The Buffalo Bills had one of the quietest offseasons of all the major Super Bowl 58 contenders. Despite this, they have the third-best odds to reach the big game and add their first Lombardi Trophy. We break down why the Bills’ lack of big moves can be a positive thing in 2023.
Why the Bills’ Quiet Offseason Didn’t Hurt Super Bowl Odds
Flashback to the Bills’ 2022 offseason, and the tone around the team was much different. After retaining key free agents Matt Milano, Dawson Knox, Dion Dawkins, and Micah Hyde, the Bills also pulled off the most surprising signing of the year: landing Von Miller. Miller, who signed a massive six-year, $120 million deal, was supposed to be the catalyst who put the team over the top in their playoff journey.
Buffalo had become the favorite to win Super Bowl 57 for good reason. Star quarterback Josh Allen was coming off two incredible playoff performances, and role players like Gabe Davis had stepped up when it mattered most. Even if the team lost offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, there was reason to believe that the continuity that came from promoting Ken Dorsey from within would help quell issues.
The 2022 season was far from a disappointment as the Bills finished 13-3 with the No. 2 scoring offense and defense. Yet, Buffalo lost badly in a shocking 27-10 outcome at home against Cincinnati.
The Bills could’ve overreacted. While the details of 2022 showed more cracks in their foundation than many had hoped last offseason, the team’s best way to move forward is to promote in-house improvement.
Miller suffered a torn ACL in December, and Allen was dealing with a torn UCL in his throwing elbow. Allen admitted the injury forced him to “throw it [the ball] a little differently…from how I’m used to.” In retrospect, those two incidents likely ended the Bills’ title hopes instantly, considering their importance to the team and the high-caliber of AFC opponents they’d have to face in the playoffs.
Allen’s performance throughout 2022 was middling regardless of the injury. His touchdown rate increased, but his interception rate has climbed in back-to-back years, and he continues to force decisions instead of letting the game come to him. Dorsey also struggled to find balance within the offense as the year progressed, giving Allen more incentive to play more hero ball as the running game disappeared.
The team’s 2022 campaign was almost a classic instance of being overhyped based on a small sample size. Buffalo had legitimate Super Bowl dreams and talent, but the lack of offensive consistency outside of star receiver Stefon Diggs was felt. Last November, Dorsey acknowledged the importance of learning from the adversity the team faced, including how he can better utilize the team’s playmaking talent.
Why Internal Growth Is Needed
Although surely not on purpose, Dorsey’s statement on maximizing what the team can control was a foretelling one. It was the tone of the entire 2023 offseason for Buffalo, and that can be the best way for this team to take a leap once again.
Head coach Sean McDermott is calling defensive plays in 2023 after DC Leslie Frazier stepped aside to take a break for at least a year. McDermott said it’s “impossible to blueprint” exactly how he’ll handle the unit, but Buffalo’s personnel moves on both sides of the ball gave us all the hints we needed. The Bills are embracing a more physical identity.
This is the right step in order to compete for a Super Bowl. Buffalo had become oddly finesse over the last two years, unable to produce an effective rushing game in short-yardage situations, struggling to stop the run, and relying on inconsistent playmakers. Without spending money the team didn’t have available, the Bills retooled.
Allowing middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to depart in free agency was a bold move, considering he was so productive and only 24 years old. However, Edmunds wasn’t particularly strong as a run-defender, and McDermott didn’t act as though a first-time starter like Terrel Bernard or Tyrel Dodson could adequately fill the role. McDermott said he wants someone who “not only makes [their] own plays” but also someone who can get the unit into the right defensive alignments.
Buffalo also swapped out speedy rusher Devin Singletary for a more powerful and consistent presence in Damien Harris. They brought in Trent Sherfield, who was solid in a possession role with Miami, and let Isaiah McKenzie depart despite flashing as a gadget player. Meanwhile, Rodger Saffold was replaced by 2023 second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence.
Also including first-round pick Dalton Kincaid, the Bills have made a clear shift to embracing more consistent presences who offer a tougher mentality. Harris and Torrence particularly project well into more power run concepts, while Sherfield is a grinder who has had success as a slot receiver. Taking a first-round pass catcher at tight end is far from taking someone who is a menacing blocker like Darnell Washington, but Kincaid’s athletic ability raises the ceiling of the unit.
Buffalo is also betting on their internal growth at other positions.
Tre’Davious White will hopefully play better after looking sluggish post-ACL surgery last season. 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam is expected to be more adjusted after a rough debut season. Ed Oliver showed growth in 2022, but now on his fifth-year option, the time is now for the defensive tackle to become a more dominant force.
If these things happen, plus the offense sees more consistency from Dorsey, Allen, and Davis, the Bills have another gear they can hit. The one thing their opponents have been able to count on is a lack of clutch playmaking and consistency.
By not completely upheaving their roster or staff or chasing massive free agents, Buffalo has the chance to grow. Pain and adversity are often unskippable experiences for champions. If all goes right in 2023, the Bills can find themselves ending their 57-year Super Bowl drought.