Stay or go: Key Bills free agents

January 10, 2020 - 2:53 am
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The Buffalo Bills can virtually do whatever they want with their money in free agency this offseason. According to OverTheCap.com, Buffalo has the third most salary cap space at $88.5 million.

How much of that money will go to their own free agents? Who should they focus on retaining while letting others explore the open market?

Here's a look at the key decisions Bills general manager Brandon Beane and the front office has to make by this spring:

STAY:

  • DT - Jordan Phillips

This one should be easy.

Having Jordan Phillips and Ed Oliver as the long-term tandem on the interior of the defensive line is a great situation to be in. Two pass-rushing defensive tackles that posed a significant problem for opposing offenses.

Phillips is in the prime of his career at 27-years-old and is coming off the best year of his career with 9.5 sacks. Aaron Donald was the only defensive tackle to have more sacks than Phillips in 2019.

It will likely cost north of $10 million to retain the Oklahoma product, but it is money well spent.

  • G - Quinton Spain

Going cheap on the offensive line isn't the best strategy. The offense could use another young prospect up front, but Spain was one of the most dependable lineman the Bills had this season.

Spain played in every game, which is extremely important to head coach Sean McDermott. Not to mention his teammates spoke glowingly of Spain after the season came to an end in Houston.

"We'd love to have him back. He deserves to get paid this offseason," Bills center Mitch Morse said. "The guy started every game, I don't know if he missed a snap. A great person to be around, smart as hell, he made this offensive line so much better, helped me out a lot. I owe a lot to Quinton Spain."

"He's been awesome for us. Just his mindset, his attitude, the way he plays, he brings a fire. He's a really good dude, too," quarterback Josh Allen said. "I love him and I wish we'd get him back too. I know it's the nature of the business. If I had a say, we'd have in back."

The veteran guard wants to come back too. Keep the continuity and get him a new contract.

  • CB - Kevin Johnson

Johnson had an up-and-down first year with the Bills, but the former first round pick of the Houston Texans flashed a lot of potential.

According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson had the eighth best coverage grade in the NFL through the first 16 weeks.

He can play both outside and inside too. It won't cost much to bring him back as good depth in the secondary.

GO:

  • DE - Shaq Lawson

There are a lot of reasons the Bills could re-sign Lawson. They have the money, he is only 25-years-old, he is coming off a career-high season with 6.5 sacks, and he is a favorite in the locker room.

A lot of those same reasons are why many other teams may want to spend a lot on him too. Pass-rushers always get bigger contracts than maybe they should be valued at in the open market.

With that being said, if the Bills are going to spend significant capital on a defensive end, maybe set sights higher?

Buffalo has landed the big fish in free agency before when they signed defensive end Mario Williams.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue could be the next one they go after. Ngakoue is only 24, and is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison is also available, who's another player that consistently gets at least nine sacks a year.

There is always the draft too.

Lawson was crucial to the 2019 playoff run, but a return in 2020 may not be a given.

  • RB - Frank Gore

Frank Gore hasn't yet decided whether he will play in 2020 or not, but if he does, it shouldn't be in Buffalo.

The 36-year-old had an impressive start to the season, but he was a liability on offense in the second half of the schedule. In the final 10 games (including the playoffs), Gore averaged over four yards per-carry just twice. He averaged under 3.0 yards per-carry seven times. The drop off happened quick.

Devin Singletary is the featured running back anyway. Time to move on.

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