Sean McDermott says he will call Bills' defense this season

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PHOENIX -- After defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier decided to take a year away from coaching in February, the Buffalo Bills are officially planning to have a familiar voice take over the playcalling for the 2023 season.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Monday at the NFL's annual league meeting that he would be calling the defensive plays in Frazier's place. It marks the first time in McDermott's six-year tenure as a head coach that he will add playcalling to his full-time responsibilities.

"I'm going to be the playcaller," McDermott said, "but at the same time, [I] have tons of confidence in the guys that we have around me that if I need to toss it to them from time to time, I can do that."

McDermott was the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator from 2009 to '10 and held the same role for the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to '16. One of his main mentors is Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is known for calling his team's offensive plays.

In 2018, McDermott took away playcalling duties from Frazier at halftime of a September loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, but that did not last long as Frazier resumed calling plays the next week.

The Bills have two former defensive coordinators on staff in addition to McDermott -- senior defensive assistant/defensive line coach Eric Washington and senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb. Holcomb was hired by McDermott this offseason before Frazier shared his decision to step away.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said he is excited for McDermott to take on the added responsibility.

"The more it's kind of sunk in, you see his excitement about calling plays. That's how he got this job, was calling defenses and the successes he had," Beane said. "Obviously, I saw that up close and personal in Carolina. I saw a guy go against some really good quarterbacks and some really good offensive minds, whether it was the head coach or the offensive coordinator calling plays. I think it'll be good. You know, change always happens in our business, and I see a fresh look on his face, a little bit of excitement to do it. I think our players will be excited to hear that as well."

McDermott said that if during the season adding playcalling to his head-coach responsibilities did not work out, he would be open to adjusting as necessary, but that he planned to largely maintain his game-management responsibilities as head coach.

"Even going back to the decision, it allowed me to even think that that was possible was because of the staff that I have around me," McDermott said. "If you don't have that type of staff, then, I mean, it could go in a lot of different directions, right? So, we're just going to take it one day at a time. I mean, that's where we're at right now and, look, if we come to a deal ... and it's like, hey, this isn't working because of the breadth of the job, in addition to the coordinator piece, then, I'll turn it over."

The defense will also have a new player receiving the defensive playcalls with middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds signing with the Chicago Bears this offseason. McDermott said that the Bills are going to give the players currently on the roster -- including fourth-year player Tyrel Dodson, 2022 third-round pick Terrel Bernard and 2022 seventh-round pick Baylon Spector -- an opportunity to compete for the job.

Another position with some uncertainty for the Bills is safety, with not much depth behind Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who re-signed with the team on a two-year deal, and with Damar Hamlin's process to potentially return to the field ongoing. The team added to the position Monday by signing former Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp to a one-year deal that is worth less than $2 million, per Beane.

Beane said the Bills will most likely get a compensatory third-round pick in next year's draft for losing Edmunds in free agency, something they would like to take "advantage of" in the calculation of signing players to veterans minimum deals.