Just two hours after the free agency tampering period opened on Monday, March 13, the Buffalo Bills made a big move to patch up one of their biggest problem areas, the offensive line. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo was the first to break the news that the Bills were signing former Dallas Cowboys guard Connor McGovern to a three-year, $23 million deal.
The 6-foot-5, 308-pound lineman spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cowboys. The former third-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft missed his rookie year due to an injury and became a rotational player in his second and third years, sometimes playing fullback, per CBS Sports. During the 2022 NFL season, he was the Cowboys’ full-time starter at left guard, while also taking some snaps at center.
However, Buffalo’s move to pick up McGovern appears to send a message about Rodger Saffold‘s future in Buffalo.
Syracuse.com‘s Matt Parrino wrote of Saffold, “The 34-year-old is a free agent and the Bills likely saw an opportunity to upgrade at the position with 25-year-old McGovern, who can also play center in a pinch,” while 13 WHAM sports anchor Dan Fetes tweeted, “With the Bills signing Connor McGovern, I feel pretty comfortable saying Rodger Saffold will NOT be back in Buffalo next season.”
While there was a lot of excitement when Saffold signed a one-year, $6.25 million contract with the Bills last season, he failed to live up to expectations. The frustration over the veteran’s performance boiled over when he was named to the 2023 Pro Bowl as Colts guard Quenton Nelson replacement. Democrat & Chroncicle‘s Bills analyst Sal Maiorana tweeted, “If you were ever wondering how much of a joke the Pro Bowl is, Rodger Saffold being added to the AFC roster should confirm it. He was literally one of the worst guards in the NFL this season. Laughable.”
A Bills fan account wrote, “You know the Pro Bowl don’t mean s*** when they add Rodger Saffold to the roster 🤣🤣,” while Cover 1 host Aaron Quinn tweeted, “Saffold being in the pro bowl is all I need to see to never use pro bowl as a benchmark for any kind of point you are attempting to make. I literally just called him the Bills biggest disappointment in 2022 last night.”
Saffold Said He’ll ‘Do Whatever I Gotta Do to Stay in Buffalo’
Back in early December, the Bills’ starting left guard sent a strong message on Twitter and attempted to tag Brandon Beane for him to read, however, the team’s general manager doesn’t have an account on the social media app. He tweeted, “I’ll do whatever I gotta do to stay in Buffalo @brandonbeane17 ,” before adding a promotional stat, “0 sacks in 12 games let’s goooooo!!!!”
However, the Bills’ offensive line failed to protect quarterback Josh Allen in the postseason. Allen was sacked seven times during the Bills’ 34-31 win over the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round and while he was only sacked once against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Playoff game, the O-line allowed eight hits on the team’s $258 million star.
Saffold reiterated his desire to remain in Orchard Park after the season ended. The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia tweeted on January, 23, “Saffold said he intends to play, in 2023 and wants to be back in Buffalo next season. He mentioned he’s not trying to break the bank, he just wants what’s fair for his age and ability. Wants to do what he can to make it work in Buffalo.”
If the Indiana alum is willing to take a pay cut for next season, maybe the Bills will keep him around. New York Upstate‘s Ryan Talbot wrote, “McGovern is expected to replace Rodger Saffold as a starter on Buffalo’s offensive line, but he could technically play at either guard spot.”
There’s Concern Over McGovern’s Ability as a Run Blocker
McGovern played 909 snaps last season, allowing just two sacks, seven hits, and accruing just one penalty, per Pro Football Focus. And while he earned an impressively high 74.8 overall grade for pass blocking, McGovern earned a 42.7 overall grade for run blocking.
The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia wrote, “He’s had good pass-blocking success but has been a bit of a liability as a run blocker. The Bills’ offensive strength is as a passing team and they veer heavily toward throwing, so he should fit into that part of their game well. On the flip side, coach Sean McDermott has wanted to get more effective as a running team, and this signing might not help with that.”
Buscaglia graded the signing as “C-plus” as a $7.67 salary “seems a bit high for a middle-tier guard,” while noting the grade could go up depending on the true structure of the deal and cap hit number. According to AtoZ‘s Doug Kyed, McGovern’s $23.35 million contract includes an “$8M signing bonus, $11M total guarantees, $1M roster bonus in 2025, one void year. Cap hit in 2023: $4M.”