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5 pressing questions as the Bills head into the 2024 season

Buffalo Bills
12 Feb 2024

Alec White

After Sunday's Super Bowl, it's officially the offseason for the NFL. That means it's time to turn our attention to what free agency, the draft and more have in store for the Buffalo Bills.

It's going to be a busy offseason in Buffalo, so let's take a look at what the next few months will look like and a few pressing questions for the Bills.

What are the major dates to know on the NFL Calendar?

From free agency, the NFL Draft, OTAs and more, a quick breakdown of the key dates in the offseason:

Feb. 20: Clubs may designate Franchise or Transition Players until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 7. Feb. 27-March 4: NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. March 5: Deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players. March 13: Start of the 2024 League Year and Free Agency begins at 4:00 p.m. ET March 24-27: Annual League Meeting, Orlando, FL. April 15: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs. April 25-27: 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit, MI. What dynamic will OC Joe Brady and DC Bobby Babich bring in elevated roles?

Buffalo made hires for its offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator positions shortly after the season ended, elevating interim OC Joe Brady to the full-time role and promoting linebackers coach Bobby Babich to DC.

Both have been vital parts of the Bills' staff over the last several seasons and will now take on key coaching roles. One of the storylines to follow this offseason will be how each coach is able to put their imprint on Buffalo's offense and defense.

In seven regular season and two postseason games, the Bills averaged 27.1 points per game under Brady, scored 30+ points in four of those contests and had a 7-2 record. QB Josh Allen recorded 24 touchdowns in that span, 11 of which were rushing.

Prior to being named Buffalo's OC on Jan. 28, Allen spoke highly of the job Brady did stepping in midseason.

"I love Joe. I love what he brings to this team, to our offense, the juice that he has, the passion he has for football," Allen said the day after Buffalo's season ended. "We ran the ball extremely well, stuck to that. I think we got back to some simpler concepts. Did simple better with him."

Allen expects that a full offseason under Brady will lead to an evolution of the Bills' offense going into 2024.

"I think, again, we didn't have his entire touch and his entire flair on this system," Allen said. "So I know if that's the route that we went, there'd be a little bit of change in terms of systematically what we would be doing, which I'm hoping for, and having some good talks with him. And just seeing what could be, it does get me excited."

Added head coach Sean McDermott: "I thought Joe did a really nice job coming in and building great communication, collaboration, and a vibe with Josh."

Babich was promoted on Jan. 30 to defensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons as the linebackers coach and the safeties coach prior to that. Viewed as a rising young defensive mind in the league, Babich has built a resume in Buffalo known for getting the most out of the position groups he's coached.

In the last two seasons alone, Babich has mentored LBs Matt Milano, Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson - all players that have made a big impact on defense.

"Good coach. Bobby and I have been together a number of years, going back to our time together in Carolina," McDermott said. "He's developed players, and I think when you evaluate a coach, it's - are you taking what you have and making it better? And I think it doesn't get any, need to get any more complex than that. And Bobby's done that."

However, it remains to be seen whether McDermott or Babich will call the defensive plays next season. The next time we'll get a chance to hear from McDermott will be during the NFL Combine at the end of the month.

How Brady can help Buffalo's offense reach the next gear and how Babich can continue to develop the young players on defense will be worth monitoring going into 2024.

The Bills have more draft picks than last year, how will that change their draft strategy?

Buffalo has nine picks in the 2024 NFL Draft (six of their own, three via trades) and Beane expects that number to grow to 10 once the compensatory picks are awarded.

"I think when we get a comp pick, I think we're gonna be at 10 draft picks," he said.

As it stands, seven of Buffalo's nine picks are in the fourth round or later. The Bills hold their own first round pick (28th overall) and a second round pick. After the 2023 Draft, Beane said that he believes the Bills are in line to get a 2024 third round compensatory pick.

With a plethora of picks upcoming, Beane said capitalizing on those picks is a must to set the team up for future success.

"We're going to need to hit this draft and we need to hit every draft," he said.

Buffalo's staff has shown a knack for finding talent in any round of the draft, especially in the later rounds.

Dating back to the 2018 NFL Draft the following players were selected by the Bills in the third round or later: NCB Taron Johnson (Rnd. 4, 2018), TE Dawson Knox (Rnd. 3, 2019), WR Gabe Davis (Rnd. 4, 2020), CB Dane Jackson (Rnd. 7, 2020), OT Spencer Brown (Rnd. 3, 2021), LB Terrel Bernard (Rnd. 3, 2022), WR Khalil Shakir (Rnd. 5, 2022), CB Christian Benford (Rnd. 6, 2022).

