Home NFL AFC 2020 BUFFALO BILLS OFFSEASON RECAP PART ONE – FREE AGENCY AND TRADES

2020 BUFFALO BILLS OFFSEASON RECAP PART ONE – FREE AGENCY AND TRADES

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Since the earliest portion of the spring, the Buffalo Bills have signed multiple free agents who they believe will upgrade the team’s talent level.

To paraphrase former ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, allow us at From the 300 Level to be the last to recap the events of this past offseason. Here’s a comprehensive roundup of Buffalo’s haul from the spring:

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 11: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings makes a catch for a first down against Emmanuel Moseley #41 of the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

STEFON DIGGS

Arguably the crown jewel of the Bills’ offseason acquisitions, the 26-year old Diggs was acquired from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for first, fifth and sixth round draft picks in 2020 and a fourth round pick in 2021. The price was worth it for a player of Diggs’ caliber, who is one of the NFL’s best route runners, excels in the deep, intermediate and short passing game and is especially good at operating out of bunch and stack alignments.

Diggs, who has four years left on a five-year, $72 million contract extension he signed with Minnesota in 2018, instantly upgrades the Bills’ wide receiver corps to one of the better groups in pro football.

ORCHARD PARK, NY – OCTOBER 22: Taiwan Jones #26 of the Buffalo Bills attempts to catch the ball as Lavonte David #54 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defends him during the second quarter of an NFL game on October 22, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

TAIWAN JONES

A special teams captain during his first go-around with Buffalo (2017-18), Jones provides speed and lots of it. He’s useful as both a return man and as a gunner in punt coverage.

KANSAS CITY, MO – NOVEMBER 26: Buffalo Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines (28) makes the tackle on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) in the fourth quarter of a week 12 NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs on November 26, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Bills won 16-10. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

E.J. GAINES

Back for his third stint in Buffalo, Gaines is perfectly suited for the Bills’ zone-heavy defensive scheme. As productive as he is in Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s scheme, however, he has also been injury-prone, as Gaines has missed loads of playing time since the beginning of his career.

Gaines has opted out of playing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 virus, so his one-year contract will carry over to 2021.

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler (92) strips the ball from Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) as he sacks him in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. The Panthers won, 16-10. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

VERNON BUTLER

Drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2016, Butler signed a two-year, $16 million deal with Buffalo in March. After his first three years in the NFL, Butler was starting to look like a bust, but a breakout season last year (six sacks) prompted Bills general manager Brandon Beane to take a chance on a player he played a part in drafting while he was with the Panthers’ front office. He and Quinton Jefferson (more on him later) will be crucial to providing depth behind Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips, especially with Star Lotulelei opting out of the 2020 season.

GREEN BAY, WI – NOVEMBER 10: Carolina Panthers linebacker Mario Addison (97) tries to bring down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during game between the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers on November 10, 2019 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

MARIO ADDISON

At 32 years old, Addison inked a three-year, $30.45 million deal in the opening portion of free agency. Some might say that would be too much money for someone getting up there in age, but Addison is still quite productive – as evidenced by his four consecutive years with at least nine sacks, eight forced fumbles and no drop-off in his ability to set the edge. It also probably helped that for the first five years of his career Addison was a rotational piece on the Panthers’ defensive line, so there’s not as much mileage on his body as one would think.

Addison will likely be the starter at defensive end opposite Jerry Hughes.

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 22: New Orleans Saints outside linebacker A.J. Klein (53) reacts to a play against Tennessee Titans on December 22, 2019 at the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A.J. KLEIN

After spending the last three years with the New Orleans Saints, Klein left the Big Easy for a chance to compete for the Bills’ starting “Will” (weakside) outside linebacker spot that was vacated after the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander. Klein, who spent the first four years of his career in Carolina with McDermott and Beane, has experience playing not just the “Will” position, but also the “Sam” (strongside) and “Mike” (middle) linebacker spots, and also led Carolina in special teams tackles in 2015 on their way to an appearance in Super Bowl 50.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers delivers a pass over the defense of defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson #99 of the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium on November 11, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

QUINTON JEFFERSON

Similar to Butler, Jefferson agreed to a two-year contract with the Bills, but for slightly less money ($13.5 million). Jefferson was known as a versatile defensive lineman during his time in Seattle, as he lined up at both defensive tackle and defensive end multiple times. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see McDermott and Frazier utilize him at both spots as well, depending on both the opponent and down and distance.

