NFL free agency is on the move, and we’re tracking every major signing, trade, and exit from the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and expert ratings. The league’s new year begins at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, which means free agent signings can be made official afterward. The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft begins April 28 on ESPN.
The Buffalo Bills are coming off a second consecutive season that ends in disappointment against the Kansas City Chiefs. Once again, the Bills are tasked with building a team that can compete with the AFC’s elite quarterbacks and forwards. Quarterback Josh Allen is under contract through 2028 and the focus may remain on building around him. The team’s biggest needs include a cornerback against Tre’Davious White, a fast wide receiver and help along the defensive line. The Bills are expected to fire 19 of 22 starters and should once again be among the top contenders.
Here’s a breakdown of every 2022 NFL free agent signing by the Bills, and how each will impact the upcoming season:
McKenzie agreed to the terms of a new two-year deal worth $4.4 million to stay with the Bills.
What this means: As the Bills accept Cole Beasley’s request to seek a trade, bringing McKenzie back on a two-year contract gives the team an option at slot receiver and a versatile weapon for new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. McKenzie has shown the ability to be a dynamic receiver and has the speed to help Allen. McKenzie is also expected to compete for the returner position again after losing the role midway through the 2021 season due to fumbling issues. Surrounding Allen with as many weapons as possible is a top priority and re-signing McKenzie does just that.
What is the risk? There’s no significant risk involved here, which is part of what makes this a logical deal for Bills. McKenzie had a mixed 2021 season that included him healthy for two games, but his career-best performance (11 catches, 125 yards) in a vital Week 16 victory over the New England Patriots showed everything he can do to support Allen and the Bills offense.
Saffold agreed to the terms of a one-year contract.
What this means: The Bills added needed depth inside the offensive line with a solid veteran player on a short-term contract. It’s not the flashiest move around, but it makes sense. After Buffalo moved on from Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams, Saffold is expected to start at left guard as he reunites with his former Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. The Bills spent the first day of free agency focusing on the offensive lineman mix to create cap space and try to improve the line from last year to better protect quarterback Josh Allen.
What is the risk? Saffold suffered multiple injuries in his final season with the Titans, playing 81% of offensive snaps in 2021. Adding a 34-year-old future offensive lineman who has a recent injury history will always come with risks. The guard said he took a full month off to train for the first time in his career to treat his injury and currently has no issues. His pass blocking success rate has declined over the past two seasons, but he just finished his first Pro Bowl season and a short-term deal reduces the risk to the Bills.
Settle agreed to the terms of a two-year contract.
What this means: The Bills need depth on their lines and general manager Brandon Beane addressed both sides of the ball quickly. Adding Settle is a win-win as Buffalo has several defensive linemen hitting free agency, including Efe Obada. Settle could fulfill a similar role to Obada as a rotating pass-rusher. The fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech will join former teammate Tremaine Edmunds and get more opportunities to show what he can do.
What is the risk? As has been the theme of free agency bills so far, there isn’t much risk involved. Buffalo has the luxury of players wanting to come and play there. Bringing in a 24-year-old with four years of playing experience on Washington’s defensive line is a win for a team that needs depth and help to tackle the passer. A two-year contract gives Settle the long-awaited opportunity to show what he can do to make more money on the road and the Bills can take a shot at a quick player with the potential to be better.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
What this means: Signing Jones continues to show that the Bills’ priority is to tackle inside the defensive line. The eight-year veteran hasn’t missed a game since the 2016 season and has started 110 games in his career. The 30-year-old has improved his run stop success rate over the past two seasons, but he hasn’t proven to be a dominant passer (10.2% pass rush success rate in 2021). Jones, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound tackle, will be part of the Bills’ defensive line rotation, which has lacked size in recent years, and could be a boost with some uncertainty surrounding future production and the ceiling situation of Star Lotulelei.
What is the risk? Age and declining production are the biggest risks the Bills are taking with Jones, but again, the Bills don’t have much to lose here. This is a team that needs a lot of help along the defensive line, and while it would have been nice to have a more capable player, the team is using the limited cap space available.
Miller agreed to the terms of a six-year contract worth $120 million, $51.5 million of which is guaranteed, with $45 million fully guaranteed at signing.
What this means: The Bills filled perhaps the biggest missing hole in a Super Bowl run, while also achieving the most significant free agent signing in franchise history — seriously. Buffalo is looking for a veteran passer to add to the top seven and there’s nothing better than a two-time Super Bowl champion with 115.5 career sacks. The addition of Miller will give the Bills defense a missing edge presence, while diverting attention away from Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau and creating more one-on-one opportunities for other players. An essential presence in a competitive AFC.
What is the risk? It’s a big contract for a player who is about to turn 33. The Bills — a team that entered the offseason with limited cap space — make a big investment in a player late in his career. But Miller hasn’t missed more than two games in a single season since 2013, when he was suspended for six games. Outside of 2013, he finished every season with at least eight sacks. It’s worth the risk.
Howard agreed to the terms of a one-year contract worth $3.5 million that could be worth up to $5 million.
What this means: Buffalo has a veteran tight end to partner with Dawson Knox, who just completed a career season (nine touchdowns). Howard provides quarterback Josh Allen with another weapon and will allow for greater versatility on offense under first coordinator Ken Dorsey. Howard had over 400 players receiving three straight seasons to start his career at Tampa Bay, but had less of a role after Rob Gronkowski arrived. He should have more opportunities in Buffalo. After having two or more tight ends in a record 100 games last year, the Bills will enjoy the presence of two eye-catching players on the court.
What is the risk? Adding the former 19th overall pick on a one-year deal to a position that lacked depth? Not much to lose in this situation. Howard is 27 and has shown what he can add to an offense. The Bills don’t have to put too much on him as Knox continues to become one of Allen’s favorite targets. It should complement the low cost tight end piece well.
Phillips agreed to the terms of a one-year contract.
What this means: Rebuilding the defensive line was clearly the Bills’ priority this offseason. Phillips was originally acquired without waiver by Buffalo from Miami in 2018 and then spent 2019 with the Bills. He signed a big deal with the Cardinals in 2020 — three years, $30 million — but he was released this offseason and wanted to return to Buffalo. Phillips is so attached to the Bills that he watched every game the team played while he was away. A logical return for a player who had made 9.5 sacks with the Bills in 2020.
What is the risk? Phillips injured his knee in December and did not play for the Cardinals again. He had no long-term concerns about the injury and said he was taking new approaches to staying healthy. He was limited to nine games in 2021 due to different injuries (back and knee). Other than that, there is no risk. A good player with a one-term contract who wants to be in Buffalo is a win-win.
Lawson agreed to the terms of a one-year contract.
What this means: The Bills really like reunions? Joking aside, the return of Lawson — a 2016 Bills first-round draft pick — gives Buffalo another veteran passer who has plenty of experience in the plan of coordinator Leslie Frazier and coach Sean McDermott. Lawson’s best season came in 2019, finishing with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He hasn’t had much success with the Jets this past year, but he could fit into the Bills’ rotation.
What is the risk? From what we know, there’s little to lose here. Again, it’s a short team deal that brings a popular player back into the locker room and someone who already knows how things work at Buffalo.