Nov 26, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrate a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bills, QB Josh Allen search for answers without WR Stefon Diggs

With no true No. 1 wide receiver on the roster, some might have anticipated a more abrasive posture from quarterback Josh Allen as the Bills open offseason workouts.

But as the Bills transform the roster, Allen said he’s accepting the unspoken challenge of becoming a better leader.

“It’s definitely hard to part ways with a guy that’s been very instrumental in our success the last four years,” Allen said Thursday of reporting to work without wide receiver Stefon Diggs in tow.

“We made a lot of changes this offseason. We lost a lot of veteran leadership — Stef being one of them. Going into Year 7 now, it just kind of is what it is. I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

Diggs was traded to the Houston Texans and exchanged text messages with Allen, who said he’ll “always love him like a brother.” Buffalo also moved on from No. 2 wide receiver Gabe Davis, who landed in Jacksonville as a free agent.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane is tasked with making roster changes. He said there’s no truth to the idea Buffalo needs a No. 1 wide receiver on the roster or has to zero in on that position in the draft.

“We’d love to have two guys out there who are No. 1s,” Beane said. “What you need are guys that are smart, versatile, selfless and can make the plays that their skill set allows them to make. If it’s a tall guy that Josh is going to throw him a 50-50 ball he’s got to come down with it. If it’s a guy that we’re going to get the ball in his hands and we need some (yards after the catch) he’s going to do that. … If there’s a (No.) 1 (receiver) that pops up in free agency or draft that makes sense for us, we’ll do it.

“I don’t think not having a 1 means we cannot have success either as an offense or as a team.”

Buffalo’s current depth chart at the position features 2023 fifth-round pick Justin Shorter, 2022 fifth-round pick Khalil Shakir and free agent signee Curtis Samuel.

The Bills feature tight ends Dawson Knox and 2023 first-round pick Dalton Kincaid but no outside receiver with Diggs’ resume.

“We’ll miss him. You never replace a player like Stef Diggs,” head coach Sean McDermott said Thursday. “… Hard to move on from a player like that.”

McDermott called the trade an “opportunity to step up” for returning receivers.

He said he discussed the trade of Diggs with Allen and they communicated “multiple times” because of the gravity of the decision. In exchange for a 2025 second-round pick, the Bills are forced to swallow $31 million in dead money on the current payroll and take a $4 million cap hit.

“Just trying to do what’s best for the team, both in the near-term and the long-term,” McDermott said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) speak prior to the game against the New York Giants at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Bills GM: ‘Timing made sense’ for Stefon Diggs trade

Trading star wide receiver Stefon Diggs was not an easy decision, according to Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane.

“These moves are never easy — very hard, not made overnight, anything like that — but any time you make a move like this, as I said, very difficult, you’re doing it because you’re trying to win,” Beane said summarizing his thought process in dealing Buffalo’s four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to the Houston Texans.

“Sometimes people may not see that. This is by no means the Bills giving up or trying to take a step back or anything like that. Everything we do, we’re trying to win, and we’re going to continue to do that. It’s April … we’ll continue to work on this roster and make sure we’re ready to play come September.”

The Bills are absorbing a massive dead cap hit — $31.1 million — to reset the depth chart at wide receiver. In return, Buffalo picked up a second-round pick in the 2025 draft.

Diggs, 30, had at least 1,100 yards in each of his four seasons with the Bills. But he hasn’t always lived a harmonious existence in Buffalo and spent part of last offseason away from the team in an apparent rift with the coaching staff.

Beane said “it’s not the first time we’ve been called to ask would we move him” but felt the timing and value was right before he stamped the trade with the Texans on Wednesday.

“I think with this move, as we’re talking with Houston in this case the last couple days, the value seemed to make sense and the timing made sense for them and for us,” Beane said.

The deal leaves quarterback Josh Allen with little familiarity in the WR room.

Before Diggs was traded, the Bills lost free agent Gabe Davis to the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed free agent Curtis Samuel. Khalil Shakir is the team’s top returning receiver with 39 receptions for 611 yards and two touchdowns in 2023.

Diggs led the NFL with 127 catches and 1,535 yards in his first season with the Bills in 2020. He totaled 37 TDs over four years as Allen’s go-to guy outside.

–Field Level Media

Bills head coach Sean McDermott is fired up after a field goal.

Bills have work to do to get below increased salary cap

INDIANAPOLIS — When Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane heard the NFL salary cap was set at $255.4 million, he couldn’t contain his excitement.

“To get to $255 (million), I was smiling,” Beane said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.