ORCHARD PARK, NY – NOVEMBER 03: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills is brought down by Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins on a quarterback keeper that resulted in a fumble recovered by Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 3, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Washington 24-9. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

JOSH NORMAN

After blossoming into one of pro football’s best cornerbacks in a 2015 season that saw him be named an All-Pro and helping the Panthers get to the Super Bowl, Josh Norman signed a five-year, $75 million deal with Washington – making him the highest paid cornerback in NFL history at the time.

It didn’t go as planned. After a couple of decent years Norman’s play dropped off dramatically in 2019, leading to his release with just a year to go on his contract. Norman then signed a one-year pact with the Bills, reuniting him with McDermott, Beane and a host of former Carolina teammates.

Whether his declining play – especially in man coverage – was a result of being placed in a defensive scheme that didn’t cater to his strengths in zone coverage or because of age, no one quite knows. Regardless, Norman is competing for playing time at outside cornerback with incumbent Levi Wallace and is hoping to recapture his former self in Buffalo.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – NOVEMBER 18: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich (44) during the first half of an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 18, 2018, at TIAA Bank Field. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TYLER MATAKEVICH

The Bills brought in Matakevich on a two-year, $7.15 million contract to help beef up their kickoff and punt coverage teams, and if he plays like he did for his old team in Pittsburgh then the Bills got themselves a good one. Matakevich has recorded the most special teams tackles in the league over the last four seasons and will be counted upon to provide similar production in Buffalo.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 06: New York Jets Offensive Guard Brian Winters (67) waits for the snap during the game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 6, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

BRIAN WINTERS

Winters, a third-round draft pick by the New York Jets in 2013 out of Kent State, has started 79 of 89 games played in his career. Having been surprisingly released by the Jets in early August in what was believed to be a salary cap-related move, Winters quickly signed a one-year deal to play in Western New York, an area where his aunt and uncle both live (East Aurora) and where his parents called home for eight years (Orchard Park).

Having played mainly right guard in the NFL, Winters is competing for a starting job with the Bills while regular starter Jon Feliciano recovers from a torn pectoral muscle.

HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 29: Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Daryl Williams (60) waits for the snap during the football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DARYL WILLIAMS

Long rumored to be a target of the Bills, the former Panther lined up at both guard spots and left tackle in Carolina and the Bills love versatility amongst their players. Williams could prove to be vital for Buffalo this year, as he may hold down the fort at either guard or tackle while Feliciano recovers from injury.

ORCHARD PARK, NY – OCTOBER 20: Evan Boehm #76 of the Miami Dolphins waits to snap the ball during a play against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 20, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo beats Miami 31 to 21. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

EVAN BOEHM

Boehm is on his fifth NFL team after agreeing to a one-year, $1 million deal in April with the Bills. Boehm is known for having some positional flexibility as he has played both guard spots and center in the NFL, and McDermott and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson values versatility highly. Boehm is challenging for a roster spot in Buffalo.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – AUGUST 24: Defensive End Bryan Cox, Jr. #64 of the Carolina Panthers during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 24, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Jaguars 24 to 23. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

BRYAN COX JR.

Cox, the son of former NFL linebacker (and Bills nemesis) Bryan Cox, is entering his fourth season of NFL play after signing a one-year, $825,000 deal in April. He will be competing for a rotational role on Buffalo’s defensive line.

CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 22, 2019: Defensive tackle Justin Zimmer #99 of the Cleveland Browns on the field prior to a game against the Baltimore Ravens on December 22, 2019 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Baltimore won 31-15. (Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

JUSTIN ZIMMER

Zimmer has spent his five-year career with Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans, and has had five tackles – one for a loss – in three games. Interestingly, Zimmer originally came into the NFL with the Bills in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Ferris State.

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 24: Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Tanzel Smart #92 looks at his opponent during the preseason football game between the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams on August 24, 2019 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TANZEL SMART

Smart was a member of the Los Angeles Rams for the last three years and played in 31 games. He was a sixth-round pick in 2017 from Tulane.

PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 30: Coty Sensabaugh #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Brian Allen #29 watch the Cleveland Browns play the Baltimore Ravens on the scoreboard at Heinz Field following the Steelers 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on December 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

BRIAN ALLEN

The Bills picked up Allen in late August after Allen was let go by the Seattle Seahawks. Allen is entering his fourth NFL season after spending last year in Seattle and 2017 and 2018 with Pittsburgh, mostly playing on special teams.

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 16: Andre Smith (57) linebacker of Carolina during a preseason NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers on August 16 , 2019,at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANDRE SMITH

Picked up in a trade with Carolina for a conditional draft pick in 2023, Smith was originally drafted by the Panthers with a seventh-round pick that was acquired from Buffalo for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Smith participated in two-thirds of the Panthers’ special teams snaps last year.

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