ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Eleven years ago, Von Miller was preparing to be drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Now the Bills hope he’s the final piece of the puzzle in their bid to win the Super Bowl.
Miller was introduced as the Bills’ prized free-agent addition Thursday, a day after agreeing to terms on a six-year contract.
“I had already bought into the Buffalo Bills, I already had Buffalo Bills gear,” Miller said. “I was OK with it back then, and I’m definitely OK with it now.”
Miller went second overall to the Denver Broncos, one pick ahead of the Bills. He’s since carved out a career as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL with 115 1/2 sacks and two Super Bowl rings.
While the Bills finished first in total defense last season, they lacked a top-end pass-rushing threat off the edge. Miller gives Buffalo a brand-new dimension to its defense with his combination of speed, power and smarts.
“We just felt like we needed this piece,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “It was one of the pieces that we needed, not the only piece, but this was an opportunity for us to get our hands on one in Von and it’s not every year you have a chance to get a player like this at that position in particular. So we were fortunate that the time was right for us and for him.”
Miller expressed a wide range of emotions at his introductory press conference, including both happiness and relief. He made it clear that he had nothing bad to say about his time with the Los Angeles Rams, and that he anguished over his decision. He just felt he couldn’t pass up what the Bills are currently building in Buffalo.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “It really felt like I broke up with my girlfriend and she never did anything to me. She was good to me and I had to break up with her to choose another girlfriend. I hate that part. ... It had to be something amazing to draw me away from L.A., and it is. They’re working on something special here and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of it.”
Miller isn’t the only new piece for the Bills on defense as part of an impressive and unexpected spending spree. The team has also added three new defensive tackles -- DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips -- and is expected to officially sign defensive end Shaq Lawson soon. Both Phillips and Lawson are returning to Buffalo after two years away.
“I think overall just the word power comes to mind with all three of them -- Jordan and Tim and then Jones with what he’s done,” McDermott said. “You turn the film on, that’s what you see, power and disruption. So I’m anxious to get out on the field once we can get out there and see ’em go.”
Phillips joined the Bills off waivers from Miami in 2018 and posted a career-best 9.5 sacks for Buffalo in 2019. He signed with Arizona in free agency in 2020.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about Arizona. They are a top-notch program as well,” Phillips said. “But it’s just the family aspect here that really draws me to this. You’re playing for more than money here. That’s just nice. Everybody has each other’s backs. People’s kids grow up together. It’s just a nice atmosphere to be around.”
Phillips ended his return press conference by pleading for Lawson to “sign the contract,” and Lawson posted pictures of himself in a Bills uniform along with the words “Back at home” on his Twitter account. Lawson entered the league as a first-round pick with the Bills in 2016 before spending the last two seasons with Miami and the New York Jets.
Settle was ecstatic about joining the Bills at his press conference, yelling an impromptu “Woo!” between thoughts.
“I’m sinking it in, it’s still surreal,” Settle said. “I’m still shocked. This is a surreal moment.”
The Bills also released wide receiver Cole Beasley, freeing up valuable salary cap space for their spending spree.
Beasley had been a big part of the Bills offense over the past three seasons but his production dropped in 2021 and he had been granted permission to seek a trade. He had one year remaining on a four-year contract he signed with Buffalo in 2019. Beasley had been one of the league’s most vocal anti-vaccination critics over the past year.
Buffalo has also made additions on offense, signing Pro Bowl guard Rodger Saffold and former first-round pick O.J. Howard, in addition to re-signing wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
“This is a place where guys want to come to play because this team is so close and we’re so excited to be here,” Howard said. “I know I am.”