‘It’s a winning culture here’: Buffalo has turned into a free-agent destination

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BUFFALO, NY – Von Miller had a choice to make this offseason. Where would the 12-year-old veteran-edge rusher spend the next phase of his career?

Defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams wanted him back. The weather is better on the west coast, playing with defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a good advantage and he has a relationship with Ram’s coach Sean McVay.

Miller also considered returning to the Denver Broncos – the team he spent most of his career with. But instead of both, he ended up signing a $ 120 million six-year deal (which is actually more of a two- or three-year deal) with the Buffalo Bills.

“This is different,” Miller remarked as he entered Bills’ news conference at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

A future Hall of Famer who not only decides to come to Buffalo but initiates the conversation with the Bills is not something that would have happened a few years ago.

When general manager Brandon Beane first came to Bills’ front office in 2017, it was all about getting players interested in coming to Buffalo.

“I remember saying here a few years ago about ‘people do not want to be in Buffalo,'” Beane said. “It’s exciting to me that the city of Buffalo was chosen over the glamor of LA or Dallas or some of these other cities … Hopefully we will continue to do things that people will say, ‘Hey, I want to be apart. from it.’ It’s useful because a lot of these deals, the money comes close and you’re looking for the tiebreakers, whether it’s playing with Josh Allen, playing in front of Bill’s Mafia, I think it all weighs in. “

What have you changed? The development and performance of quarterback Josh Allen and one of the league’s best defenses has helped turn the script around in Buffalo. The Bills have become a destination team for NFL players.

“It had to be something special. It had to be the Buffalo Bills to really get me over the hump,” Miller said. “And just when I signed the contract, I was fine. The smile came back. Happiness came back, Von came back. But this was definitely a stressful process … it was hard, man, it came down to the very end. and coach McVay, they did everything they possibly could, and it’s unfortunate that I’m not a Los Angeles Ram, but I’m a Buffalo Bill, man. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to hunt more Super Bowls with these guys and it’s an honor and a privilege to be here. “

While the addition of Miller – assisted by the recruitment efforts of Allen and broadband receiver Stefon Diggs – is certainly the most exuberant of Bills’ free-agency traits, he is far from the only player interested in joining it, Beane and coach Sean McDermott has. built in Buffalo.

Former Bills, like defensive linemen Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, enjoyed their Buffalo experience so much that they decided to return without wanting to miss out on what this team is building.

“It looks like they want to win. Everyone looks like they want to win,” said defensive tackle Tim Settle, who joined the Bills in free play from the Commanders. “They play the way they want to win; you can see every week they want to win. It’s a winning culture here, that’s what we want to be a part of. From bottom to top they want to win and everyone has bought in. “

But perhaps the biggest draw is Allen. His performance in the Bills’ two playoff games put the entire league on notice, completing 48 of 62 passes (77.4%) for nine touchdowns and zero interceptions, in addition to 17 carries for 134 yards.

Allen is under contract until 2028 and the team has shown an ability to build around him in the right way. The Bills have won the AFC East two seasons in a row and are making a push for the Super Bowl. The culture has changed.

“The proof is in the pudding. You look at this team the last few years, they were so close to going all the way,” said tight-end OJ Howard, who came over from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “… It’s just a great place to come in with a quarterback like Josh and see all the talent around him.”

As he considered switching from playing with seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady to Allen, Howard recalled the Bills’ loss to the Bucs last year and how Allen almost led Buffalo to a comeback, despite suffering an injury.

“Seeing that type of leadership exhibited, the gravel and toughness at that moment was enormous,” Howard said. “We made it to the end, but it was that battle [there] for Buffalo to come in and take it. So that was just a lot to say about that team that day. “

Offensive guard Rodger Saffold III joined the Bills from the Titans.

“When it comes to just the situation and the possibility of being able to play for a championship, I knew it would be with this organization,” Saffold said.

With the draft and the rest of the free agency left, Bill’s favorites are to win the Super Bowl (+700, per Caesars Sportsbook) after three straight 10-plus winning seasons and two straight AFC East titles. Getting over the hump has been the problem, and the recent high-profile additions to the AFC will only make it harder.

Being in the mix, however, made Buffalo a destination and brought Miller, who could be the missing piece the defense needs. The Bills generated pressure at the second-highest speed last season (34% of dropbacks), but only one Bills defender had at least five sacks (defensive Mario Addison with seven)

As the team continues to build under a tight ceiling (approximately $ 2.2 million in place), the Bills hope to use their competitor status as leverage to sign players at cheaper prices.

“Please come to us for as cheap as you can, right now,” Beane said. “We’re trying to tell people, sell opportunities, come here and, and we’ll help you improve your value for next year.”

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