BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Brandon Beane wasn’t kidding about wanting to improve the Bills pass rush this offseason after watching Buffalo’s defense exposed in two losses to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
Short of putting 12 defenders on the field, as Beane joked last week, the Bills general manager did the next best thing by doubling down in selecting edge rushers with Buffalo’s first two picks of the NFL draft.
After selecting University of Miami’s Greg Rousseau in the first-round on Thursday, the Bills chose Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham with their second-round pick, 61st overall on Friday.
Buffalo then turned to offense, by selecting Northern Iowa tackle Spencer Brown with its third-round pick, 93rd overall. The 23-year-old Brown is listed at 6-foot-8 and 311 pounds, and had 32 career starts over three seasons.
Named preseason FCS All-American last year, Brown elected to forego his senior year by entering the draft after the Missouri Valley Conference postponed starting its season until this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The injection of youth at defensive end position with returning starters Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison in their 30s and entering the final year of their contracts. And it comes after Buffalo’s season ended with Mahomes picking apart the Bills by going 29 of 38 for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 win in the AFC championship game.
It wasn’t lost on Beane how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ sturdy defensive front kept Mahomes off balance en route to a 31-9 Super Bowl victory two weeks later.
“You saw what Tampa did. Their front really did a nice job versus Kansas City’s front, which affected (Mahomes),” Beane said. “We’ll continue to try and add as many defensive players that can help stop him, but it’s never gonna be easy.”
Buffalo finished 15th in the NFL with 38 sacks, and tied for 20th with 143 quarterback pressures.
Basham is listed at 6-foot-3 and 274 pounds and earned his “Boogie” nickname from his babysitter for how he’d like to jump around and dance. He’s coming off a senior season in which he led the Demon Deacons with five sacks in just seven games, while missing time recovering from COVID-19.
His best season came in 2019, when he had 11 sacks and forced three fumbles in earning first-team ACC honors. Overall, he finished his college career with 20 1/2 sacks, the fourth-most in school history, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Basham’s selection was announced by Bills’ Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure.
Basham and Rousseau were selected a year after Buffalo made Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa their top choice by picking him in the second round of the draft last year.
Basham is eager to get to Buffalo, and isn’t shying away from the competition. He’s friends with Epenesa, by saying he stayed in touch with Epenesa during his pre-draft process and through much of his rookie season in Buffalo. He’s certainly aware of Rousseau, who also played in the ACC.
“Young guys coming in, just want to learn and just want to play,” Basham said. “Get all three of us in that system, that’s pretty cool.”
He’s also familiar with the Bills defense, saying he would always select Buffalo when playing Madden.
The Bills place an emphasis on their players having versatility to play various positions. And much like Rousseau, Basham had experience playing both on the edge and inside.
The focus on defense comes after the Bills spent the past three seasons focusing heavily on retooling a Josh Allen-led offense which delivered in playing a key role in Buffalo clinching its first AFC East title since 1995 and making its deepest playoff run in 27 years.
Payroll also plays a factor in the Bills decision to restock its defensive line. Buffalo is projected to have little wiggle room under the salary cap entering next offseason, especially with Allen projected to command a high-price salary once his rookie contract expires within the next two years.
The Bills face a deadline on Monday to determine whether to pick up the fifth-year option on both Allen and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds’ contracts to secure them through the end of the 2022 season. General manager Brandon Beane said he’ll wait until after the draft to make that decision, and raised concern as to whether the Bills can afford to do so for both 2018 first-round draft picks.
UP NEXT: Barring trades, Buffalo closes the draft with five picks over the final four rounds on Saturday, starting with two fifth-rounders at 161st and 174th overall.
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