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What are the Bills’ biggest draft needs for 2024? Help for Josh Allen could be key again

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With their team close to set for the summer, the Buffalo Bills are knee-deep in preparations for the 2023 season with offseason workouts. And though there’s still a full season ahead, it’s also the time when the dust is settled enough to take a fast-forwarded look at how they could approach next offseason.

With some of their star players aging, contracts set to expire and 2024 cap hits ballooning, it makes hitting their draft picks necessary to support Josh Allen enough during his prime to keep their championship window open. This season inevitably will change some things, but it’s worth looking ahead and analyzing what general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott could be in search of in April.

Based on what we know now, here is how the Bills’ 2024 draft needs look a little over one year out.

Primary needs

Wide receiver: The Bills looked to solve some of their pass-catching needs by drafting tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round. The initial indication is to use him as a hybrid tight end and wide receiver while implementing more 12 personnel looks into their offense. It remains to be seen how that will play out. But the one thing they didn’t do is address wide receiver, which could become a humongous need in 2024 and beyond. Gabe Davis is a free agent after 2023 and, at only 24 years old next offseason, could receive considerable free-agent attention. Stefon Diggs’ upcoming cap hits are $27.9 million in 2024, $27.4 million in 2025 and $28.5 million in 2026, which might make the Bills think twice before investing considerable funds in their second starter. Diggs’ age also underscores the issue, as he turns 30 in late November. If the team wanted to, they could get out of the deal and save some cap space as early as the 2025 offseason. But it all comes back to Davis. The Bills don’t have a legitimate X-receiver starting option for 2024 outside of Davis on their roster unless fifth-round rookie Justin Shorter makes an unforeseen leap. If the Davis free-agent market gets out of hand the same way it did for Tremaine Edmunds, and the Bills keep wanting to invest in offense, wide receiver is a savvy play as early as the first round in 2024.

Defensive tackle: The Bills wanted to draft a defensive tackle in 2023 but struck out on Day 2 and early Day 3. By now, it’s well known that the team doesn’t have one of its core defensive tackles signed past the 2023 season. Ed Oliver is the team’s top upcoming free agent next offseason, and the Bills would likely want to get something done if it’s within reason. But with the booming defensive tackle market that was established this offseason, the Bills’ value of him and Oliver’s value with the new context this offseason provided might not align. No matter whether Oliver or one-technique starter DaQuan Jones re-signs, defensive tackle will be close to a must-have draft position.

Offensive tackle: The Bills are giving Spencer Brown every opportunity in 2023 to prove he can be their long-term starting right tackle. If he succeeds, the Bills have one position solved. If he fails, they need to figure out a new plan at right tackle. But the potential need at offensive tackle isn’t as simple as Brown. Somewhat under the radar, left tackle Dion Dawkins is only under contract through 2024, and 2025 would be his age-31 season. Much will depend on Dawkins’ performance over the next two years, as the Bills could issue short-term extensions to keep him in Buffalo. Regardless, Dawkins’ long-term uncertainty alone could be enough to use a Day 1 or Day 2 draft pick. And if Brown struggles again in 2023, offensive tackle is in the running for their first-round pick in 2024.

Edge rusher: The Bills have two locked-in starters through 2024, Greg Rousseau and Von Miller. Given Rousseau’s first two seasons and his potential, it would be a surprise at this point if they didn’t use his fifth-year option for 2025. But things around Rousseau have a high probability of changing significantly. A.J. Epenesa is a free agent after 2023. Boogie Basham is in a make-or-break third season with a ceiling that, at the moment, looks like a rotational defensive end. Miller enters his age-36 season in 2025 with a $23.9 million cap hit, and the team could save $8.5 million on the cap to move on that offseason. The Bills and Beane also see a lot of value in drafting edge rushers with premium picks. They could easily see the 2024 NFL Draft as an opportunity to draft one, develop him for a year learning from Miller, and then look to 2025 to be the long-term starter opposite Rousseau.

