As the Buffalo Bills go into their first weekend without preparation for a game, the front office will have to start to think about decisions that will need to be made with pending free agents. One of those free agents who could have very well played their last snap in Buffalo is defensive end A.J. Epenesa. Drafted in the second round in 2020 by the Bills, Epenesa had a similar season in 2023 as compared to his 2022 season. The biggest difference between this season and last season was his presence in the backfield and creating pressure against the pass.
Epenesa finished the season with 6.5 sacks, 20 total tackles, 10 QB hits, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, as well as two interceptions in which one of them was returned for a touchdown in Week 3 against the Washington Commanders. Epenesa had a rough start in his first two seasons in Buffalo, recording no more than 1.5 sacks but then has stepped up his game the last two seasons. However, this season was where Epenesa truly shined and took advantage of his opportunity.
Should the Buffalo Bills re-sign A.J. Epenesa?
When you look at the defensive end position, the Bills are in a situation where they may need to bring back Epenesa. Along with Epenesa, Leonard Floyd and Shaq Lawson were on one-year deals. Floyd had a great year with the Bills, getting double digit sacks on the season while Lawson made an impact in the run game. Floyd may not come back on a discount deal for the Bills, after earning $9 million last season and Lawson's full second stint with the Bills was not enough to bring back unless it is on a cheap deal.
Epenesa is younger than both Floyd and Lawson, and has shown improvement the last two seasons. Players that are on contract years tend to play well and earn a contract, it just may not be with their current team.
Brandon Beane and the front office will always support Sean McDermott in terms of building a defense that McDermott can coach and Epenesa thrived under McDermott's playcalling this year. If Buffalo is able to do it, they should atleast express interest to Epenesa and see where the contrat negotiations go.