Bills under review, interior offensive line: future center development on the to-do list

The offensive line has been a major focal point for many in the Bills’ offseason, and for good reason. There were often mixed results, disrupting what could have been promising passing plays.

Given last year’s results, the interior offensive line could end up being key for the offseason. Which 2022 players did enough to warrant initial consideration, and how should the Bills attack this group in the offseason?

Using the ratings from the entire season of the athleticIn the film review, we outline the individual ratings and analysis of each 2022 player, along with recommendations for how the Bills should conduct their offseason business.

Follow the rest of the series here.

IOL 2022 under review

Potential cap savings are approximate and less than $800,000 for the contract that would replace him in the top 51. All contract information comes from Over The Cap.

Even with struggling shooting guards and tackles around him, 2022 was another season in which center Mitch Morse was one of the team’s most reliable players every week. He excelled at blocking some of the best inside running backs throughout the league and was in his prime coming out at the forefront of an extensive career as a throwing lineman and displaying his athleticism. More importantly, Morse provided a sense of calm for quarterback Josh Allen despite the lawlessness that surrounded him. Occasionally, Morse found himself outclassed by a bigger, more physical defensive tackle, but it wasn’t enough to worry about his overall performance. The only major concern the Bills might have is Morse’s long history of concussions, especially after he suffered another one late in the season. Otherwise, Morse appears poised to be a dependable commodity for the next two seasons until his contract expires.

Contract status 2023: $11.36 million, signed through 2024
Dead cap of 2023 if released: $6 million ($4.56 million in capitalization savings)

After receiving a four-year offer sheet from another team that the Bills matched, the start of the 2022 season was almost a nightmare for right guard Ryan Bates. He was among the lowest-rated players on the list for the first four weeks, with a 1.78 GPA (see final grades for how GPA is calculated), and was a significant contributor to offensive line woes early on. . If the Bills had a better backup option, they might have considered benching Bates. Fortunately for both parties, Bates was able to cope and salvaged his season from week 5 to the end of the year. During the 13 games that he was active, Bates was a completely different player. He seemed more confident as a pass blocker and working on combination blocks with his teammates. Most importantly, he was so much like the player you saw at the end of the 2021 season that he brought such a big contract. In those 13 games, Bates had a 2.82 GPA, just shy of left tackle Dion Dawkins (2.85) for the second-highest starting offensive line rating. Bates has settled in as an above-average guard who appears poised to start again in 2023.

Contract status 2023: Reaching the cap of $4.88 million, signed through 2025
Dead cap of 2023 if released: $6.53 million ($2.45 million added to 2023 cap)

Greg Van Roten was in a battle all summer with interior offensive lineman Greg Mancz for a roster spot. Van Roten ultimately won because Mancz couldn’t stay in the field, and Van Roten was also the more versatile option. On the season, Van Roten served as their best interior reserve player and had to make four starts throughout the season. But when Van Roten was in the lineup for Morse or Bates, it was a legitimate demotion, and pass-blocking and run-blocking struggled because of it. Van Roten had a good game against the Dolphins in Week 15, but he didn’t perform well enough every time he was in the lineup. He helped the Bills decide to keep their starting five instead of making a trade.

Contract status 2023: unrestricted free agent

When the Bills signed Rodger Saffold, they expected an immediate upgrade at guard position and someone who could be the finishing touch to their starting lineup. Instead, they received a left guard near the end of his career who struggled significantly and certainly wasn’t the terrific starter he was for much of his career. Saffold was better as a run blocker, but his pass-blocking efficiency was a big reason Allen seemed uncomfortable hanging in the pocket for too long down the season. Saffold delivered too many snap wins in one-on-one matchups and lacked the quickness of foot to get back on replay, leading to Allen having to make something out of nothing all too often. Despite the struggles, the Bills didn’t have a healthy enough player they thought would be an upgrade, so Saffold kept starting all year.

Contract status 2023: unrestricted free agent

Players with less than 200 snaps

The 2022 season was almost exclusively a redshirt season for Boettger. He re-signed a one-year deal with the Bills last year and rehabbed during the season in Buffalo, working his way up to the 53-man roster late in the year. The team got him active for one game when Morse went down with an injury, and Boettger even took six snaps. However, Boettger was a healthy scratch the rest of the way, leading to another free agency experience the next month.

Contract status 2023: unrestricted free agent

*Alec Anderson and Greg Mancz signed reserve/futures contracts after spending time on the practice squad

Recommendations for the 2023 offseason on the interior offensive line

1. Draft a future center that can play guard

This idea has been on the Bills’ to-do list for quite some time, as they’ve always managed at guard for as long as Beane and McDermott have been around. With Morse a free agent in two years and a history of concussions, along with the offensive line taking a legitimate step back every time Bates or Van Roten started at center in 2022, recruiting a young center seems like a way to do a lot. things. The idea would be for that player to earn his place in the starting lineup at guard until Morse retires or leaves the team. Once the Bills get to that point, they can transition this premium draft pick to the center spot. So it’s a way to justify taking guard in the first three rounds of the draft, despite the organization’s longstanding actions, to avoid investing heavily in the guard.

But not every center can play guard, so the Bills shouldn’t just take a snap to take a snap while Morse is still in the building. They need an early starter at guard if they invest an early pick on an interior lineman. Above all, it’s about evolving to that point and having a plan in place for what they consider to be one of the most important positions on offense. It is a choice that theoretically serves quite well in the short and long term.

2. Re-sign Ike Boettger and another experienced guard on a trial deal

The Bills got little out of Boettger on the field in 2022, but it could provide an opportunity to re-sign a player they like to a minimum one-year veteran contract. Boettger needs to show that he can still start after a second Achilles tear, and Buffalo represents potentially his best chance at a starting job. He’d be with an organization he’s invested in and comfortable with, which could set him up for a bigger payday next offseason. Worst case scenario, he returns as reliable depth and an upgrade to Van Roten. Even with Boettger, the Bills should round out their interior offensive line group with another one-year veteran minimum contract on a guard who didn’t have the market he thought he would. He would provide the Bills with maximum options for who makes the team and who ultimately starts.

3. Consider moving Ryan Bates to left guard

Bates certainly corrected his 2022 season after a rough first month, but his new position could have been a sneaky aspect of some of his struggles. It’s not always easy for an offensive lineman to switch from one side of the line to the other, and that could have caused some growing pains for Bates. In 2021, Bates excelled at left guard between Dawkins and Morse. But the signing of veteran Saffold led the team to give him the left guard job because of all his experience, pushing Bates to the right side. A move back to the left side for Bates could do better at left tackle and left guard without spending an offseason resource to tackle him. Plus, Bates has made enough in his last 13 starts to guarantee a starting position in 2023, but if he can maximize his skills and get closer to the player from the end of the 2021 season, it would be a huge breakthrough for the Bills.

LIO depth chart after proposed offseason

left guard

ryan bates

Free agent with a one-year contract

alec anderson


mitch morse

Ryan Bates/draft pick

greg mancz

undrafted rookie

right guard

Draft pick/Ike Boettger

undrafted rookie

(Photo: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

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