Secondary needs that could push to primary

Safety: This was teetering between being a primary and secondary need at this point, but the Bills do have some flexibility here. Jordan Poyer is signed through 2024, and even though Micah Hyde is a free agent after 2023, a one-year extension wouldn’t be out of the question. The team also has Taylor Rapp on a one-year deal as their third safety in 2023, and if he excels in their defense this year, they could extend a manageable long-term offer to him. They would eventually need to draft a safety to develop, but they can get by in 2024 if they want to push off the need. Though if Hyde and Rapp both exit after the year, safety could push into the first category.

Center: The Bills invested heavily at guard in 2023 with Connor McGovern and O’Cyrus Torrence, and as long as they perform at their expected level, they’ll be starting fixtures over the next two seasons. But at center, Mitch Morse is signed through his age-32 season in 2024. As long as Morse wants to keep going after 2023, he’ll likely be the starter in 2024. Much like at edge rusher with Miller, that could yield an opportunity to draft a center on Day 2 or early Day 3 who could develop behind Morse for a year with the idea to start in 2025. However, McGovern could play center past 2024, and Ryan Bates (signed through 2026) could also factor in. Some snaps at center for either player in 2023 could yield more information to that decision next year.

Linebacker: If 2022 third-round pick Terrel Bernard or 2023 third-round pick Dorian Williams takes the middle linebacker job and runs with it this season, this need will disappear. Matt Milano is signed for the long term, and the team only needs one of those two premium picks to assert himself as the starter. Even if that doesn’t happen in 2023, the team still might push the potential need off another year just to give both players ample opportunity. That’s why this need is closer to the next category than the primary needs right now. But this need could shoot up the rankings if the unsettled middle linebacker spot is a complete disaster in 2023.

Tertiary needs

Running back: The team has high hopes for 2022 second-round pick James Cook, and his performance in 2023 will dictate whether this need moves into the secondary tier. If all goes well, he’ll be the Bills’ top running back through the 2025 season. And in that scenario, the additions of Damien Harris and Latavius Murray proved to the team that it can get by on its depth with one-year deals rather than invest in multiple Day 2 draft picks. But if Cook doesn’t progress the way the Bills wanted to see this season, another running back on Day 2 or early Day 3 could be in their future.

Boundary cornerback: The Bills invested a 2022 first-round pick in Kaiir Elam, and 2023 marks a big year to see whether he can cement his position as a starter. If not, the Bills still have Dane Jackson (signed through 2023) and Christian Benford (signed through 2025) that they can turn to in the starting lineup. Top cornerback Tre’Davious White is also signed through 2025, putting this potential need far down the list for the 2024 NFL Draft for now.

Nickel cornerback: Taron Johnson has been a mainstay in the lineup and remains one of the best at his position in the league. The reason it moved up to the “tertiary” need from the final category is that Johnson is only signed through 2024. As long as the 26-year-old’s level of play continues in 2023, it would not be a surprise for the Bills to prioritize getting an extension done with their starting nickel corner next offseason to lock him in for 2025 and beyond.

All set for now

Quarterback: For the third straight year, the Bills have found an experienced veteran quarterback to back up Allen. With Allen still only 27 years old, I’d expect that to continue as the priority behind their star quarterback for 2024.

Tight end: The team signed Dawson Knox to a contract extension through 2026 and drafted Dalton Kincaid in the first round this year. At a minimum, Kincaid is also signed through 2026, with a fifth-year option for 2027. Perhaps they could see a late-round need to find a blocking specialist, but they likely could find that player for cheap in free agency.

Guard: With investments in McGovern (signed through 2025), Torrence (2026) and Ryan Bates (2026), and even drafting Nick Broeker (2026) with a late-round pick, I’d expect the Bills to focus on the development of these players for 2024 rather than replacing them outright through the draft. The only way this changes is if Morse leaves the team after 2023, McGovern or Bates moves to center to be the starter and the other one plays so poorly this year that the team would look to replace him in 2024. And even then, they could look to re-sign David Edwards after his one-year stint in Buffalo should he impress.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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