BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has been a very busy man these last few weeks. While most of the sports world has essentially shut down, NFL front offices have been wheeling and dealing with free agency starting and the NFL Draft rapidly approaching.
On Thursday Beane spoke with reporters for more than an hour about his decision to acquire Stefon Diggs, the current outlook of his roster and his plans once the draft begins three weeks from today.
Five observations from Thursday's conversation:
Why [and how] did the Diggs deal go down?
Beane is viewing Stefon Diggs as the Bills first-round pick this year. On Thursday he said when the draft starts and it gets to the No. 22 pick he’ll turn on some Diggs highlights to remember the kind of player the Bills are getting. But did Beane overpay? He doesn't care.
"If I overpay a little bit, so be it. It’s better than waiting, sitting on my hands and I’m not really fired up about a guy when my pick comes up. That’s just my viewpoint. That may not be 31 other GMs, but that’s how I see it."
Diggs immediately gives the Bills a legit No. 1 option across from John Brown and alongside Cole Beasley. If the Bills would've drafted a wideout in the first round it would've been an extremely challenging transition, especially with all of the restrictions as a result of COVID-19.
"It’s my job and my team's job and my personnel staff's job to add weapons to help Brian Daboll and his staff and help our quarterback and Sean," Beane said. "I just felt a proven commodity was worth this."
So how did the deal go down? The Bills had shown interest in Diggs at the trade deadline, but couldn't agree on anything with the Vikings.
On Monday, March 16th, the NFL legal tampering period opened and conversations started happening in league front offices. After hearing some rumors that Diggs would be available, the Bills reached out to Minnesota around 4:00 p.m. and the discussions were short-lived. Minnesota essentially told the Bills they didn't want to move their No. 1 receiver but they also didn't say he was untouchable. After thinking it over, the Bills front office talked things over and called Minnesota back.
"At the end of the night, I had told Minnesota that we would circle back and they were starting to get a little antsy because they were starting to get some pressure and there were some other teams involved. So we worked on it probably around 9:45 or so and 20 or 30 minutes later we got it knocked out."
Diggs the Diva?
Beane isn’t interested in adding choir boys, he wants professionals. That’s what he said about the perception around the NFL that Diggs is a diva.
"It's a clean slate here. We believe in our culture. We believe the facts that we know about him, we believe he will be a fit here."
Beane also referenced the relationship Diggs had with Bills Director of College Scouting Terrence Gray, who spent 11 seasons in Minnesota before joining the Bills in 2017.
"Terrence is still very connected there and was around him. There were other connections from people that coached him in college, that we have people on our staff. We did do some digging and again, this guy's a super competitive guy and brings an edge to that position"
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sports world:
Beane, like many of us, has been spending a lot of time on Zoom calls these last few weeks. He doesn't know what the future holds or if the season will start on time, he's just making sure his staff and players are prepared.
"We're going to be ready for all scenarios. Sean [McDermott] and I've had meetings with coaches, personnel, our football ops -- all sorts of people just planning for whatever hand we're dealt, and I think that's the best we can all do no matter what our profession is."
Beane said he's an optimist by nature so he's trying to stay positive during these trying times. But he also knows every team is dealing with adversity and uncertainty.
What's the plan in the draft?
With the way the roster is currently constructed, the Bills could basically go anywhere with their first pick at No. 54. Beane has made it no secret, he believes in taking the best player available. Even though they don't have a first-round pick, that mentality will still play a factor this year...at least in the earlier rounds.
"Early in the draft, it’s definitely best player available. As you move later in the draft then you start looking at, ‘OK, what are some needs? Because now the best player available may not make our team in the fifth round here or if we’ve already drafted somewhere there or we filled that position in free agency.’ Early on, second round, third round there, it will definitely be the best player, offense, defense, whatever.”
Continuity is important
With likely offseason programs cut short, it's going to be even more difficult for new players to get on the same page with the players who are returning to a team. Luckily for the Bills, almost all of their starters, at least right now, appear to be returning.
Last year, that wasn't the case. Brown and Beasley were added into the wide receiver room and four of the five starters on the offensive line were new to the team. This year, the Bills added mostly complementary pieces with a few big names [Diggs, Mario Addison, Josh Norman, etc.].
Some interesting notes:
Beane said offensive lineman Daryl Williams, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Bills last week, is better suited on the right side. In Carolina last season, Williams filled in at left-tackle and struggled.
"This guy was a second-team All-Pro a few years ago," Beane said of Williams. "He's the only new face on that line. I'm excited that we will have this same group together plus whatever additions we make in the draft or after the draft."
When asked about the running back position, Beane called Singletary "the No. 1 back as it stands."
I wouldn't be shocked if the Bills added a veteran back before the season or drafted another guy in free agency. As for T.J. Yeldon, who is still under contract for one more season, the front office believes he can contribute.
"He's a three-down player. He's smart. He fit us well. The great thing about T.J. is, again, he wasn't up last year just the way we had it with special teams, but he played some when Devin [Singletary] got hurt. He's a guy we feel can play at any point."
As for the expectations surrounding the Bills this season, Beane doesn't want to count his chickens until they actually accomplish something.
"The team to beat in the AFC East is the Patriots, and until somebody beats them, they are the team to beat. And as long as Bill Belichick's there, you're talking about probably the greatest head coach of all time that was paired with the greatest quarterback of all time. So until we beat them, we've done nothing, and we've got our work cut out for us."