal in the next year or two when the salary cap goes back up.
The Bills should try to re-sign Milano in any way possible to ensure their defense does not lose a massive piece as they build toward an AFC Championship Game return.
The Bills may not be able to afford both of Milano and Williams. If the latter departs, though, the team needs to make sure it at least retains the services of Jon Feliciano.
However, the 29-year-old told the Tim Graham and Friends podcast that he does not see himself leaving western New York (h/t Ryan Talbot of NYup.com).
"Honestly, I don’t see myself going anywhere," Feliciano said. "I love Buffalo and I know how they feel about me. I'm going to stay optimistic and I don’t like change. Honestly, when I think of next season, I see myself as a Bill. We’ll see what happens, but I think both sides want the same thing so it’s just a matter of time, I think.”
Feliciano has been a vital part of the offensive line for the last two years, and bringing him back would help with keeping Josh Allen upright in 2021 and beyond.
The Bills would still have to reward the Miami product with a strong deal, but he could be a much cheaper option as an interior lineman compared to a tackle such as Williams.
If Buffalo believes the offensive tackle market is too expensive for its current cap situation, it could use one of its top draft picks on the position to save money.
The Bills could use a veteran tight end with a history of finding the end zone.
Jared Cook, who was recently released by the New Orleans Saints, could be the perfect upgrade to Dawson Knox.
In his two seasons with New Orleans, the 33-year-old found the end zone on 16 occasions and brought in over 60 percent of his targets. Including his two seasons with the then-Oakland Raiders, he has four straight campaigns with a 60 percent catch rate or better and 24 total touchdowns.
Even though Cook is older than Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Gerald Everett, he could be exactly what Buffalo needs to complement Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley in the passing game.
In Knox's two seasons in Buffalo, he did not catch more than 55 percent of his targets and totaled just five touchdowns. While the Bills could be patient with the 24-year-old's development, it is hard to wait around for that inside a championship window.
The Kansas City Chiefs hold a significant advantage over Buffalo at tight end with Travis Kelce. While the Bills will not match the Chiefs completely, they could find a veteran upgrade, like Cook, who makes the two offenses more comparable in 2021.
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Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.
Contract information obtained from Over the Cap.