Thirteen seconds. The Buffalo Bills were 13 seconds from the AFC Championship Game. But, after a massive failure on almost every level, the Bills lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. They now face an offseason full of questions about what could have been.
Despite the heartbreaking end, the Bills still have one of the most talented squads in the NFL, and this offseason, free agency will be all about signing players who complement that talent to reach the next level.
To create a 2022 team that can go 60 minutes and 13-seconds further to make the organization’s first Super Bowl since 1993, here are four players the Bills must target in the free-agent market.
The Buffalo Bills salary cap situation
Right now, the Buffalo Bills are an estimated $1.3 million over the 2022 salary cap. However, that doesn’t mean that the franchise will be sitting out free agency this year.
By cutting, restructuring, or extending a few veteran deals, the Bills can get significantly under the cap. If the team address the contracts of wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, center Mitch Morse, offensive tackle Daryl Williams, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, the Bills can save up to $42 million against the cap.
With a bit of cap breathing room, Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott won’t go out and sign players to massive deals. Still, it will allow them to target specific players who fit the precise needs of a team primed for a Super Bowl run next season.
With that in mind, here are the four free agent players the Buffalo Bills must target in the 2022.
4. Tyrod Taylor, QB
This season’s high-end backup QB, Mitchell Trubisky, is likely to get a decent-sized deal this offseason. He should at least compete for a starting job after a season of rehabbing his image in Buffalo. Bills fans would love to see a former fan-favorite return to Orchard Park to backup Josh Allen in the 2022 season to replace him.
As fun as having a shirtless Ryan Fitzpatrick back on the sidelines would be, the best fit for the Bills next season is Tyrod Taylor. Yes, Taylor is somewhat injury-prone and only played six games in 2021 for the Houston Texans, but he threw for 966 yards in those games and rushed for another 151 yards.
Taylor isn’t a reliable starter anymore, but if Josh Allen gets hurt (knock on wood, cross your fingers, spin around three times, and spit, Bills fans), Taylor can come in, run the same offense, and win a game or two. That should help keep the team’s Super Bowl aspirations alive if the worst-case scenario happens.
3. Cordarrelle Paterson, RB
The thunder and lightning of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss were more like a light drizzle this year. Add in RB Matt Breida, and the Bills ran for 2,209 yards this season. That was the sixth-best total in the NFL. However, take away Josh Allen’s 763 rushing yards (the second-most on the team), and the Bills’ 2021 rushing attack falls to 31st place.
That’s why the Bills need to bring in another veteran back this offseason who can push, complement, or even take over from Singletary and Moss. Cordarrelle Patterson is the perfect back who brings something completely different to the party.
Patterson posted 618 rushing yards and 548 receiving yards this season in an anemic Atlanta Falcons offense. His Swiss Army knife abilities would be an excellent weapon for new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to play with and would drive defenses wild, lining up alongside Josh Allen and other versatile players like Isaiah McKenzie (if the Bills re-sign him).
2. Juju Smith-Schuster, WR
The Bills will likely cut Cole Beasley and let 34-year-old Emmanuel Sanders walk. They still have Stefon Diggs, and third-year rising star Gabriel Davis must be the No. 2 wide receiver in 2022. The front office should bring Isaiah McKenzie back, but that still leaves a need for a proven No. 3 target in the slot.
Juju Smith-Schuster, one of the best free-agent WRs on the market in 2022, should be the Bills’ dream target here. He’s obviously better than a third WR. Still, after several injury and antic-filled seasons, maybe the talented wideout will take a somewhat smaller, somewhat shorter deal to rehab his image and value while trying to get a Super Bowl ring.
Smith-Schuster could take a bigger deal with a worse team. However, if he bets on himself for a season and helps the Bills win the franchise’s first Super Bowl ever while putting up big numbers with Diggs and Davis drawing coverage away from him, a monster deal could follow in 2023.
1. Rasul Douglas, CB
All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White went out for the season with a knee injury on Thanksgiving Day, so who knows when in 2022 he’ll be back at full strength. Plus, even if the injury wasn’t a concern, Levi Wallace is a free agent, and Taron Johnson is a good, not great cover corner, with just three career INTs in four seasons.
The Buffalo Bills need a corner this offseason, and getting a legit No. 2 at the position should be a top priority. Green Bay Packers defensive back Rasul Douglas would fit the bill perfectly. The Green Bay salary cap is a mess, and Douglas is a likely casualty of that.
The fifth-year veteran out of West Virginia had a breakout season in 2021, picking off five balls and returning two for touchdowns. He can moonlight as the Bills’ No. 1 CB early in the season and then make a fearsome partner for White once he comes back. That’s why Douglas should be the Bills to 2022 free-agent target.