How can the Bills upgrade their offensive interior?
The Buffalo Bills’ interior offensive line is still a work in progress. Draft picks and free-agent signings didn’t necessarily pay off as intended, and the team may have a few gems (or just some fool’s gold) amid their depth chart. The team also hired a new offensive line coach, so any kind of shift could be explainable at this point.
Luckily, if the team looks to the free-agent market for guards, they have a wealth of options (probably at reasonable prices) to choose from. See someone you like?
A healthy Brandon Scherff is a top-ten offensive guard in the NFL. You could argue it alone with his five Pro Bowl selections, but he was also an All-Pro in 2020. That’s why Washington hit him with the franchise tag two years in a row. Now Scherff is a free agent for the first time in his career, and he deserves to cash in big. But teams should be wary; he missed 22 regular-season games in the last four years.
Joe Thuney set the market with a six-year, $80 million contract last year, and Scherff was paid $18 million on his one-year deal. He should see a deal around the same range as Thuney’s, albeit with less guaranteed money because of his injury history.
Cappa, a former third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been their starting right guard for the last three seasons. He’s similar to Daryl Williams, in that he has tackle size but an athletic profile best suited for guard.
As a starting guard who only just turned 27 for a Super Bowl winner, Cappa’s due for a serious pay raise. A $10 million per year or more contract would make sense.
Williams has been a starting left guard on the overrated, but still good, Dallas Cowboys offensive line for pretty much four seasons, dating back to his rookie year. The former second-round pick is only 24, and has the size that he could flex to offensive tackle in an emergency. That’s all good. Not so good is that Williams was flagged for 11 holding penalties in 2021.
Assuming he leaves the Cowboys, Williams is still set to be one of the biggest moneymakers in this year’s free-agent sweepstakes, with a contract approaching Joe Thuney’s value. Teams value age and starting experience enough to pay handsomely.
Sensing a theme? Another young, highly drafted interior lineman with positional versatility is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Daniels, 6’4” and 327 lbs, has been a starting guard on the Chicago Bears for his whole four-year NFL career, aside from seeing his 2020 season cut short with a torn pectoral. Though the Bears played him at left guard, college scouts thought he could also play center in the NFL. He’s only 24 years old.
So Daniels has definitely earned a major raise on his rookie contract, although given the torn pectoral (and the fact that he played for a worse team), he might cost less than Cappa and Williams.
Sometimes a change in scenery (and moving from Cleveland to sunny Los Angeles) can make all the difference. I’m not talking about Odell Beckham Jr., though, I’m talking about his teammate, Austin Corbett. The 6’4”, 307-lb guard was a second-round draft bust for the Cleveland Browns, playing literally 15 snaps in two seasons. They traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for a late-round pick, and LA (with OL coach Aaron Kromer, I might add) figured out something. Corbett became an immediate starter on the Rams, and he’s played 99% of snaps since that point, at both right and left guard (Corbett, overall, is the rare player with five-position versatility on the OL).
Now that he’s won a Super Bowl, he’s also a free agent. His recent history looks excellent, even if his past wasn’t much to speak of, so once again, a $10 million or more annual cost is his ballpark.
Corbett’s teammate, Allen, is another player to watch in free agency because, again, he has ties to new OL coach Aaron Kromer. Allen, a former fourth-round pick, was technically a center instead of a guard for the Rams, but his measurements aren’t too far off from Bills guard Ryan Bates.
Allen became a starter in his second season, but tore his MCL and meniscus after nine games—an injury that (along with being the first NFL player to catch COVID-19) held him out of the 2020 season rehabbing. He returned in 2021, started 16 games, and helped the team to their Super Bowl win.
With his lower draft status, lower number of games played, and injury history, Allen’s asking price should be relatively reasonable, maybe $4-6 million per year. But the 26-year-old Allen might be a bargain at that price.
A former draft bust with the Cincinnati Bengals, Price was traded to the New York Giants for B.J. Hill and, weirdly, both teams benefited from the deal. Price became a starter, played almost every snap for his new team, and held his own. His age (27) and guard-center versatility is a plus. Still, though, the former first-round pick probably won’t see much of a raise above his $2 million 2021 salary.
Here’s another draft bust who turned a change of scenery into a career renaissance. Tomlinson, a former first-round pick, only lasted two seasons with the Detroit Lions before they traded him to the San Francisco 49ers. He’s been a starting left guard since then, and when the Niners offered him a generous $16.5 million contract, he worked at his craft and eventually became a Pro Bowl selection in 2021.
Since Tomlinson is starting from a higher base salary than most of his cohort, he’ll probably command a contract in the $6-8 million per-year range, at least. A team could shoot the moon here, but he’s turning 30 and only just made his first Pro Bowl this year.
A 6’6”, 320-lb center who can also play guard (and probably tackle, with his measurements), Pocic has been a solid starter for the Seattle Seahawks, but one with injury issues. He missed almost the entire 2019 season with a back ailment, and a knee sprain cost him four games in 2021.
Last year, upon finishing his rookie contract, Pocic re-upped with Seattle for one year and $3 million. With a solid season that included some missed games, his next contract is probably in the same range of value.
Odd circumstances when a five-time Pro Bowl player, only 27, is traded. But that says a lot about both the Pro Bowl and how Turner’s team viewed him in 2020. He started nine games for his new team, then was released from his contract.
Turner signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and played well, starting the full season with them. It was his first full season since 2016.
Turner, now 29, is still a solid starting guard in the league—and he might’ve earned a pay bump from how he played in 2021. Look for a deal averaging $4-5 million on his next team.
A reliable starting guard on one of the best lines in the NFL, Glowinski had his 100% snap streak broken by COVID in 2021, but was otherwise a reliable cog in the machine opening holes for Jonathan Taylor. He just finished a three-year, $16 million contract, and as he turns 30, another contract paying him $6-8 million seems like a fair deal for the 6’4” 310-lb lineman.
I don’t think Spain is coming back to Buffalo, do you?
A starting guard and center for the Los Angeles Chargers, Feeney’s best quality was his availability on their oft-injured offensive line. Putting that another way, he wasn’t a highly regarded starter, which is why he departed in free agency and only found a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the New York Jets. He was a backup for most of the season, playing 18% of snaps on offense.
It feels like Miller’s been in the league forever, doesn’t it? He’s entering his eighth pro season, still only 28 years old, and just finished a pair of low-cost one-year deals with the Carolina Panthers. With Aaron Kromer back in the picture, could Miller return to his old OL coach? If he did, he’d probably cost only $2 million or so.
A low-cost DIY project, Hernandez was a road-grading second-round pick by the Giants. He was a starter for almost his whole four-year career with New York, but the team was bad and he often wasn’t good enough to turn them around. Maybe the Bills, familiar with draft busts at offensive guard, take a peek and see if they can coach Hernandez into a starter? Coming off his rookie deal, a one-year, low-cost contract is what I’d expect him to sign.
- All-22 Review: Jon Feliciano
- All-22 Review: Cody Ford
- All-22 Review: Daryl Williams
- All-22 Review: Ryan Bates
- Salary cap savings if they cut Jon Feliciano
- Contract restructure more likely than salary cap cut for Daryl Williams
- What will Ryan Bates make on the open market?
- Ike Boettger’s 2021 RFA tag gives insight on Ryan Bates situation
- Free-agent OGs for the Bills to consider
- 2022 NFL Draft options at guard
- Opinion: Here’s Bruce’s multi-layered approach to the interior offensive line this offseason