We've all heard the news by now about Ed Oliver and a reported new contract extension, so I want to talk about what I believe this move by the Buffalo Bills means for the defense in 2023. This won't be your Leslie Frazier bend but don't break style.
Let's first take a look at a couple of the new additions to this team, then we'll get into the two players who either resigned or extended. The team recently signed Poona Ford to a free-agent deal, adding more size and power to the interior. The other notable free-agent addition was Taylor Rapp, despite having Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer (Poyer's addition is important to my point here as well).
Now for the players re-signed or extended and that is both Ed Oliver and Jordan Poyer. In the weeks leading up to free agency, the talk was about Oliver, Edmunds, and Poyer. The question posted on Twitter and numerous podcasts were, "You can keep only two, who are you keeping?" Beane and McDermott answered that question for all of us after they extended Oliver.
Some fans are comparing the deal that Edmunds received from the Bears to the new deal Oliver got and they are comparable; however, you can't simply compare numbers, you have to look at the position as well. Oliver's deal is valued at $17 million a year, the 13th highest among defensive tackles, and Edmunds' deal was valued at $18 million a year, which is the highest contract awarded to an inside linebacker in the NFL. The position values are very different.
This tells me the Bills value the defensive tackle position more so than the linebacker position and have big plans for Oliver. The addition of Rapp is interesting as well, given the extension of Poyer. The Bills are loading up the defensive front and defensive backfield.
We also know from McDermott's history as a defensive coordinator that he tends to be an aggressive play-caller and we've heard rumors that Frazier's departure may not have necessarily been "voluntary". Perhaps McDermott wanted some changes on the defensive side that Frazier wasn't on board or comfortable with.
Ed Oliver may be a better fit for a more aggressive defense for the Buffalo Bills
All these "new" things with the Bills' defense this off-season says the defense is going to look different in 2023 as far as aggressiveness and personnel. Maybe McDermott sticks with the 4-2-5 but we see different variations of this alignment with Dorian Williams and Taylor Rapp, along with Ford too.
I believe McDermott understands what Oliver is good at and that's not being a space eater and going toe to toe with offensive linemen. Oliver is good in space and could be a nightmare if used in a way that allows him to utilize his quickness and explosiveness, rather than trying to simply overpower linemen.
I suspect we are going to see the Bills' front four in more unique alignments and used in ways that confuse the opposing linemen. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict Oliver produces seven or more sacks this season. He's never had more than five and that was his rookie year. His career best in combined tackles was also his rookie (43). I think he betters that mark as well.