Bills Have ‘Big Problem’ With $10 Million Defensive Tackle: Analyst

Ed Oliver

Getty Ed Oliver #91 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a tackle against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 24, 2022.

While the Buffalo Bills’ offense collapsed during their 27-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional round, their defense had no answer for quarterback Joe Burrow, who recorded 30 first downs despite his offensive line missing three starters.

During general manager Brandon Beane‘s end-of-season press conference, he was asked about the Bills’ defensive issues, in particular with Ed Oliver. The Bills preemptively picked up Oliver’s fifth-year option last April, which locked the 25-year-old defensive tackle through the 2023 NFL season, nearly doubling his salary to $10.7 million. Beane said there’s still “meat on the bone” in terms of what their former No. 9 overall pick from the 2019 NFL Draft can deliver on defense.

The Buffalo News analyst Jay Skurski read between the lines and tweeted, “Beane says the #Bills expect Ed Oliver to ‘find a little bit more’ next season when he plays on his fifth-year option. My take: They have a big problem on their hands there. They will be paying him huge money next year, and he does not consistently impact games enough.”

Oliver finished the regular season with 2.5 sacks, 20 solo tackles, and one forced fumble. While he tallied another sack and two solo tackles again the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round, against the Bengals, when the Bills needed him to step up most, he recorded one assisted tackle.

Skurski is not the only person questioning the Bills’ decision with Oliver, or frustrated with his lack of development. “Talking Buffalo” podcast host Patrick Moran tweeted of Oliver, “There’s not a player on the roster IMO more worthy of criticism over the past two weeks. He’s got A LOT to prove in 2023,” to which a fan responded, “He’s undersized, NOT Aaron Donald and an average player at best… can we move on already?! I’m so over these ‘projects’ that we’ve been waiting to bust out for the past 4 years. Yesterday was the time to prove you’re worthy of a big contract. Sorry, but I’m way out.”

However, The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia believes there’s still reason to believe in Oliver. “Part of the trouble with the Oliver debate is a lot of the positive things he does goes unnoticed, and he isn’t the flashy three-technique some were expecting… Those flash plays are likely the ‘more meat on the bone’ general manager Brandon Beane referred to… But Oliver still makes impact plays almost every week and should remain a core starter moving forward.”

Oliver Showed Flashes of Big Potential Against the Lions

Ed Oliver

GettyEd Oliver #91 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a safety against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 24, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan

One fan tweeted, “Oliver has been a big disappointment this season. Outside of the Thanksgiving game, I can’t recall much of anything he did noteworthy.” Oliver was named the AFC Defensive player of the week during the Bills’ 28-25 win over the Lions on November 24, as he recorded one sack in the endzone for a safety, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two tackles for a loss and six total tackles.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier gushed that that’s the type of performance they want from Oliver every week. “So many impact plays that really changed the game in a lot of ways, in particular, that safety that he got for us and then the caused fumble,” Frazier said. “He was just a wrecker, a game wrecker in the way he played. But we needed that from him with some of the other things that we were dealing with injury wise. And he’s more than capable of doing that week in and week out, and we expect to see at the rest of the season.”

However, Oliver was unable to produce another huge game, which was all the more frustrating after Von Miller hit IR. Bills head coach Sean McDermott said during his end-of-season press conference, “I thought we were probably more inconsistent than I would have liked to have seen this year, particularly after Von went down. I thought each one of those guys had their games where they played well, just overall as a group, I felt like we were a little bit too inconsistent.”

Beane’s Draft Acumen Has Came Under Fire

Brandon Beane

GettyGeneral Manager of the Buffalo Bills walks out to the field before the game against the Washington Football Team at Highmark Stadium on September 26, 2021.

Beane said during his presser that the Bills already had roughly $240 million on the books for next year not an option. “We’ve just got to, you know, we gotta hit on draft picks, we gotta find low-cost free agents that can find roles, whether it’s key backup, a solid starter, whatever it is. And so, it’ll be on me and our scouting staff to make the right moves.”

While Beane will forever be lauded for drafting Allen in 2018, New York Upstate‘s Matt Parrino pointed out that it’s been a while since Beane has made a great pick, as Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano, and Dion Dawkins were selected before he was hired.

“Since 2019, Beane has drafted 31 players and only nine have become regular starters,” Parrino wrote. “There isn’t one Pro Bowler or All-Pro selection among that group. “Perhaps the biggest criticism of Beane in his tenure has been his sub-par track record on the offensive line in the draft. He selected Wyatt Teller and traded him away to Cleveland, where he blossomed into an All Pro.”

Adding insult to injury, the Bills traded up to get Cody Ford in the second round in 2019, while wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown were still on the board. Just before the start of the 2022 NFL season, the Bills traded Ford to Arizona for a fifth-rounder.

The Bills have a total of six picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They have a selection in each of the opening rounds, two picks in the fifth round, and zero in Round 6 and Round 7.

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