Beane said he was expecting the cap to be $10 million to $15 million lower. Still, the Bills were a whopping $41 million over the figure last week.

“Every dollar you get can help you,” Beane said. “We’re working through now on guys to restructure or modify (contracts).”

The Bills are about to tackle the situation on all levels and restructured the deal of starting left guard Connor McGovern on Monday to save a reported $3.74 million in cap space.

Part of the modifications will be key in terms of developing options to retain some of Buffalo’s own free agents.

Key players who will become unrestricted free agents next month include defensive end Lawrence Floyd, outside linebacker Tyrel Dodson, defensive end A.J. Epenesa, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and receiver Gabe Davis.

“Now that we know the cap, we’re working on getting under and how much can we create without piling up a huge mess in ’25 or ’26.” Beane said. “We will have conversations with those guys and all our free agents.”

One guy who doesn’t have to fear becoming a cap casualty is receiver Stefon Diggs, who will be entering the first season of a four-year, $96 million extension.

“I expect him to be here,” Beane said of Diggs. “Nothing has changed from that standpoint.”

Buffalo (11-6 in 2023) has won four consecutive AFC East titles and has qualified for the playoffs in five straight seasons. But the Bills reached the AFC Championship Game just once during the span, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs to end their 2020 season.

Buffalo coach Sean McDermott is bullish that the Super Bowl door will be knocked down soon.

“I believe we’re doing things the right way,” McDermott said. “You only fail if you quit, and I’ve never done that. I’ve never been about that. Whatever it is, you always figure it out. You always find a way to get there.”

Beane said he can feel the breakthrough coming, too.

“This is season 8 for us and we’re frustrated as ever to win,” Beane said. “We’re going to do everything we can.

“Every year is its own year. We know the challenge ahead. When you’ve won the division four times in a row, it gets harder, it’s not going to get easier. … We’re confident at the right time we’ll get it done.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin warms up before a game against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Bills S Damar Hamlin ‘fully cleared’ for football activities

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made the roll call for the start of offseason workouts and is fully cleared to participate in all football activities.

Hamlin was present on Monday, beating even his own expectations for an unbridled return to the team four months after going into cardiac arrest on the field in the Bills’ Jan. 2 game at Cincinnati.

“He’s seen three additional specialists, most recently on Friday, and they are all in agreement — not 2-1, or 3-1 or anything like that — they’re all in lockstep of what this was and that he’s cleared to resume full activity just like anyone else who is coming back from an injury or whatever,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Tuesday. “He’s fully cleared. He’s here, and he’s in a great head space to come back and make his return.”

Hamlin said the day before the Super Bowl in February that he was headed in the right direction and wasn’t planning to pause his NFL dreams.

After losing consciousness on the field, the Bills’ medical and training staff gave him CPR. He was rushed to the hospital and the University of Cincinnati medical staff was shocked by the recovery of the 25-year-old safety.

During his hospitalization and the two weeks after, Hamlin said his foundation that raises money for a community toy drive received more than $9 million in donations. The non-profit started in 2020 as a GoFundMe campaign seeking $2,500 for a toy drive.

Hamlin said in February he was committed to educating the public on the merits of CPR training and life-saving techniques, partnering with the American Heart Association on a national program to provide free tutorials and videos on emergency breathing and defibrillator use.

A sixth-round pick by Buffalo in 2021, Hamlin has recorded 93 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four passes defensed in 29 games (13 starts) with the Bills.

–Field Level Media

Bills Josh Allen pauses and looks off before the start of the play.

Ty 012223 Josh Allen Pause Bills

Bills chasing explosive playmakers in 2023 draft

The Buffalo Bills are prioritizing explosive playmakers in the offseason.

General manager Brandon Beane said there are only “a few high-graded guys at the top” in this draft. But he cited the continued growth of 7-on-7 for the depth of this class at defensive back, hybrid defensive back and wide receiver.

“We’re always looking for playmakers, guys that are weapons with the ball for mismatches,” Beane said. “We’ll look at various ways to add playmakers. We are always looking for guys (quarterback) Josh (Allen) can get the ball to, guys that can run after the catch. Those turn into home runs, the big chunk plays. It’s hard to always count on the 10- or 11-play drives.”

Beane said safety Damar Hamlin is “definitely planning to return” to the field in 2023, and Buffalo is counting on him while navigating free agency with Jordan Poyer.

The “premium” placed on game-changing playmakers makes them more difficult to add, Beane said, pointing to the team’s predicament at running back. Devin Singletary is a free agent, but the Bills are discussing retaining him and have confidence that 2022 second-rounder James Cook can handle 15-20 touches per game.

