Bills general manager Brandon Beane is rightfully getting credit for Buffalo’s brilliant offseason; head coach Sean McDermott is correctly receiving kudos for installing an excellent culture.
But the real MVP of Buffalo’s terrific offseason is quarterback Josh Allen. Without him, none of this would be possible.
For obvious starters, his excellence was the primary reason for Buffalo’s 13-win season and AFC Championship berth in 2020. We saw McDermott’s ceiling with a mediocre single-caller: a loss in the Wild Card round in 2017.
That’s not a knock on McDermott, but rather a commentary on the value of quarterbacks across the league.
Bill Belichick went 7-9 in his first season without Tom Brady. Brilliant coaching only goes so far. You need the elite quarterback.
That was Allen in 2020. The 2018 first round pick played like an MVP candidate, completing nearly 70% of his passes and throwing for 37 touchdowns. Wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who’s played with all-time greats Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees throughout his career, said he admired Buffalo’s offense from afar.
“I would sit and I would grab my iPad and I would watch the Buffalo Bills offense on my iPad,” Sanders told reporters during his Zoom conference call shortly after signing with the team. “Just watching the routes they were running, seeing Josh run around and ripping the ball 50 or 60 yards down the field, it’s just exciting to watch. It’s the reason why everyone is starting to talk about them. Because they are gaining traction and it’s fun to watch and it’s one of the reasons I joined.”
The Bills were feature one of the best receiving corps in football next season, with Allen throwing to Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and Sanders. Speedster Isaiah McKenzie returned for the veteran minimal as well — though he says the Bills could’ve paid him in candy.
Buffalo might as well be paying Allen in candy, and that’s where the second part of his MVP case comes into play. His base salary is less than $1 million, with a minuscule $6.9 million cap hit. Having a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract is the NFL’s equivalent of the holy grail. The Seattle Seahawks made two Super Bowls before paying Russell Wilson. The Kansas City Chiefs took home a Lombardi Trophy before paying Patrick Mahomes.
Without Allen taking up sizable cap space, the Bills have been able to spread money around. That could soon change, with Allen on the cusp of receiving an expensive extension. Spotrac projects he could command $168 million over four years — a deal that would put him in line with Deshaun Watson.
Beane has said he would like to get Allen’s extension signed sooner rather than later.
“It helps you for your planning the sooner you can get that contract done," he said last week. "Again, I hope that we can get him done, if not this year, next year."
According to Spotrac, the Bills could still keep Allen’s cap number under $10 million this season, before it would rise to $26 million. That’a an inevitability with any great quarterback, which is why it’s so vital for the Bills to make a Super Bowl run this season.
As long as Allen is around, the Bills should be in playoff contention, allowing them to re-sign players to discounted deals, and attract veterans to play for less. In many respects, franchise quarterbacks are their team’s best general manager.
Allen has turned the Bills into a destination. None of this would be possible without him.