INDIANAPOLIS — Brandon Beane has done more right than wrong as general manager of the Buffalo Bills.
His biggest accomplishment was finding a franchise quarterback, Josh Allen.
His second-biggest accomplishment was trading for Stefon Diggs, the receiver who does the most to get the most out of Allen’s considerable passing talent.
Beane’s personnel acquisition skills are largely behind the fact the Bills have won three consecutive AFC East titles and have been a serious Super Bowl contender in each of the past three seasons.
They’re also why the Bills, despite the bitter disappointment of their divisional-round playoff loss against Cincinnati last January, entered this offseason in a mostly enviable position.
Because they have a franchise quarterback, which is something most of the NFL’s 31 other teams can’t say. When you have that guy, plus at least one elite target, you have the ability to worry more about finding complementary pieces on both sides of the ball rather than feeling the massive pressure of finding someone who gives you a chance to win each game.
And therein is the main topic dogging Beane with the Bills beginning their pre-draft process in earnest this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The loss against the Bengals magnified holes in the roster surrounding Allen and Diggs. The defense needs to rush the passer better and play tighter coverage. The offense needs to provide better pass protection, a more effective No. 2 receiver and a stronger running game.
It is unrealistic to think they’ll find all of the answers in the April 27-29 draft.
The question is, will the players Beane drafted in the past two or three years step up and consistently provide the impact necessary for the Bills to get over a postseason hump that includes a loss in the AFC championship game and a pair of divisional-round defeats?
The time has come for that to happen. For defensive linemen Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, A.J. Epenesa and Ed Oliver, and cornerback Kaiir Elam to consistently deliver as the high picks they are. For Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, Devin Singletary and Gabe Davis to be more consistently impactful.
With the Bills somewhere between $16 and $18 million over the salary cap of $240 million per team, they desperately need the core of players under their rookie (thus, cap friendlier) contracts to be major contributors.
Sure, they’ll make the necessary adjustments to the behemoth deals Allen, Diggs and others have to reduce their consumption of the cap. Sure, there will be pay cuts and roster cuts.
But that doesn’t change the fact the Bills, if they’re to fulfill the Super Bowl expectations they had entering the 2022 season, will need their youth to rise to the top.
Only then will Beane’s otherwise impressive work in finding talent have fewer lingering questions.