BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The heavy lifting for Brandon Beane is just getting started after the Buffalo Bills general manager upgraded the team’s pass rush and bolstered its depth with eight selections in the NFL draft.
Beane has until Monday to make two critical decisions in determining whether to commit some $35 million in combined salary to pick up the fifth-year options for quarterback Josh Allen and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Beane said Saturday he’ll turn his attention to making those decisions now that the draft is over.
Whatever choices he makes, increased concern about the salary cap is part of the price of success for Buffalo’s shift from pushover to contender. The Bills are coming off a season in which they won their first AFC East title since 1995 and reached the AFC championship for the first time in 27 years.
Having spent his first three years overhauling the roster through the draft, free agency and trades, Beane’s focus now is finding a balance in keeping his team’s core intact at a manageable price, or finding less expensive players in the draft to fill those roles within one or two years.
“It’s harder to make the roster, which is what I want,” Beane said. "But you always keep an eye on the other part on who will be coming off the books next year. ... So let’s make sure we have something in the pipeline, either in free agency or now in the draft.”
The balance was reflected in the Bills' approach over the past three days.
Buffalo closed the draft Saturday by filling depth needs in choosing Miami, Ohio, offensive tackle Tommy Doyle (161st), Houston receiver Marquez Stevenson (203rd), Pitt safety Damar Hamlin (212th), Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose (213th) and Texas Tech guard Jack Anderson (236th).
Buffalo selected edge rushers, Miami’s Greg Rousseau and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham, with its first two picks, and then grabbed Northern Iowa offensive tackle Spencer Brown in the third round.
Though not projected as starters, Rousseau and Basham are being counted on to help improve a pass rush that ranked 15th with 38 sacks and 20th with 143 quarterback pressures.
They could take on a much more prominent role as soon as 2022, with returning starters Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison both in their 30s and entering the final years of their contracts.
Beane created some space in March to re-sign starting linebacker Matt Milano and starting offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams, while adding veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Those moves came at the expense of losing receiver John Brown, returner Andre Roberts and punter Corey Bojorquez.
The Bills stand to lose more players next season, with 26 entering the final years of their contracts.
Allen could command the most lucrative deal in team history, and Beane isn’t shying away from the cost. He understands it’s the price teams have to pay with Allen filling a position that had been unsettled in Buffalo since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Allen is eager to stay. The third-year starter is coming off a breakthrough season in which he set numerous team passing and scoring records.
“If they called up and wanted to talk tomorrow, I’d be willing,” Allen told The Ringer podcast last month. “But we’ll see. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Edmunds' long-term status in Buffalo remains more of a question. A starter since his rookie season, Edmunds has yet to make the impact the Bills envisioned in trading up seven spots in the draft to select him 16th overall.
The Bills traded their second of two fifth-round picks (174th overall) to Houston to acquire two sixth-round selections, 203rd and 212th overall. Buffalo had previously dealt its fourth-round pick, No. 134, to Minnesota in the trade for receiver Stefon Diggs in March 2020.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
Wildgoose, Buffalo’s third of three sixth-round picks, is from Miami. When asked about the origins of his last name, he said his parents are from the Bahamas and have Native American roots.
Stevenson, Buffalo’s first of three sixth-round picks, is from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he credits being mentored by Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. Stevenson was also roommates with Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver, during Oliver’s senior season at Houston.
Hamlin, the second of three sixth-round picks, grew up in the Pittsburgh area and played with Dane Jackson at Pitt.
Doyle, Buffalo’s fifth-round pick, cheered for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild growing up. Doyle played hockey at Minnesota’s Edina High School, which also produced Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt.
Brown, Buffalo’s third-round pick out of Northern Iowa, recalled how his frame filled out from being, as he put it, “a broomstick,” from his high school days. Always tall for his age, the 6-foot-8, 311-pound Brown added bulk with a curious carb-filled diet upon entering college.
His most memorable meal was a mixture of six brats, a quart of yogurt with granola and spinach salad.
“That was about the grossest thing for me,” Brown said. “It took me like an hour and a half to eat it.”
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