What a difference a year can make. After a couple of decades of being considered a “team of last resort”, the Buffalo Bills seem to be viewed in a completely different light these days by free agents looking for the best fit/compensation in the NFL.
Of course free agents ‘love the vibes’ of any team willing to pay handsomely for their services. However, the Bills are experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the eyes of players peddling their talents across the league.
How did this happen so fast?
Undoubtedly making the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades helped fuel the new-found attraction to Buffalo. I’m not suggesting Vontae Davis or Chris Ivory are the crown jewels of free agency this season, but it’s been awhile since players interviewed with multiple teams and chose the Bills because they’re “on the rise”.
It wasn’t long ago when players turned down invitations to interview in Buffalo because they considered it a waste of time. Occasionally a top-tier free agent would interview with the Bills as a means of jacking up the price tag to the team they truly desired to join.
By extinguishing a losing culture during their first season in Buffalo, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane validated my incessant barking about locker room culture and other ‘intangibles’. They did not flinch in the face of criticism after jettisoning top talent who didn’t fit their prototype. I expect this trend to continue and fully support their effort.
As we approach the opening of free agency on March 16, it’s anyone’s guess what ‘McBeane’ has up their sleeves. One of the most significant positive changes they made was to virtually shut down leaks coming out of the front office to the media.
With a couple of minor exceptions (Eric Wood’s “retirement” for example), the newly reconstructed front office with Derek Boyko running the show has performed to near perfection. Veteran free agents understand the importance of a functional front office and the Bills seem to have theirs running on all cylinders at the moment.
The most astounding evidence that things have changed at One Bills Drive is the tone of the comments coming from free agent players who already signed. Vontae Davis was effusive with praise for McDermott and Beane’s approach and vision for the future.
Chris Ivory likes the vibes of the new regime as well. Though Buffalo has signed higher-tiered free agents like Mario Williams in the past, it’s far more telling when players sign reasonably priced contracts before the free agency period officially opens.
I expect this free agency period to be similar to last year when signing Micah Hyde was the big splash of free agency for the Bills.
Look no further than Micah Hyde’s production last season as an example of getting more-for-less than the over-hyped, overpaid Mario Williams type of player. Though not flashy, this duo of ‘McBeane’ seem to have a real eyeball for the right kind of player to fit their scheme.
Who’d have thought the slow evolution of culture change would turn into a one-year revolution?
Time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Editor’s babble: So this is what competence in the front office and on the field feels like. Nice feeling going into free agency. If you’re so inclined (or masochistic) you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.