With all the room in mind, the Bills used a few of those roster moves to address a big need: their offensive line. Anchored in the middle of the team’s 2019 O-line in front of Josh Allen will be former Kansas City Chiefs center Mitch Morse, after he reportedly agreed to a deal with the Bills on Monday.
As the saying goes, money talks. Perhaps the rest of the NFL is right when they laugh and call Buffalo things like “Siberia.” When you’re paid enough, Siberia can sound like South Beach. That was the case for Morse, that’s for sure.
According to reports on his contract, Morse will be the NFL’s high-paid center upon signing it. Or least for the time being. In total, it’s a four-year, $44.5 million deal with $26.5 million guaranteed via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Prior to the Bills-Morse deal, Maurkice Pouncey on the Steelers had the prior high at $11 million per year, only for a few days.
New Bills center is in the process of moving his stuff and family from Kansas City to Buffalo but still had the time to call into One Bills Live on Tuesday to discuss why he chose Buffalo and moving on from the situation he was in with the Chiefs. Morse chose Buffalo early on in the free agent process and is excited to get to the city and experience the atmosphere in Orchard Park on gamedays.
“The fans are such an integral part of me choosing Buffalo,” Morse said. “The fact that they’re so passionate about the team, blue-collared folk, totally down to earth. I feel like it’s a Midwest feel like Kansas City in that department … I’m looking forward to seeing that culture and those are my kind of people.”
Josh Allen has drawn some comparisons to Morse’s former QB Patrick Mahomes due to his arm strength. Allen even challenged Mahomes to see who can throw farther but Allen was one of the reasons Morse was able to leave Kansas City.
“I think for me my job is to make life for Josh [Allen] as easy as possible,” Morse said. “Being kind of a liaison between the offensive line and Josh. Pat [Mahomes] and I learned a lot from each other this year and he helped me out more than I probably helped him out. It’s good to have a kind of continuous line of communication and having the same verbiage and seeing the same thing. I’m really excited, Josh is a really big reason why I came to Buffalo. Your team has to be revolved around a talented quarterback to make the playoffs and I think Josh has the ability to do that.”
Morse has only been in Buffalo a couple of days and has liked the people the most out of everything he has seen. Besides that, the wings are “crazy good” and he’s looking forward to eating his way through the city.
Bleacher Report went through each of the deals made throughout the first week of free agency and identified which free agent additions qualify as significant the upgrade for each team’s roster. The list was put together on a combination of production, upside for transcendent performances and consistency between the prior starter and new signee. For the Bills, John Brown ranked fourth on the list.
The acquisition of Brown is especially notable as a significant upgrade for this offense. Foster emerged as a downfield threat, but Brown’s much more reliable and dynamic adjusting to the ball in the air. That’s a must with Allen at quarterback.
Brown has a blend of downfield speed, sharp cuts and play strength that re-established Brown as a starter in the NFL after injuries led to his departure from Arizona. The quarterback change to Lamar Jackson limited Brown towards the end of the season but offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should treat him as the primary receiver in Josh Allen’s progressions.
If given an opportunity, they believe that Brown could set career highs in receptions and yards.
ESPN polled its analysts on which team is the most improved after the first wave of free agency, other than Cleveland. Some teams went and grabbed superstar players with a few trades that shook up the league while others relied on their ability to recruit players to their teams. The most popular answer was the Jets and Bills for grabbing the star power to put into their team but one NFL analyst chose the Bills.
Field Yates, NFL analyst: Buffalo Bills. I love the approach the Bills have taken this offseason with a blend of significant investments (center Mitch Morse for four years, for example) and one-year fliers to patch up roster holes and evaluate whether a player fits in long term (offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, for example). General manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott have preached patience and process, and we’re seeing the team make major strides.
Buffalo has gained new talent at each offensive position except for quarterback and surrounded Josh Allen with the pieces needed for success in 2019. The Bills still have cap space remaining so there might be some more moves to come in the next wave of free agency.
The Buffalo Bills continue to rumble through free agency picking up pieces to build the roster and take that next step. These moves also allow the Bills to narrow down their needs in the draft and find cornerstones for the next four to five years.
One deal that is not cheap but could work out nicely for the Bills is the recent signing of Mitch Morse. The steady center has been an anchor on the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line the past four seasons, helping protect Alex Smith and later their prized quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and priming the motor that was the very efficient and high-powered Chiefs offense. However, despite all that Morse had done for Kansas City, they still let him walk due to injury concerns, most notably concussions.
Mitch Morse was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs out of Missouri in the second round in 2015. He was immediately inserted into the lineup and proved to play well, making the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Overall, Morse has had several concussions and a foot injury over his four-year career, which causes concern going into this contract.
Though Morse came into 2018 healthy, he sustained another concussion. According to pro-football-reference.com, this was his third concussion in the NFL. As previously stated in my Kevin Johnson article, individuals that have had three or more concussions are three times more likely to sustain a future concussion and, as a result, have slower healing times. This was clearly evident with Morse taking five weeks to return from his concussion midway through the season in 2018 compared to concussions in 2015.
In addition to having slower healing times and a greater likelihood for a repeat concussion, the threshold to have another concussion goes down compared to healthy subjects. So this means while a player may get rocked and suffer a concussion the first time around, a simple bang-bang play or inadvertent hit could bring on a concussion the next time around. Considering Morse is in the trenches, suffering sub-concussive hits nearly every play, this is cause for concern. If Morse does suffer another concussion, he could have more problems with visual memory and processing speeds. Considering Morse was brought in to assist Josh Allen with play calling, identifying coverages, and provide protection for the quarterback, it is vital that Morse stay healthy.
While there is still much we don’t know about concussions, we know that rest and proper recovery are key to reducing the incidence of recurrence. Morse has taken his time to come back from each concussion, which is by design due to the NFL concussion protocol. While steps have been taken to reduce concussion severity including improved helmets, protocols, and concussion spotters to identify questionable hits, we cannot eliminate the injury all together. While it is not a foregone conclusion that Morse will suffer any future concussions, the concern is certainly there. As a result, the Bills better have a backup center who can step in at a moment’s notice. Right now, the Bills have Spencer Long and Russell Bodine under contract and they have the ability to re-sign Ryan Groy, though the latter move may not occur.
In addition, the Bills made Morse the NFL’s highest paid center for the moment at $11 million/year despite all these risks. The second-best center in free agency was Denver’s Matt Paradis. A quick search on pro-football-reference.com identified his injury history. Outside of arthroscopic surgery on both hips in 2017 and a broken fibula in 2018, Paradis has a shorter list of significant injuries. His injury history along with the price that the Carolina Panthers paid to sign him appear to be the better deal at the moment. However, he is approaching his age-30 season and concerns for further decline are very real. Paradis would have been a better signing if the Bills had someone waiting in the wings or if he was younger.
The Bills will need a smart, young, effective center helping to run the offense to assist Josh Allen in taking the next step forward. I expect the Bills to have a strong contingency plan in place in the event that Morse goes down just as they had when Eric Wood went down and Ryan Groy was able to step in. Without an effective backup, this would be a very risky signing. If the Bills didn’t pony up the money, someone else would have. I’d rather have Mitch Morse on my team as the Bills march towards greatness.