WKBW — As the negotiation window opened on Monday, a report linked the Buffalo Bills with a premium player within the first hour.
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, the Bills have had "some level of discussions" in regards to New England free agent defensive end Trey Flowers. After a successful 2018 season and dominant postseason, Flowers was atop many lists as the best pass rusher available without restriction -- once others at his position were given the franchise tag in early March.
Anderson also mentioned, "other potential targets" that interested the Bills were given a tag from their respective teams -- meaning they are not free to sign with whomever they please. Regardless, the Bills interest in defensive ends is notable.
Flowers, 25, came away with 7.5 sacks in 15 games for the Patriots. He turns 26 in late August.
Joe B's Take
- In late February at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, Bills GM Brandon Beane dismissed the notion that the term "judicious" would preclude them from having an interest in the top free agents available. For those that didn't believe him then, they should now.
Flowers, a pass rusher in the prime of his career that has meant so much more to the Patriots than just the overrated sack statistic, is one of the top players available without restriction. As the year went on in 2018, the Bills and head coach Sean McDermott grew increasingly frustrated about the lack of consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
While the defense across the board improved drastically from what they had been in 2017, the Bills still lacked pass rushing talent outside of Jerry Hughes. That's even when Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson were both healthy.
Flowers, who is a left defensive end by trade (and usually goes up against right tackles), would fill a short-term need in wanting to generate more heat on the opposing quarterbacks. However, he would fill a long-term need that exists within the Bills past just the 2019 season.
Unless the Bills unexpectedly decide to issue Shaq Lawson his fifth-year option for the 2020 season, the Bills would go into the 2019 campaign with both Lawson and Jerry Hughes entering the final years of their contract. The Lawson and Hughes duo account for nearly $14 million of the upcoming salary cap.
Adding Flowers would be a forward-thinking move at a premium position so that way they aren't left going into scramble mode once 2019 is complete. The cost, however, is not one of those low-risk deals like the one the Bills signed Trent Murphy to last season.
Flowers would likely garner a contract that would put him among the five highest-paid players at his position, and for context, the range for those five players in 2019 is between $15 million and ~$20.5 million cap hits. It's a weighty contract, and outside of the move up to select Josh Allen, it would be the most significant move of Beane's tenure with the Bills.
However, if the Bills get the same player that Flowers was throughout the 2018 season, he's well worth the investment.
Forget the sack statistic, which in my opinion is almost as overrated as tackles are to a linebacker. The number of sacks a player has often does not tell anywhere close to the full story, much in the way that Hughes has been one of the Bills best players over the last two seasons despite only having 11 total sacks.
The same goes for Flowers, whose impact on a game is immense. He provides constant pressure from the left side of the defense, he sets the edge incredibly well against the run, and he's able to bring down the ball carrier consistently.
If Flowers is the same player that he was in New England, he is an impact player. And entering his age-26 season at the height, weight, and length that the Bills covet at the defensive end position, this is a potential match made in heaven in Beane and head coach Sean McDermott's eyes.
The Bills will always be willing to pay for what they deem to be premium positions. In my opinion, based on what I've seen and heard over time, those positions include quarterback, players that provide pass rushing ability to the defensive front seven, and high-quality offensive linemen.
And with Josh Allen on his rookie contract for the next three seasons, the Bills have the unique opportunity to surround him with big contract players at other positions, with the potential to get out from underneath them when their first few draft classes reach the end of their rookie contracts. At least, that's their hope, as long as they take the steps they plan to in 2019 and 2020.
All in all, it would be a humongous contract for the Bills, but if Flowers were to provide consistent pressure as he did in New England, the cost is most certainly worth it.