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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Macari

Fitting the Bills: Bills Turn the Page

Anthony D. Macari

March 6th, 2024 will go down as one of the more emotional non-game days in Buffalo Bills history. In a dizzying series of roster moves, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott cut ties with a core group of veterans who not only led the team on the field but helped establish a winning culture in the locker room. In a departure in philosophy that prioritized keeping your own, the Bills let go of Jordan Poyer, Mitch Morse, Tre’Davious White, Deonte Harty, Siran Neal and Nyheim Hines. This after trading Ryan Bates and combined with the expected FA departure of Micah Hyde, Gabe Davis, Tyler Matakevich and others. That list includes 5/8 of last year’s captains. In many ways, the players leaving Buffalo, represented the heart and soul of a Bills team that has won 4 straight AFCE championships and has gone to the playoffs 6 out of the last 7 seasons.

So, is it time to panic and accept that the team is in full rebuild mode? The truth is the salary cap is real and Josh Allen’s contract will make crafting a roster challenging. However, the moves made may hurt the off the field culture more than the on the field product. There is no doubt the list of released veterans were fan favorites and team leaders. However, the decline on the field either has begun or will not be far off for those vets that won't be back, who are closer to retirement age than their prime. The game is getting faster and watching the once dominant pair of Hyde and Poyer arrive a beat late in coverage or to make a critical tackle, was becoming more of an issue as the season wore on last year. Years of hits and injuries began to take their toll on production. Mitch Morse, showed little or no sign of slowing down last season, but the fear that his next concussion would be career ending, becomes more and more of a concern as more and more tread wears off the tires. No doubt his calm voice in the locker room will be sorely missed and not easily replaced, but there is a logic to releasing him and the others a year too soon, rather than a year too late. Tre’Davious White was the first draft selection made by McDermott.  He has a personality that electrified the stadium. However, the reality is injuries have made him a non-contributor for the better parts of the past three seasons. The money tied up on his contract was simply too much given the injury time lost, and anticipated as he recovers from another devastating injury.

Brandon Beane simply had to put sentiment aside and rip the bandage off. He realized the team as constructed, had peaked and would have been in steep decline if dramatic changes were not made. The team needs to get younger, faster, and cheaper given the reality of the salary cap. This team’s Super Bowl dreams still center around the generational talent they have behind, a soon to be different, Center. To reload now and make another run with a new core of young players, blending in with the veterans like Von Miller, Stephon Diggs and Matt Milano makes sense. Add in a sprinkling of wise veteran free agent acquisitions to add to a draft class that currently will include 11 picks, and this team will bounce right back and contend right away once again.

A reset now could open another 3–5-year window, while Josh Allen is still in his prime. Waiting would push that reset into what may be his own declining window. Face it, Josh Allen’s style is not conducive to a 15-year level of sustained excellence. He may only have 3 more super prime years left. That doesn’t mean he can’t perform well and win championships beyond those years, but that may be the window to reasonably expect him to be able to carry a team on his back. So, cutting bait on an aging core of veterans getting paid premium salaries to clear the way for young players to step in and step up sooner rather than later is prudent. Luckily, Brandon Beane has a track record of finding talent deep into a draft class, and with 11 picks, this year’s draft becomes one of the more crucial in team history to maintain and exceed the level of excellence obtained.

The Patriots and Chiefs, the last two NFL dynasties, all adjusted their roster year after year to stay competitive. The Pats let Randy Moss go, the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill, and still won Super Bowls. The constant was coach and QB. The question does remain, is Josh Allen on that level of champion, and can Sean McDermott learn from his past mistakes to get over the hump. His mentor, Andy Reid, spent many years with the Eagles stuck on a level like where the Bills are now. The hope here is, like Reid, he figures it out and brings home that Lombardi to Buffalo.

Sadly, if that happens, the group let go yesterday, who helped put the Bills back on the path to greatness, won’t be on the field to see that day come. However, like the other legends of the past, like Kelly and Thomas, and Smith and Reed and Levy, they will be as much a part of that story, that journey as any player on that field that glorious day. There is another constant, beyond even the coach and QB, that is needed to finally reach that pinnacle of sports, and that is a loyal, passionate fan base like Bills Mafia. The players let go yesterday may no longer be Buffalo Bills, but they will forever be Bills Mafia. We welcome them with gratitude for the passion and commitment they brought to the field each and every week. Go Bills!!!

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