Beane said Allen was nowhere near 100 percent at the end of the season, citing his elbow injury against the New York Jets as a limiting factor down the stretch.

“He wasn’t perfect. He takes hits. But he’s a warrior,” Beane said. “He was able to remove the brace after a few weeks. He’ll be ready to go this offseason. That’s one of the things with Josh, he’s his own worst critic. He’s a competitor. He wants it badly. He wants it more than anyone else.”

–Field Level Media

Buffalo Matt Araiza (19) and kicker Tyler Bass (2) celebrate a field goal during the Bills  27-24 win over Indianapolis in their preseason game Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.

Sd 081322 Bills 77 Spts

Bills release P Matt Araiza due to gang-rape allegations

The Buffalo Bills released punter Matt Araiza on Saturday night, two days after the rookie was named in a civil lawsuit alleging he was one of three college players involved in a gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl last October.

The Bills received considerable backlash over the past two days and coach Sean McDermott held Araiza out of Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers before the decision was reached Saturday to part ways with the former San Diego State star.

“This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” general manager Brandon Beane said during a press conference. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”

The Bills released a statement Thursday professing they had done a “thorough examination” of the allegations against Araiza.

But as the uproar increased, Buffalo took another look at the situation, eventually coming to the conclusion that Araiza had to go.

“We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment,” Beane said. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information. … With it being a legal situation, there are certain things that we won’t be able to discuss.

“Ultimately, we thought it was best for everybody. It’s a very serious situation and with the serious nature of the allegations and we just don’t have the means to put all the facts together. There’s multiple versions of what happened.”

The lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court named Araiza and 2021 San Diego State teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

Araiza is accused of having sex with the girl outside a house and then bringing her into a room where she was repeatedly assaulted and raped. The girl said the attack lasted for “about an hour and a half.”

The incident occurred in mid-October but San Diego State officials didn’t alert the campus community of the alleged rape and waited more than seven months to launch an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the nickname “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He joined legendary runner Marshall Faulk (1992, 1993) as the lone unanimous All-Americans in program history, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and finished the season with a NCAA-record 51.19-yard average.

Though Araiza had a reputation for having a strong leg, he was the third punter drafted when Buffalo tabbed him. Eyebrows were raised that day as to why Araiza fell in the draft.

Beane said Saturday that the Bills didn’t know about the alleged gang-rape situation.

“We did not know about this,” Beane said. “We’ve reached out to double-digit teams and no one had nothing on this. Nobody in the league knew about it. The names were sealed. Yes, if we had this, you know how important the character and the culture is important to me. Anything that would have come up like this, we would have taken him off our board.”

Still, Buffalo knew of the allegations earlier this week when the organization released holdover punter Matt Haack in favor of Araiza. In Friday’s preseason game, backup quarterback Matt Barkley handled the punting.

Coach Sean McDermott faced more than a dozen questions about Araiza in Friday’s postgame press conference and was clearly disturbed. On Saturday, he said Araiza seems to understand when told he would be released.

He also called the situation a difficult one.

“As Brandon said, we’ve tried to sort through a lot of information, it’s ongoing, and that to me has been one of the harder parts of this and that information continues to flow, it seems,” McDermott said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White (27) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bills delay roster decision on CB Tre’Davious White

The Buffalo Bills won’t make a roster move regarding star cornerback Tre’Davious White until they absolutely must.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane told reporters Tuesday that the team is delaying its decision on whether the injured White would need to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list.

“We’re trying to run out the clock here. It gives us another week,” Beane said of White. “I know people want answers (about a return date). Candidly, we don’t have them.”

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, White tore his ACL during a Thanksgiving Day win over the New Orleans Saints last year. He’s been on the PUP list throughout training camp.

The Bills could activate White and include him on their Week 1 roster, but if they place him on reserve/PUP before the final roster cut deadline next Tuesday, he would have to miss the first four games of the regular season. By not making the move yet, the team is holding out hope that he could be ready for Week 1.

White, 27, has spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with Buffalo and played in 72 games, all starts. He was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2019 along with earning Pro Bowl nods in 2019 and 2020. He has 16 interceptions, 60 pass breakups, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 279 tackles for his career.

Beane was more certain of the fate of guard Ike Boettger, telling reporters Boettger would remain on the PUP list entering the regular season and miss at least the first four games. Boettger tore his left Achilles tendon and had surgery in December.

–Field Level Media