After five weeks into the unique 2020 NFL season it’s clear the Bills defense needs help. After being a top five unit the last two years, they rank 27th in DVOA. They are also well into the bottom half of the league in pass defense, (24th) and rush defense, (22nd) per Football Outsiders. The trade deadline is November 3rd which is in only 19 days. This gives teams just two more games to decide if they are buyers or sellers. Here are three trade targets that could benefit a struggling Buffalo defense. These are based on partnering with potential sellers whose playoff hopes are slipping away as we head toward mid-season. They are also salary cap friendly as a few of Buffalo’s key players have contract extensions coming up.
Alexander Johnson – Denver Broncos
With an injured Matt Milano on the sideline, the linebacking corps is noticeably weaker in pass coverage. This is the second time already he’s missed action. The first time was week two against the Dolphins. Ryan Fitzpatrick took advantage, exploiting the middle of the field with short passes to lead a comeback that fell short. Alexander Johnson covered 42 pass attempts last season and allowed zero touchdowns. His passer rating allowed was an impressive 80.2. Johnson is only carrying a $750,000 salary and becomes a restricted free agent after this season. The Broncos lone win so far came last week against the dysfunctional New York Jets. They face off against the Patriots and Chiefs in the next two games. After which, any playoff chance this year may very well be extinguished by the trade deadline.
Darius Phillips – Cincinnati Bengals
The Buffalo secondary has taken its blows so far this season. Without much of a front-line pass rush, (we’ll get to that next) the Bills secondary is forced to cover receivers longer while the opposing quarterback has time to find the open man. Number two cornerback Levi Wallace has been put on IR with an ankle injury and Pro Bowler Tre’Davious White missed last week’s drubbing with a back injury. Off-season acquisition Josh Norman is still a question mark after some awful seasons with Washington. Darius Phillips had four interceptions and seven passes defended last season for Cincinnati in just eight games with only one start. He’s played well this season, starting four of the first five games for the Bengals. He landed on their injury report with a shoulder injury this week but if it’s nothing serious, he’s worth a call. He also only carries a $750,000 salary for this season which increases to $920,000 next year before he is scheduled to become a free agent in 2022. The Bengals are in the basement looking up at a very tough AFC North division. With nothing but difficult matchups for the next month, they may be looking to get some more picks to build around rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
Carl Lawson – Cincinnati Bengals
The pass rush so far this season has been lacking, to say the least. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is now 32 years old and seems to have lost that renewed burst when he came to Buffalo. He has no sacks through the five games he has played this season. Mario Addison leads the team in that statistic with just two. Both rookie AJ Epenesa and second year man Ed Oliver are still developing and haven’t made an impact at the start of their NFL careers. Carl Lawson is a rotational defensive end for the Bengals, only starting four games in his 40-game career. After tallying 8.5 sacks his rookie year, Lawson missed most of the 2018 season with an ACL injury. He has 3.5 sacks in his five games played this year while playing just 59 percent of the defensive snaps. Lawson is in his contract year, making a little over two million dollars. Buffalo can benefit from him wanting to prove he’s worth a sizeable contract next year in free agency, with the Bills having first dibs.