Brandon Beane spoke for just over an hour on Wednesday, officially ending the Buffalo Bills 2020 football season. Many topics were covered including pending free agents, areas of improvement, salary cap, and how the team starts over next year. If you don’t have time to watch the entire hour, here are some highlights of the press conference.
- On the offense – Beane told reporters that he was very proud of Josh Allen and the progress that he made this year. Similar to what Allen said on Monday, Beane was pleased that Allen was able to show people what he can do in this league, adding that he doesn’t personally believe that Allen has reached his ceiling, and that he will come back “humble and hungry” for next season. Beane mentioned that while the team might not always be able to duplicate an offensive explosion like they had this year (500 points, record seasons for Allen and Diggs, etc.) the expectation is that they maintain their spot as as top-5 offense as they move into the future.
- Starting over – Despite referring to Kansas City as the “gold standard” Beane continuously stressed the importance of starting over within the division. The Bills were 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl, but they will start just as far away as everyone else come next September. Beane emphasized that the focus should be on how they match up with the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots, noting that without winning their division, they won’t be able to get back to where they were this year.
- COVID stress – Beane added that the COVID-19 protocols added a layer of stress to every day, but especially travel days and gamedays as they waited for testing results. He specifically mentioned the flight to the Arizona game being chaotic, as they were scrambling to contact trace while the plane was being boarded. You’ll recall that was the day when Josh Norman had tested positive for the coronavirus, which caused Tyler Kroft, Levi Wallace, and Dean Marlowe to be sent home directly from the airport since they were deemed to have had close contact. Once in the playoffs, Beane mentioned that the stress level was raised due to the higher stakes. While next year might have some lingering COVID testing, you have to bet Beane is happy that the worst is behind them.
- Salary Cap – If this were a typical year, Beane said that he would have expected to see the salary cap rise from 198 million to 210 million. Due to the pandemic and the fiscal fallout, he estimates it will be in the 175 million range. A significant drop like that would instantly handicap this team, and force Beane to get creative. One area that he mentioned that would provide some relief is hitting on draft picks. Taking advantage of the lower cap hits for players on their rookie deals will be essential for maneuvering a tricky cap situation. Beane told reporters that it is unlikely that we would see any “blockbuster moves” similar to the Stefon Diggs trade from last year, partially due to the salary cap situation.
- Defense – Beane was very honest about the defense and their shortcomings this season. Beane was clear that the unit needed improvement, indicating that the first half of the season wasn’t good for the defense, but they caught their stride by the middle and end of the year. Beane indicated that a goal for the team would be to “come out of the gate” stronger on defense next year. He attributed some of the defensive struggles to the change in personnel, citing the loss of Jordan Phillips in free agency and then the unexpected loss of Star Lotulelei after he opted out of the season, no preseason games, and a few new defense coaches, all as factors in why the defense struggled out of the gate. Twice Brandon Beane made mention that he thought the team was too light and too small up front on the defensive side of the football, which is something to remember on draft day. A.J. Epenesa came into training camp having lost too much weight from what the Bills were hoping he would lose, and struggled to get back to where the team wanted him, despite putting in some strong performances towards the end of the year.
- No moral victory – Beane told reporters that the loss this past weekend hurt, and that tears were shed in the locker room after the game, including his own. Beane said that even though it was a great season, the team has to go further. Part of that is assessing everything: schemes, personnel, a complete autopsy of the team including identifying games where they struggled and determining why that was, games where they had success and determining why that was, etc.
- Running Back – Devin Singletary has caught the ire of the fanbase after the loss this weekend. Beane believes that, unless you win the Super Bowl, the last game you play will tell you where you have shortcomings on your team. One of those places is the run game, which Beane acknowledged right away. But he stopped short of criticizing Singletary, saying that the run game is complex, using the example that there are a lot of moving pieces when running the football, and if one man misses their block, the play is dead. While all eyes are on the running back after a failed play, that is not always the case. I wouldn’t be too quick to assume the Bills are ready to move on from Singletary just yet.
- Oliver & Edmunds – Beane was firm in saying that Ed Oliver impacts the game (both against the run and pass), adding that the flashy sacks will come in time. Beane acknowledged that Tremaine Edmunds’ early season shoulder injury played a part in his performance this year, which at times seemed to give the impression that he was regressing. Beane added that Tremaine could have made a few more plays, but he is a Pro Bowler and across the league is well respected. He “has a lot of confidence in Tremaine and his future”.
- Free Agents – All eyes will be on linebacker Matt Milano this offseason. Beane mentioned his health and playing a full 16-game season as an area of improvement for him, but wants to keep him on the team. Something that caught my ear was Beane adding that Matt, “Earned the right to test free agency”, which is exactly what he said about Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips last year before they both skipped town in free agency. Beane was far less committal about offensive lineman Daryl Williams and John Feliciano, saying that tough decisions were ahead and if they could not get those guys back, then they would have to find similar players (both in talent and cost) to plug into those spots next year.
- John Brown – A lot has been made of John Brown and the savings on the cap for the Bills if they were to cut him, and nothing that Brandon Beane said today inspires hope that Brown will be returning next year. When asked about his status on the roster Beane said, “we’ll see”, adding that he felt like the wide receiver unit didn’t get back in sync after Brown returned from his injury in December.
Brandon Beane is always a straight shooter and an hour with him is a treat for reporters and fans. Last year it was this same end of season press conference where he indicated that they had to get better on offense and score more points. Two months later, he traded for Stefon Diggs. While we might not get another big trade this offseason, Beane is on a mission to fill in the holes that the Chiefs exploited last weekend and he will look to do that as the race for the 2021 Super Bowl officially begins.