CAPACCIO: What each new free agent signing means for the Bills

Evaluating the eight new players and their roles in Buffalo

Sal Capaccio
March 13, 2019 - 5:29 pm

Photo: Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills announced Wednesday that they've come to terms with seven unrestricted free agents. Along with cornerback Kevin Johnson, signed earlier this week, here are my thoughts on each player and how he fits the team and what it means for others, as well:

  • C - Mitch Morse 

Morse should immediately start at center. He’s athletic, can move and pull, and is known as a terrific pass-blocker. The question now is what happens with Russell Bodine, who has one year left in his contract and is coming off a broken leg? He’s definitely a candidate to be released before the season (the Bills would save $2.3 million in cap space), but may also be good insurance as a backup to Morse, who has missed 16 games over the past two seasons.

  • WR - John Brown 

Brown can fly. He was clocked at 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine back in 2014. The Bills have clearly made a decision to add speed on the field after they saw the results of having Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie taking more and more snaps as the season went on. He’ll immediately come in and be a deep threat for strong-armed quarterback Josh Allen. Now offensive coordinator Brian Daboll suddenly has some options. He can have Foster and Brown on the field at the same time, having two wideouts who can take the top off the defense.

  • WR - Cole Beasley

While Brown and Foster are going deep, there should be plenty of space opened up underneath, which is where Beasley has made a living. He's a terrific route runner who knows how to get open. A lot of Allen’s running success last year came from defensive backs having to turn their back to the offense and run with the speed the Bills put on the field. Allen may still have that available to him, but could also find Beasley, who should have room to roam. What do the additions of Brown and Beasley do to Zay Jones? He can play both inside and in the slot. It will be interesting to see where Daboll lines him up.

  • RB - Frank Gore 

The signing of Gore made for a lot of jokes on social media the last couple days (like, “did you hear the Bills are going to sign Jim Brown?”). See? A lot of people try to be comedians but just aren’t very good at it. Gore is old for a running back, in fact the oldest back in the NFL. He’s also a future Hall of Famer who still averaged 4.6 yards per-carry last year at the age of 35, and is one of the best pass-blocking running backs of the last decade. I think that’s a big reason the Bills grabbed him - to help give Allen even a little more protection and still be a threat to run between the tackles or catch the ball out of the backfield in certain situations. Will he push Chris Ivory, a similar type of runner, off the roster? They may be competing with one another for a backup role behind LeSean McCoy.

  • TE - Tyler Kroft

I’ve been saying for weeks that I think the Bills will sign at least one free agent tight end and draft another. Kroft is the first domino to fall in that regard. He can be used as a pass catcher, especially in the red zone, but I expect him to be used as a solid run-blocker as the team looks to get a younger, athletic tight end in the draft who can grow with Allen and also use Jason Croom in that role.

  • OL - Ty Nsekhe 

I expect Nsekhe to compete right away for the starting right tackle spot. He did a great job in pass protection while with the Washington Redskins. Jordan Mills had been there for the last two-plus years, but it looks like the Bills are moving on from him. Nsekhe can also play guard, and we all know how much Sean McDermott values position flexibility. So if for some reason he doesn’t start, he can still be a valuable swing-man.

  • OG - Jon Feliciano

Feliciano appears to be a depth signing as an interior lineman, but make no mistake, he’ll compete for a starting job. Vlad Ducasse is still on the roster, but the team could save $2 million on the cap by cutting him before the season. Wyatt Teller is going into his second season and, although showed some nice things last year, is far from a lock to start in 2019. Spencer Long can play both center and guard, and with the addition of Morse, he’s probably looking at fighting for a guard spot. Suddenly, the Bills have some competition for positions up front.

  • CB - Kevin Johnson 

Johnson is going to compete for the starting cornerback spot opposite Tre’Davious White. He’s long and physical, exactly what Sean McDermott wants in his corners. He also has had a lengthy injury history, so he certainly can’t be counted on right now to just walk on the field and be a reliable second cornerback. Levi Wallace did some really nice things last year as a rookie, but I thought he wasn’t nearly physical or strong enough and has to get better in those areas if he wants to see the kind of playing time he did late in the season. Now he has competition and will have to battle to keep his spot.


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