It’s a bit of a mixed bag for the Bills as free agency opens.
On the positive side, they snagged the top centre on the market in Mitch Morse. The former Kansas City lineman is still in his prime at 26 years old and helps to upgrade the offensive line in Buffalo which allowed 101 QB hits last season. Solidifying the protection around QB Josh Allen is vital given that the former Wyoming player can’t use his arm strength to throw it deep if he’s constantly on the run from opposing defences.
One note of caution might be that Morse didn’t manage a full season of play in 2017 (foot) or 2018 (concussion). But the Bills have the cap space and the necessity to take a calculated gamble.
Speaking of gambles, the team also added former Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson to play opposite playmaker Tre’Davious White. Houston let their 2015 first round pick leave partially due to issues with durability. Johnson only managed to play in a full 16 games in his rookie year and was only able to suit up for one game last year due to issues with concussions.
The Wake Forest product says he has been medically cleared and given he was highly rated coming out of college, you can understand why he’s worth a flyer for Buffalo. It also illustrates how first round picks will get multiple opportunities even if they haven’t been a runaway success for the team that drafted them.
Contract terms aren’t yet known but if this is a one-year deal or has an optional extra year or two racked on, it could be a good move for the Bills. The Texans’ former defensive backs coach John Butler, who coached Johnson in his rookie season, now holds the same position in Buffalo. In that rookie season Johnson only managed one interception but added nine passes defended to that. He’ll get the opportunity to prove his first-round pedigree in New York State with opposing QBs likely to avoid White’s side of the field.
Now to the Bills one-year, low cost signing of evergreen running back Frank Gore. I understand the benefit of adding a positive locker room presence but given the decline in fellow aged 30 plus runner LeSean McCoy’s production last season, this is a puzzling addition. The team needed to get younger at the position, though given the fact this is only for $2 million for one year, there’s little risk involved. Gore averaged 4.6yds/rush for Miami last year but it would be worth seeing if he makes it past training camp on the roster.
The signing of Tyler Kroft to replace the released Charles Clay represents GM Brandon Beane projecting the former Bengals player evolving into the Bills move tight end perhaps. The deal isn’t particularly onerous, but Josh Allen must have been hoping for Beane to utilise some of the teams cap space to sign Jared Cook who had over 800 receiving yards for the Raiders last year and would provide an excellent security blanket for the second year quarterback.
Beane said he would be cautious in free agency and he certainly has been, with perhaps the exception being Morse whose signature was a necessity. Whilst many fans and analysts might not have their pulses set racing by these signings, it should also be noted that few teams ‘win’ free agency by throwing large sums of money around.