The Buffalo Bills enter the 2022 season as Super Bowl favorites out of a loaded AFC. Part of that is because general manager Brandon Beane has done a magnificent job with roster construction.
Beane has pieced together tremendous draft classes and signed and traded for key veterans on the market. But one of his most underrated actions each year is to extend major contributors just before the season starts. He did Tre’Davious White’s extension just eight days before the 2020 season opener and Josh Allen’s mega deal last August. Beane has addressed many lingering contract clouds in-house while the team worked through training camp.
Who could be the next player to land his new deal in the 2022 preseason? Keep in mind that most of the Bills’ top players are already locked up on deals for the foreseeable future. Considering that, here are some possible candidates to keep an eye out for.
The Ole Miss. product has come a long way from the 10 drops he had during his rookie year. The 2021 season — year three for Knox — was his brightest yet, as he set career highs in receptions (49), receiving yards (587), and receiving touchdowns (9). His nine receiving scores tied with Hunter Henry and Mark Andrews for second-most in the league last year, only trailing Travis Kelce (10).
Knox’s advanced numbers improved as well. He posted the highest catch rate (69%) and passer rating when targeted (127.8) in his career in 2021. He also recorded the most yards after catch (277) in his career and cut down his drop rate for the third consecutive year (20% in 2019, 9.1% in 2020, 5.6% in 2021).
I guess that vision specialist came in handy after all.
Knox is not only an ascending player, but he is one of Allen’s go-to targets and closest friends. Knox has improved in each of his three seasons and still can grow.
There’s no telling how much higher he can climb in the ranks of elite NFL tight ends. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey worked with tight ends like Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II as a player at Miami (FL.), and former All-Pro Greg Olsen while working with the Carolina Panthers. So Knox could be in line for an even greater showing for 2022.
Locking Knox up on an extension could mean even greater things for the Buffalo Bills offense beyond 2022. Plus, he has outperformed his third-round draft status; he’s currently set to make $2.54 million in base salary in 2022 — tied for 35th in the league among TEs.
The discussion around Poyer this offseason has been primarily about his quest for a contract extension. So of course it makes sense to give him a deal now before he hits the free agent market in 2023.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether giving Poyer a long-term deal at this stage of his career is worth it. But it’s hard not to make a case for him after he posted his best season yet last year. Poyer was a major catalyst for the league’s top defense, nabbing his first-ever First-Team All-Pro selection in the process.
Poyer tied a career-high with five interceptions and set a new personal-best with three sacks to go along with 93 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and nine passes defended. The Oregon State product’s advanced metrics showed favorably as well. Poyer allowed a 55% completion rate against and 42.2 passer rating when targeted. He also totaled five QB hurries.
You never really see players having their best season 10 years in, but, historically, safety is one of the positions where older players have thrived. Just look at how well Eric Weddle contributed to the Super Bowl champion Rams… as a 37-year-old… coming off the couch for the 2021 postseason. Even Poyer’s running mate, Micah Hyde, is getting up there (he’ll turn 32 on New Years Eve).
So it makes sense why the Bills have dragged their feet on a Poyer extension. Is it worth signing a player entering his 11th NFL season to a long-term deal? I think it may be, especially in this case.
Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier have the league’s top safety tandem in Poyer and Hyde. And the two truly play off of each other, giving the defense the capability to match up in different looks against different teams.
Poyer is also one of the “heart-and-soul” players on this Buffalo Bills roster. Seeing as he’s been part of three top-five overall defenses since coming to Buffalo in 2017. Beane would be smart to give Poyer an extension that maxes out at no more than three years, which would take him through his age-34 season.
Not only would doing that give Poyer a semi-legacy deal and most likely allow him to retire with the Bills, but it also keeps one of the best safeties in the game on their roster as he enters the twilight of his career.
Now the question is, will Beane pull the trigger on this one? The fifth-year middle linebacker, and two-time Pro Bowler, may be the most polarizing player on the Bills roster. At 6’5” and 250 pounds, Edmunds is a physical freak for the MLB position.
The problem, though, is that Edmunds has been a raw and inconsistent player during his tenure in Western New York. He recorded his fourth straight 100-tackle season, but allowed a 78% completion rate and a 106.1 passer rating when targeted.
If you go back over the past two seasons, Edmunds has an overall 110.2 passer rating allowed. He was able to cut down his missed tackles rate to 8.5% — the lowest of his career — and had a career-best six QB hurries in 2021. However, he’s also given up an average of 11.7 yards per completion since 2020 after only allowing 8.3 in his first two NFL campaigns.
So it makes sense why he hasn’t landed that long-term extension just yet. The 2022 season will be a true prove-it year for the Virginia Tech product. One of the things to keep in mind, though, is his importance in the McDermott-Frazier D.
Whether it was Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis back in Carolina with McDermott, or Lavonte David, Gary Brackett, or E.J. Henderson during different stops for Frazier, the MLB position is key to how they want to run their defense. As great as Matt Milano is, Edmunds’ value as the QB of the defense is higher in this system.
That alone could push Beane into acquiescing to a deal with Edmunds. He’s already due to make the third-highest base salary for a MLB in 2022 ($12.7 million). We could see him command an extension in that range going forward.
I know it sounds crazy, but kickers are players to consider too. Not many other Bills players with a year remaining on their contracts appear to be in the mix for a new deal. But one who has two left is the Bills starting kicker, as Bass enters year three with one of the top legs in the game.
It may be a little early to evaluate this, but Bass’ 84.8% career field goal percentage would rank 18th all-time if he retired today. He was able to improve his rate from 82.4% in 2020 to 87.5% in 2021. The Georgia Southern product was also 51 for 51 on extra-point attempts last season, as he was one of only four kickers to finish the year perfect on PATs.
In fact, Bass has only missed two PATs in his young career (108 for 110; 98.2% conversion).
Bass’ 56 made field goals since 2020 are tied for ninth in the league with Cairo Santos. And remember, he plays half of his season in Buffalo, NY, which is one of the craziest weather cities in the NFL. That may play into his 79.4% career field goal percentage at home, but he’s been elite on the road with a rate of 90.6%.
The 25-year-old Columbia, SC native has also served as the team’s kickoff specialist since being drafted two years ago. He’s posted 127 touchbacks on 200 kickoffs (63.5%) in two seasons.
Bass will make just $895,000 in 2022 and $1.01 million in 2023 in the final two years of his rookie deal. As of today, Bass’ 2022 salary is tied-29th in the NFL among kickers. It’s always good to have players on the cheap, if possible. But a Bass extension can ensure that one of the top kickers in the game is compensated and in the fold for years to come as he enters his prime.