Ranking Brandon Beane's five best moves as Buffalo Bills general manager

It hasn't taken Brandon Beane very long to establish himself as one of the NFL's best general managers, but which of his moves have catapulted the Bills into perennial Super Bowl contenders?
Washington Football Team v Buffalo Bills
Washington Football Team v Buffalo Bills / Joshua Bessex/GettyImages

When Brandon Beane was hired on May 9th, 2017, he was bearing responsibility for bringing the Buffalo Bills back to the playoffs after a gruelling 17-year drought. Eight months later, he and head coach Sean McDermott became Buffalo legends forever.

But adding to their legacy would be the more difficult achievement, considering the fanbase was still longing for a Super Bowl, and perhaps more importantly, a franchise quarterback.

Beane has since found the team's franchise quarterback — a move that has catapulted the once forgotten Bills into perennial Super Bowl contenders. And while they're still chasing the Lombardi Trophy, the team's 73 wins in the past several seasons, ranks fourth-best in the NFL.

Without further ado, here are the five most impactful moves that Beane has made as the Bills general manager:

5. Extending DT Ed Oliver

After he recorded a career-low 2.5 sacks in 2022, Beane made the bold decision of extending defensive tackle Ed Oliver to a 4-year, $68 million contract last offseason.

And after receiving some criticism, Beane's gamble paid off when Oliver exploded for a career high 9.5 sacks in 2023. Beane's move to extend Oliver showcased his ability to stay one step ahead of the NFL market, especially when you consider how expensive elite interior defensive lineman have been in recent years.

Former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins signed a 4-year, $110 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason. And even if you think that Wilkins is a better player than Oliver, which might be true, it's hard to argue that he's $42 million dollars better.

In addition, Oliver is only 26 years old.

Despite Oliver's 9.5 sacks ranking third amongst interior defensive lineman in 2023, the annual average value of his contract ($17 million) ranks outside the top 15 at his position — and Oliver is just entering the prime years of his career.

4. Drafting CB Taron Johnson

The most important day on the NFL calendar, from a general manager's perspective at least, is the NFL draft. Beane understood this assignment when he orchestrated his first draft as the Bills general manager in 2018, and outside of the obvious slam-dunk pick he made in the first round, his Bills found a hidden gem on day two.

When the Bills drafted cornerback Taron Johnson in the fourth round, they probably weren't expecting him to become an All-Pro in 2023. After watching him flourish into an important part of the Bills defense in recent years, they're probably not surprised they had to pay up for his services.

In fact, Beane made Johnson the NFL's highest-paid nickel cornerback in football this offseason.

Johnson's ability in coverage and as a tackler make him one of the NFL's most versatile defenders. As a result, McDermott has deployed a 4-2-5 nickel scheme on defense that has become one of the league's most vaunted units.

Johnson, and one of his teammates who I'll cover later, are the only two Beane draft picks that have become All-Pro's during their Bills careers. For good reason, they're also two of the longest tenured Bills remaining on the roster.

3. Signing C Mitch Morse

An underrated addition to a team with a young quarterback is a centre they can count on. After the Bills had Russell Bodine and journeyman backup Ryan Groy split the starts as Allen's extra pair of eyes in 2018, Beane signed Mitch Morse to a 4-year, $44.5 million contract during the 2019 offseason.

Morse was only named to one Pro Bowl during his five seasons with the Bills, but he provided a steady, veteran presence to the offense — and he was invaluable to the growth and development of Allen.

Morse's 87 regular season and playoff starts rank first amongst the free agents Beane has signed during his tenure with the Bills, so far. There certainly has been some flashier moves that Beane has made since arriving in Buffalo, but perhaps this move has been the most solid.

And protecting your young quarterback is arguably the number one job for any general manager.

Not to mention, stealing Morse from the Kansas City Chiefs puts the cherry on top of this move.

2. Trading for WR Stefon Diggs

Following a rocky first season, quarterback Josh Allen showed promise when he led the Bills to a playoff berth in 2019. But there was still room for improvement, so adding a number-one wide receiver was ranked first on Beane's priority list entering the 2020 NFL offseason.

Sending a first-round pick to the Vikings, Beane acquired Stefon Diggs, who similarly to Allen, had shown flashes of greatness, but hadn't broken out yet.

Together, Allen and Diggs became the NFL's most formidable WR-QB combo, surging the Bills offense to new heights. In 2020, Diggs led the league in receptions and recieving yards, en route to All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. As for Allen, he finished second in MVP voting and the Bills cruised to a 13-3 record — their best finish since 1991.

And the duo didn't stop there.

Diggs only played four seasons with the Bills, but he became the first pass-catcher to record four straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons in team history. As a result, Diggs played the biggest part in aiding the path for Allen to become one of the best quarterbacks in football.

While the pair couldn't win a Super Bowl, Diggs will be remembered as one of the most prolific receivers in Bills history, alongside the likes of Hall of Famer Andre Reed.

1. Drafting QB Josh Allen

Entering the 2018 NFL draft, the Bills were primed to select a quarterback with one of their two first-round picks. Not only was it supposed to be a loaded class of signal-callers, but the Bills had recently traded pro-bowl quarterback Tyrod Taylor — the man who led them back to the playoffs.

Only one question remained: Which quarterback were they going to take?

Beane sent a package of picks, including the 12th overall selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for the 7th overall pick, where the Bills consequently drafted quarterback Josh Allen from the University of Wyoming.

Despite receiving some early criticism, Beane drafted a potential Hall of Famer in Allen. Amongst his many records, Allen's 221 total touchdowns rank first amongst quarterbacks in their first six seasons. Not to mention, he's led the Bills to a playoff berth in all but one of his years in Buffalo.

Allen's heroic play for the Bills has transformed the franchise into one of the more popular attractions in the NFL. After waiting two decades for the second-coming of Jim Kelly, the Bills finally found their saviour when Beane approached the stage to announce his team's first pick in the 2018 draft — and his first pick as the Bills general manager.

If Allen continues to play at an elite level, the Bills will always be competing for a spot in the playoffs, and perhaps more importantly, a Super Bowl trophy.