ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills general manager Brandon Beane’s response to Aaron Rodgers joining the AFC East was spending the NFL draft upgrading Buffalo’s offense.
After salary-cap constraints limited the three-time defending divisional champs to making modest signings in free agency, Beane used what little draft capital he had to give Josh Allen a new target in Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid and a hulking protector in Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence.
The focus on offense follows a season in which the Bills’ production stagnated down the stretch; the team lacked a reliable receiving threat opposite Stefon Diggs; and Allen showed even his broad shoulders aren’t wide enough to carry a majority of the load.
Allen, entering his sixth season, acknowledged as much some two weeks earlier.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I’m getting older. It’s like I can’t continue to do this,” said Allen, who will turn 27 next month, acknowledging he needs to alter his fearless playing style.
“I’m going to have to learn to adapt and change,” added Allen, who played through a nagging injury to his throwing elbow. “I’ve always had the mindset of I’ve been a football player first and a quarterback second. And at some point that’s going to have to switch.”
Allen’s comments were less a revelation and more a reminder of the concerns the Beane raised about Buffalo’s offense days after a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati in the divisional playoff round.
“I would say at the end of the season — and I don’t have the answer for you — we never put together a complete game,” Beane said.
The Bills went from averaging 430 yards of offense and allowing 11 sacks in their first seven outings to gaining an average of 371 yards and giving up 22 sacks in their last nine. Allen committed a league-leading 19 turnovers (14 interceptions, five fumbles), while finishing tied for second with 35 TDs passing.
While saying he was following his draft board, Beane still placed a priority on offense with his first two picks.
Beane thought so highly of Kincaid that he relinquished a fourth-round pick to trade up two spots and select the Utah player at No. 25. Next up, Beane acknowledged he wasn’t budging from the 59th pick to select Torrence.
Kincaid provides Allen a multi-dimensional receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 player, who led FBS tight ends with eight TDs last year, has the versatility to line up in various positions, including the slot, where the undersized Isaiah McKenzie struggled last season.
In Torrence, the Bills added a 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman who never allowed a sack during his four-year college career and is accustomed to protecting a dual-threat quarterback after blocking in front of Anthony Richardson last year.
The focus now falls on second-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to find ways of incorporating Kincaid and speedy receiver Deonte Hardy, who was signed in free agency. Dorsey drew criticism last year for being slow to adapt to how teams were defending Buffalo, and for too often ignoring the running attack.
As for defense, Beane is placing his trust in coach Sean McDermott, who is taking over the defensive play-calling duties this season with coordinator Leslie Frazier deciding to take the year off.
McDermott’s specialty is defense and he oversees a unit that finished sixth in the NFL in yards allowed and second in points allowed. The defense, however, wasn’t the same after Von Miller sustained a season-ending knee injury in November.
With the 150th pick, Buffalo selected Florida receiver Justin Shorter. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Shorter had 29 catches for a career-best 577 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns last season. He spent his first two years at Penn State before transferring to Florida in 2020.
At No. 230, Buffalo selected Mississippi guard Nick Broeker. At 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, Broeker had 36 starts in 48 career games at Ole Miss, while also seeing playing time at left tackle. He did not allow a sack in 472 passing situations last year.
At No. 252, Buffalo selected Oregon State cornerback Alex Austin. In four seasons, Austin had four interceptions, was credited with 24 pass deflections and recovered three fumbles in 36 games.
Buffalo opened Saturday with two picks over the final four rounds, and finished the day having added one more pick this year and two sixth-rounders next year.
The Bills added the 150th (Shorter) and 215th selections by trading their 137th selection to Washington. The Bills then acquired the 230th selection (Broeker) and a sixth-round pick next year by trading the 205th selection to Houston. Buffalo also landed the 252nd pick (Austin) and a sixth-rounder next year by trading the 215th selection to the Rams.
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