That track record bodes well for the amount of late-round picks the Bills have for this year's draft.

As for which position groups the Bills could target, wide receivers who create mismatches on the field appear on the team's wish list.

"We're always looking for mismatches and I said that when we drafted Dalton (Kincaid), when we brought (James) Cook here - trying to find various mismatches. So, yes, any guy that causes the defense that you can put them in a look and get them where you can dictate to them. And if that's another receiver to offset Stef or whoever else, yes, we wouldn't hesitate to do that," Beane said.

The Bills also have 13 free agents on the defensive side of the ball. While the team will look to resign as many as they can, the reality of their cap situation is that they won't be able to bring everyone back. Because of that, Buffalo is likely to invest draft picks on that side of the ball.

When asked if he sees the talent in this year's draft class as one where the Bills could land an immediate defensive starter in the first 100 picks, Beane seemed optimistic about the talent available.

"I think we will. I mean, it is early, so I don't want to totally say yes we got this," Beane shared. "We'll sit here for two weeks with our scouts before the combine. Ask me at the Combine and I can probably tell you a lot more than I could today."

How will the Bills approach free agency?

One of the next biggest events on the NFL calendar is free agency, which begins on Wednesday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET. The Bills have 21 unrestricted free agents and plenty of work to do to get under the salary cap for 2024.

GM Brandon Beane said that while those are hurdles the Bills will face, the true state of their roster construction and salary cap is not as bad as it might appear at the moment.

"Yeah, it's not. We don't have the same money we had going into 2019, 2020. But we will work around it. We're not planning to take a year off and just not be competitive," he said.

To work around those issues, Beane expects that their free agent signings this spring will include a mix of one-year deals that wouldn't impact their cap room for future seasons.

"The one year deals, yes, we'll have to do some of that. We'll have to be selective. I think we will sell the fact that this is a team that's gotten to where we've gotten - not all the way where we want but it's a competitive team. And when it's close, I feel like Josh Allen and what we've done here will be an attractive option," he said.

An offseason mirroring last year's approach to free agency may not produce a splash signing, but Beane is confident that between the draft and free agency, the Bills can build a roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl.

An offseason mirroring last year's approach to free agency may not produce a splash signing, but Beane is confident that between the draft and free agency, the Bills can build a roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl.

"I'm not laying my head down at night going 'we don't have a shot at it' next year," he said.

One of the position groups to monitor in free agency is the defensive line position. The Bills have eight free agents along their defensive front.

"We definitely have some challenges. We do. And it's important that every dollar we spend, that we spend it wisely," Beane said.

While three consecutive seasons losing in the divisional round could be seen by others as a sign to tear down their approach, Beane went against that notion and still feels the Bills are in the right position to succeed. And with minor tweaks year over year, his vision is that Buffalo will learn from its playoff exits and find a way to break through soon.

"We're extremely disappointed, nobody's more disappointed than me. I'm also not gonna just throw the whole season out and say, 'Let's tear this thing up and start over'," Beane shared. "And we will be in that situation again and you hope with experience and time on task and more opportunities that those three to five plays that I was talking about, we'll make them and we'll advance to the next round."

Which matchups standout most on the 2024 schedule?

While the dates, times and TV networks won't be announced until the spring, we do know all 17 of Buffalo's 2024 opponents and where each will be played. The Bills will host eight games in Highmark Stadium and travel to play nine games on the road. They will not play in any International Games next season.

Because the Bills won the AFC East, they will host the Chiefs and 49ers and will travel to play Baltimore and Detroit, who both won their respective divisions. In addition, the Bills will play the AFC South and NFC West teams.

Buffalo is slated to face seven teams that made the playoffs: home games against the Chiefs, 49ers and Dolphins, then road games at the Ravens, Lions, Rams, Texans and Dolphins.

Since the Chiefs matchup will take place in Buffalo, the Bills are NOT a candidate to play in the NFL season opener. Interestingly, 2024 marks the 6th straight season in which the Bills will face the previous year's Super Bowl champion.

The Bills will also face three teams featuring a first-year head coach (Seahawks, Titans, Patriots x2). The Seahawks hired Ravens DC Mike Macdonald, the Titans hired Bengals OC Brian Callahan and the Patriots promoted linebackers coach Jerod Mayo to be their head coach.

Macdonald, 36, is the youngest head coach in the NFL entering next season and brought in former Bills DC Leslie Frazier to be Seattle's assistant head coach.

All 17 opponents for the 2024 season can be found here.

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