The Buffalo Bills are one of the most tortured franchises in the NFL. They came into existence in the AFL in 1960 and claimed back-to-back championships in 1964 & 65, but by the time the AFL & NFL merged in 1970 the Bills were a poor side that struggled to make any impact on the league. It took the arrival of head coach Marv Levy and quarterback Jim Kelly in 1986 to lift the Bills into title contention. In 1988 they went 12-4 and made the AFC championship game, in 1989 they took a step back but still made the playoffs, before making their first Super Bowl appearance in 1990. Their 20-19 loss was marked by Scott Norwood’s last-second miss from 47 yards, breaking the hearts of fans. The Bills would return to the Super Bowl the next season where they were run over by Washington. In 1992 they once again got back to the big game only to be hammered by Dallas 52-17. They became the only team in NFL history to make 4 Super Bowls in a row in 1993, only to run into the Cowboys again and lose a 7 point half-time lead as they slumped to defeat once again.
Levy and the Bills would return to the playoffs, but they never regained the magic of those early 90s teams. Levy left after the 1997 season, and while the Bills made the playoffs in 98 & 99 their prominence would disappear in the 21st century. They went 18 years without a playoff appearance, finally sneaking back in with a 9-7 record in the 2017 season, but their last playoff win is still all the way back in December 1995.
The 2018 Bills are far from contenders. With a rookie quarterback and a thin roster around him together with the juggernaut New England Patriots in their division their route to the playoffs, nevermind the Super Bowl, seems blocked.
In Madden 19 you have the opportunity to forge the Bills into a winner in Franchise Mode, but it won’t be easy. The Bills start with a 74 overall rating, which is just 1 point better than the very worst teams. However, this rating is made up of a 71 rated offense and an 81 rated defense. That offensive score is the very worst any unit receives in Madden 19, indicating just how much work this team needs if it is to compete. So how should you go about rebuilding the roster?
Buffalo Bills Salary Cap
The Bills start Franchise Mode with 59 players on the roster and $86.2 million in cap space. This is a huge amount of money available to spend, and it will only increase when you cut down to the 53-man regular season roster limit.
There are 25 players on the Bills roster that can be cut without incurring a cap penalty, and while you don’t need to cut anyone for financial reasons, there is no need to carry both Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley as backup quarterbacks, and cutting one of them will open up $1 million more in cap space.
Buffalo Bills Impending Free Agents
The Bills are in a good situation here as most of their best players are under contract for multiple seasons. They do have 24 players entering the final year of their contract at the start of Franchise Mode, but most are bottom of the depth chart players that can be replaced very easily. However, there are some players that you will want to either re-sign or create a plan to replace.
The first player is veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Drafted in the 5th round in 2006 by the Bills, Williams has played his whole career in Buffalo and at 35 years old seems set to retire when his contract expires after the first season of Franchise Mode. Even if he is still playing in season 2, at his age his stats will drop considerably, meaning that you should make other arrangements for the defensive tackle spot. Run-stuffing big men are fairly cheap to obtain so you won’t have to invest too much draft capital or salary cap into replacing him though.
Next up is 77 OVR cornerback Levi Wallace. The 22-year-old rookie was undrafted last year but seized on the opportunity presented to him by Buffalo. He is the Bills #2 corner in Madden 19 and at such a young age he has a lot of development in front of him. He should be retained as Buffalo have just two cornerbacks inked to deals beyond the first season of Franchise Mode. If you can lock him down for the next few years, then he and Tre’Davious White can form a strong cornerback pairing.
Starting right guard John Miller is also an impending free agent. The Bills offensive line is a particular weak spot on the roster, so while you may want to improve on the 74 OVR guard it may not be possible immediately. Re-signing him is a wise move as he would be a solid backup to have on the roster if you do find a new starter, and plugging him back in for season 2 can allow you to spend resources elsewhere.
Other key impending free agents: Matt Darr (P), Robert Foster (WR), Isaiah McKenzie (WR), Jordan Phillips (DT), Taiwan Jones (HB)
Buffalo Bills Roster Needs
Where do we even start? The Bills drafted quarterback Josh Allen early in 2018, and he gets a 76 OVR rating and “quick” development trait. That’s not amazing, but it is something to build on. If you focus training time to him and build up his accuracy, then Allen can become a quality starter for the Bills and solve the most important position in football for you.
There is a lack of talent around Allen in this offense though. The best player is LeSean McCoy, but the former All-Pro running back is now 30 and will start to see a drop in athleticism and ability. Buffalo’s best receiver is tight end Charles Clay but that isn’t saying much, the 81 OVR player is a nice piece to have, but he can’t be the central part of your passing game. You need to add a lot of new wide receivers.
They are fairly common in the draft but the truly elite talents are hard to find. Getting hold of a player with the downfield speed to capitalize on Allen’s incredible throw power would be the smartest thing to do. Zay Jones is the teams best wide receiver, but he is better suited to short & intermediate routes.
The offensive line also needs a serious injection of new talent. Left tackle Dion Dawkins is ok at 78 OVR but ideally you’d put him to the right tackle and find an elite pass protector for Allen to rely on. Both the starting right guard and right tackle are impending free agents, and center Russell Bodine only has two years on his deal. Not many star offensive linemen hit free agency, but there should be a couple of upgrades available to you, like Patriots tackle Trent Brown. Spending some money here would be a smart investment, but you should also look to find some interior offensive line talent in the draft.
Defensively the Bills are stronger, but there is still a lot of work to be done there. They have three solid but unspectacular edge players in Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Shaq Lawson. This would be a smart place to use your first-round pick in the draft as pass rushers are hard to find. If your scouting uncovers an elite talent, you should try your best to add him to your roster. More depth at defensive tackle would be good too, but this can usually be added later or relatively cheaply in free agency.
Buffalo invested a 2018 first-round pick in middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds who has strong athletic traits, but he needs some help around him so finding more linebacker talent would be a wise investment too. The safety positions are pretty set, but more cornerback depth would be nice.
So how should you prioritize your roster needs? Well offensive tackle and defensive end are often the hardest positions to find elite talent and the some of the most important roles on the field so you should look to these spots first. There are a few elite pass rushers that could hit free agency after season 1 so if you see Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, or DeMarcus Lawrence available you should throw a lot of your cap space into the effort of signing them. If you land one of them, you can focus your draft efforts on improving the offensive line and finding some targets for Josh Allen to throw at. Things get much harder if you are not convinced that Allen can be your man going forward, so it is vital that you focus training attention on him and try to build up his stats as quickly as possible.
Buffalo are about as far away from the Super Bowl as any team on Madden 19, making them the ultimate challenge for Franchise Mode. It will take serious commitment and a lot of hard work in scouting and free agency to bring the talent level of the roster up to the level it needs to be in order to compete with the Patriots and finally win the team their first Super Bowl.