The word of the day at One Bills Drive was “judicious.”
That was the approach both Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott said the team would have spending their nearly $100 million in salary cap space this offseason.
“In my perfect world, we draft well and we sign our own,” Beane said. “That’s why it’s important to be judicious when we go and spend it.”
Beane and McDermott Monday both discussed in their end of season press conferences the need to use this season for cleaning up the cap situation they inherited two years ago. Beane called it “freeing” not to worry about limits on spending, but there does not seem to be an irresponsible splash signing on the horizon.
“If you’re not wise with it, you can end up back to where we were when I walked in here,” Beane said. “You use free agency so you don’t go to draft with holes. Drafting for need is a mistake that can set franchises back. We won’t do that.”
Beane said the $60 million in dead cap money the Bills shouldered this season is not an excuse, but it’s not helpful toward assembling a playoff team.
“6-10 is not what I want, what the Pegulas want, what Sean wants, what the community wants. But, this has been a calculated play. We’re all on the same page in this building,” Beane said.
“There’s been some necessary evils, necessary steps that we’ve had to take in order to reset the deck,” McDermott said. “Those are hard. To get us to where we are heading into this offseason as opposed to continuing to kick that down the road, we’re back into more of a healthy situation.”
It’s a situation that also is full of hope. A big part of the reason is the encouraging signs from the first round building blocks who quarterback both sides of the ball. There’s no doubt Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds will be starters with bright futures at quarterback and middle linebacker heading into next season.
McDermott says he feels better about his team after this year’s 6-10 season than he did after last year’s playoff run.
“There’s an overall optimism about where we are and where we’re headed,” McDermott said. “In terms of where we’re trying to go and what it takes, I feel like there have been some small wins, albeit not on scoreboard, that have us headed in the right direction.”
Allen’s progress, in particular, left a spring in everyone’s step at One Bills Drive Monday. Beane noted the rookie’s improvement from before his elbow injury to afterward. He was happy Allen got so much playing time, even if it wasn’t the plan.
“I’m proud of Josh,” Beane said. “We tried not to force it. We tried just to let it come naturally. It came earlier than expected. I’m thrilled with what Josh did.”
Beane is confident Allen will keep improving and took a step to help with that improvement by signing Derek Anderson to a one year contract extension. Beane said Anderson was invaluable not only to Allen and Matt Barkley, but also to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Still, Beane acknowledged the offense needs significant work this offseason. Offensive line will be a priority, but Beane said free agent spending will be dictated by the free agent pool. If there aren’t many players that will improve competition, then there won’t be many signed.
LeSean McCoy will still be a part of the offensive solution. Both Beane and McDermott felt the run game never got a chance to get into a rhythm during the season for various reasons.
“I think overall LeSean just had one of those years,” McDermott said. “It’s not on him solely. It’s on us as an offense. Down the stretch, you saw some flashes of the old LeSean.”
“I’m not a believer that LeSean is done. I think he can still be a weapon,” Beane said.
McDermott would not get into expectations about next year, even if they are sky high for most fans. He just wants the team to keep progressing and improving from season to season.
“When you take a (head coaching) job, not everything is going to be right .There’s a reason these jobs come open. That’s what you take ownership of when you take the job,” McDermott said. “You’re committed to making it right. I made a promise to Terry and Kim to protect their investment. That’s what I’m doing.”
McDermott did not address any possible changes on his staff. There has been speculation for weeks that special teams coordinator Danny Crossman would not survive until next season. McDermott said he’s still evaluating everything.
He’s still proud of the job his staff did this year and the way his team kept fighting to the end, long after hope for the playoffs was lost.
“Nobody wants to be 6-10. But that’s where we are and we have some work to do,” McDermott said. “These guys play hard and they’re proud to wear the colors of the Buffalo Bills. That was on display yesterday. That’s another reason for my optimism.”
Among other topics discussed Monday:
Beane thinks the Bills can sign Lorenzo Alexander to the type of contract they used for Kyle Williams last offseason. Alexander has indicated a desire to play one more season. “At the end of the day, we like Lorenzo and appreciate all he’s done. I’m about keeping those type of guys around. I’d love nothing more than to have him come back.”
Beane was happy to see Shaq Lawson get a pair of sacks in the season finale and likes the “juice” he brings to the team. “His professionalism improved leaps and bounds this year. He really worked hard. He brings passion and energy to our field and our meeting rooms unlike he did a year ago. He earned everything he got.”
Robert Foster will be used as the example of how to succeed for undrafted free agents next year, but Beane gave Foster a warning. “I can’t say enough good things about him. I told him in our exit meeting: ‘Now, guys are gonna have film on you. You’re gonna have to add something to your repertoire or guys are gonna be ready for you come September’.”
Neither Beane nor McDermott dismissed the idea of moving left tackle Dion Dawkins to another position next season. McDermott said Dawkins was too inconsistent this year and the evidence starts with his penalties.
McDermott says his vision is to have a seasoned leader in each position group next year. It’s something the Panthers had when they went to the Super Bowl with McDermott as defensive coordinator three years ago. The Bills should have more flexibility to make it happen with the extra cap room this offseason.