Skip to main content

Bills Help Wanted? Holes Remain on Buffalo’s D-Line in Free Agency

DaQuan Jones and AJ Epenesa are returning to the Buffalo Bills' defensive line. Next, general manager Brandon Beane has to find backups at defensive tackle and edge rusher.

The Buffalo Bills re-signed two key pieces for their defensive line rotation, but they still need at least two more capable contributors up front.

Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and defensive end AJ Epenesa both agreed to new two-year contracts and will presumably retain the roles they played so effectively in 2023. With Jones and Epenesa providing some continuity on the Bills' front four, there will be new faces filling the spots vacated by free agents who signed elsewhere.

Prior to suffering a Week 5 pectoral injury, Jones teamed up alongside Ed Oliver to comprise a formidable starting interior duo. Although those two important pieces will remain in place, Practice Squad player Eli Ankou is the only other defensive tackle currently under contract with Buffalo.


Backup interior lineman Tim Settle has landed with the Houston Texans while Poona Ford heads to the Los Angeles Chargers after one season with the Bills. Settle, who made 32 appearances in two years, played 35 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Ford, who was signed late last offseason, appeared sparingly, even after Jones' injury. Veteran depth Jordan Phillips and Linval Joseph played meaningful snaps for Buffalo in 2023, but both are free agents in the twilight of their careers.

Defensive tackle Teair Tart, who was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks following a mid-season release by the Tennessee Titans, is a talent worth pursuing at a team-friendly price. Ranked 88th, the 27-year-old is the lone remaining defensive tackle available amongst's 2024 Top 101 Free Agents. Outside of finding a diamond in the rough from what remains of the free-agent pool, the draft is likely the most-efficient way the salary cap-strapped Bills can secure a backup defensive tackle.

The Bills' edge rusher rotation also needs another key piece. After re-signing, Epenesa joins Greg Rousseau and Von Miller in the defensive ends group. At his advanced age, Miller projects to play a maximum of 30-35 snaps per game, creating the need for a reliable role player as the fourth member of the unit. 

Former top draft picks Chase Young and Jadeveon Clowney are available but likely out of Buffalo's price range. If the Bills elect no to re-sign Shaq Lawson or convince a veteran like former Miami Dolphins' defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to accept a prove-it deal, then they may highly consider using their first-round draft pick on a promising edge rusher.

"I think the d-line is very important as well, so our eyes will be there as soon as we can get our cap finalized," said Bills' general manager Brandon Beane during NFL Combine Week in Indianapolis. "You're always looking for youth, and you're trying to find that balance of youth and enough veterans to kind of run the show."

As free agency unfolds, defensive line appears poised to become a priority in Buffalo's draft plan. The Bills currently own 11 selections, including the No. 28 overall pick.