The notion that the Buffalo Bills can instantly make Josh Allen a better quarterback and cure their offensive anemia by adding a dynamic wide receiver or two is where fans want to start most offseason conversations.
Quick fixes are always popular, even those based on the flawed premise that it’s the pass-catchers who bring out the best in passers rather than the other way around. A previous Bills administration went down that road. The regrettable results form some of the uglier stains on its legacy.
Among the bigger takeaways from the season wrap-up news conferences General Manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott held Tuesday was that, while encouraged about the Bills’ future, they don’t see the path to a championship being short enough to pave with a quick fix.
“I don’t think we’re one player away,” Beane said. “I never think you are and I definitely don’t think we’re one player away. You lose the first round of the playoffs, that doesn’t say to me the Bills are one player away from being exactly where they want to be.”
What the Bills’ 22-19 wild-card loss at Houston on Saturday said to many of their fans was that the team simply doesn’t have enough playmakers to generate the points necessary to advance. Beane is well aware of the sentiment. He agrees that receiver is an area to address, even after the Bills used free agency last year to find their top two receivers, John Brown and Cole Beasley.
He just doesn’t have the massive star next to it that a number of fans do.
“It’s one of the many positions that I think we need to try and get better,” Beane said.
And that’s the point. Other spots, in all three phases, require help.
So, too, does Allen’s game. Beane and McDermott spent the bulk of their respective sessions with the media on that topic. They were candid about their quarterback having plenty of work to do in the coming months on his own in his native California and during the Bills’ offseason workouts. They talked about the technical/mechanical aspects, such as footwork, that need improvement. They also got into the emotional/psychological components, such as Allen’s feeling the need to do too much.
Adding a new receiver or two won’t eliminate the problems that helped lead to costly blunders Saturday, as well as at other times during the regular season. Perhaps, if Allen were more evolved as a quarterback and the Bills had the bulk of their roster fortified, Beane would be willing to pour a healthy chunk of the abundant salary cap space (currently about $89 million) in pass-catching upgrades.
On Tuesday, he said that wouldn’t be the case.
“We’re not going to go in and just throw a bunch of money and throw everything at receivers or anything like that,” the GM said. “Obviously, the first place we’ll be looking is we’ll be going to these (college) all-star games and seeing what’s there. Free agency’s first on the calendar … we’re already looking at that. But sometimes guys re-sign or get franchised, things like that.”
McDermott made it clear that he isn’t looking to make any wholesale changes to his roster, stressing the importance of continuity. “The more we are around each other, the more continuity,” the coach said. “And that’s where we talk about keeping this team as intact as possible. That certainly helps you.”
“I don’t think we’re looking at an overhaul,” Beane said. “I think last year, offensively, was an overhaul. But we are going to look under every rock to find competition and upgrades where we can.”
Translation: Allen will be expected to get more out of Brown, Beasley, tight end Dawson Knox, and other incumbents along with whoever can be reasonably acquired to augment the receiving corps.
“I think, at the end of the day, it’s maturity,” Beane said of Allen’s development. “And, again, it’s me doing a better job of increasing the talent around him, too, so that he can have more players that he can trust and make plays for him – where he’s just got to get the ball out, hand it off, do whatever, and not feel like he’s got to do too much.”
A year ago, the Bills were among the most aggressive shoppers in the free-agent market, even though they didn’t do any wild spending. Besides Brown and Beasley, they invested heavily in their offensive line. The most expensive pickup was center Mitch Morse, who signed a $44.5 million contract to anchor a group that had four new starters.
Gauging from what Beane and McDermott shared on Tuesday, the free-agent approach this year likely will be less about volume and more about complementing what’s in place.
Keeping selected players with expiring contracts is part of the plan.
“Just because we probably won’t be spending at the deep end of the pool that we did last year, where we were, it’s still up to us to find either pieces to compete with what we have or pieces that can upgrade,” Beane said. “And you can get guys that are minimum-contract guys, you can get guys that are low-tier type, kind of middle of the road. Those sometimes are as important or more important than those big-ticket items.
“We’ll have a meeting with our coaches and some of our personnel to truly kind of just uncork everything that happened all season long, from start to finish, with our players. And we have to have a real assessment of where we see them and how they finished and what our vision for each player is going forward. Is this a guy that’s on the decline? Is this a guy that’s ascending? Is this a guy we can win with or is this a guy we have to upgrade from?
“We’ll have some frank discussions. We won’t all agree with each other, but that will kind of lay the groundwork for what our next steps are.”
Based on what was said on Tuesday, none appear to include a quick fix.