(WKBW) — Now that the 2018 season for the Buffalo Bills is officially over with, now begins one of the most important offseasons in recent memory for the organization. The last two years of contract cutting, trades, and dead money eating have landed the Bills in a spot where they're ready to create a core of their roster.
With salary cap room that could be over $90 million, if they take advantage of cap savings with underperforming players, the Bills have plenty of flexibility in the upcoming free agency period in March. And without any concern that they'll be undoing potential compensatory picks by signing so many free agents, general manager Brandon Beane will feel unencumbered to spend as he sees fit.
The trouble for the Bills is that the NFL season is still in full swing with the start of the playoffs on Saturday. The good news, for fans anyway, is there exists the opportunity to "scout" potential free agent targets of the Bills and how they might fit the team.
With two games on the docket Saturday, here is a name of an upcoming unrestricted free agent for each team to keep your eyes on:
Indianapolis at Houston, 4:35 pm
Indianapolis - RG Mark Glowinski, No. 64
- Is it a surprise that we begin with an offensive lineman? Given the state of things for the Bills, they could replace up to three or four of the starting positions along the offensive line. Considering how long it takes some offensive linemen to develop, free agency seems like a solid place to start while the team prepares their own in the background.
The Bills will likely need to bring in another starter at guard, and perhaps two, if they don't feel strongly enough about 2018 rookie, left guard Wyatt Teller. That's where Mark Glowinski comes in, who came out of nowhere to put together a superb season at right guard for the Colts.
According to FootballOutsiders.com, Glowinski played in 52.9-percent of the team's offensive snaps, but his inclusion on the starting lineup through an 8-1 stretch has to be noted. Still only 26 years old, it appears Glowinski is an ascending player entering the prime of his career -- and just in the nick of time for free agency.
Originally a fourth-round selection by Seattle in 2015, he spent almost three seasons with the Seahawks before being released in 2017. The Colts picked him up on waivers and had no intentions on starting him in 2018 -- until an injury to starter Matt Slauson pushed Glowinski into the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. And it all happened for the better because Glowinski has been enjoying the best football of his career in his fourth season.
The cost for Glowinski shouldn't be too over the top, considering his success is limited, and there is a bit of a "risk" taken by the team signing him. That would seem to fit the Bills' plan to be "judicious" in their free agent dealings this March. Oh, and he's described as a "gym rat" that went to high school about an hour-and-a-half from where Sean McDermott did. He fits the Bills' DNA profile, I'd say.
Others considered: CB Pierre Desir, LB Najee Goode
Houston - RT Kendall Lamm, No. 74
- As the Bills look to replace potentially at least three starters from 2018, they must consider right tackle just as much as a guard. And in the Indianapolis vs. Houston matchup can be simplified for "scouting" Bills fans by paying attention to the offensive line.
For the Texans, the man to keep an eye on that will be an unrestricted free agent is right tackle Kendall Lamm. If the Bills are looking for a depth tackle with the potential to start, they can do far worse than Lamm.
Like Glowinski, Lamm is only 26 years old and is coming off his first season as a full-time starter and will hope a team looks at him as a potential starter in free agency. While I expect there to be somewhat of a market for Lamm, I don't think it will be to a back-breaking degree as the team looks to fill both starting positions and depth.
Lamm would still afford the Bills the flexibility to move former second-round pick Dion Dawkins to right tackle if they were able to sign or draft a more suitable starter at left tackle. And, if the Bills strike out at left and right tackle this offseason, Lamm could be a short-term solution that still holds some upside as a starter.
He went to college at Appalachian State and is from North Carolina, so you can be sure that GM Brandon Beane knows all about Lamm.
Others considered: DT Christian Covington, RB Alfred Blue
Seattle at Dallas, 8:15 pm
Seattle - RB Mike Davis, No. 27
- Of the four teams playing on Saturday, Seattle is the toughest to project in regards to potential interest from the Bills in their unrestricted free agents. You could make a case for nickel cornerback and special teams contributor Justin Coleman, though his likely price tag and the presence of Taron Johnson makes it an unlikely pairing.
Their offensive line options are uninspiring, and the depth and special teams players leave a bit to be desired as well. So, for those reasons, I settled on running back Mike Davis.
I don't think it's likely that the Bills try to make a strike for a running back in free agency, but given their commitment to fixing the run game in 2019, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened, either.
If they were to bring in the 25-year-old Davis, they would have a young and improving running back to pair with LeSean McCoy right out of the gates -- and one that doesn't have much mileage as a runner, having all of 234 carries over his first four seasons. Davis had his most successful season in Seattle after the former San Francisco fourth-round pick averaged 4.6 yards per carry on a career-high 112 attempts.
Davis should come reasonably cheap on a bit of a prove-it deal, especially considering running backs don't get much on the open market. Davis would also be a potential complementary option once LeSean McCoy's contract ends after 2019, and only entering his age 27 season.
Davis would help the Bills get younger at running back, he would provide depth past 2019, he could pitch in on special teams (played 8.3-percent in 2018), and he could make Chris Ivory expendable and save the Bills an extra $2.25 million on the 2019 salary cap.
Others considered: S Maurice Alexander, G J.R. Sweezy
Dallas - WR Cole Beasley, No. 11
- Of the four listed on this roundup, the player that would likely cost the most is slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has been a constant for the Cowboys mainly for as long as he has been in the NFL since 2012. Beasley will be 30 for the 2019 season, but his game featuring short area quickness can hold up as a team's primary option in the slot.
For the Bills, they don't have a slot receiver as it stands. Ray-Ray McCloud hasn't worked out, Isaiah McKenzie showed some ability along with some faulty hands, and neither Zay Jones or Robert Foster is likely to be a full-time slot receiver, either.
When you consider the offenses that Brian Daboll has come from in the past, having that shifty slot receiver to help the quarterback with easy completions in space is an asset, which is why I think Beasley could be someone the Bills are interested in during free agency.
If they were to sign Beasley, it would cost them a bit more than you might think, but still quite within reason given the trust he has developed from quarterbacks throughout his career. Plus, signing Beasley wouldn't push the Bills out of the market of drafting or signing a boundary receiver, either. An ideal world would have Jones and Foster among the team's top four, with a more appropriate slot receiver and a top receiving option as well.
Beasley is a Texas guy, so I don't know if he'll want to leave a team from his home state. However, if the Bills are going to surround Allen with more targets in 2019, a solid slot receiver would help considerably.
Others considered: T Cameron Fleming, RB Rod Smith