There appears to be a changing perception around the NFL that players don’t want to come and join the Buffalo Bills.
Bad weather and bad football. These two conditions have kept many big-name free agents from signing with the Buffalo Bills for years.
Though as of late, Western New York is starting to look more and more enticing for those looking for their next chance.
Historically, Buffalo has not been the most desired place for free agents to flock to when looking for their next home. Years of missing out on some of the league’s biggest names, losing them to either more competitive teams or better geographically located franchises banished them to the basement of the NFL for years. From the year 2000 through 2016, Buffalo constantly found itself in the third or fourth position in the AFC East, aside for a few outliers. With the losing record they continuously had, players did not sign long-term contracts with the team as they were more interested in going to a competitor.
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This meant that Buffalo had to build their team through the draft, similar to the path which led them to four Super Bowls. Drafting players such as Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith became their recipe for immense success in the 90s.
That exact same recipe has been put to good use by Brandon Beane and company as through the draft he has assembled one of the most competitive teams the fan base has seen in years. It is through his efforts in drafting an elite gunslinger in Josh Allen and re-tooling the team’s offensive and defensive lines that has made Buffalo a choice landing spot.
Advocates for Buffalo such as Hall of Famer, Terrell Owens, who played in Buffalo during the 2009 season, said on One Bills Live that though Buffalo was not seen as a very attractive destination, he said that: “I was very fond of my time in Buffalo”.
The franchise was also publicly vouched for on Twitter during the Antionio Brown fiasco. During that time where was “traded” to the Bills and threatened to retire, players past and present vocalized their love for their time spent in the blue and red which has helped diminish the stigma that surrounded the franchise.
Another aspect that has helped diminish that stigma has been winning. In the past three years, the Bills have posted a record of 25-23 (their best three-season record since ’97-’99) with them making the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Concluding the last season, Buffalo has now become a legitimate front-runner for an AFC championship which has since put them on the free agency map.
Last year, the Bills signed players such as former Dallas Cowboy in Cole Beasley and former Baltimore Raven in John Brown. The success they had last season played a large part in this year’s offseason as they were able to land Mario Addison, Josh Norman, A.J. Klein and many more.
Even players that were free agents wanted to come back to Buffalo, like wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. After he was signed, McKenzie said he had other offers but wanted to return to Buffalo, according to Sal Maiorana of the Democrat and Chronicle.
"“Either way, I told him I wanted to be a Buffalo Bill,” said McKenzie. “Other teams came along and gave me offers, and Buffalo gave me a good offer, so I was like I might as well go back to Buffalo because I wanted to be there.”"
Though the “bad” weather may still be a constant in Buffalo, the “bad football” is a thing of the past. As the new winning culture continues to be woven into the fabric of the Buffalo Bills and the expectations for success rise, more and more big-name free agents will be calling Buffalo home now for years to come.