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Bills' Josh Allen looking for ways to improve after MVP runner-up year

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Prior to the 2021 NFL draft, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen filmed an open letter to then-North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The message, in essence, was to ignore the critics and focus on himself -- just as Allen did when he entered the league in 2018.

Allen followed a pair of mediocre seasons with an MVP runner-up campaign in 2020. Some see him as a shining example of quarterback development; the perfect player to speak to a high-ceiling, developmental prospect such as Lance.

But that's not necessarily how he views himself.

"I'm not really looking to be that poster child, or whatever," Allen said. "I'm just trying to be the best quarterback for the Bills that I can be and the best version of myself every time I step in this facility. And like I said when I got drafted, prove that this team made the right decision."

Allen led the Bills to a 13-3 record, their first AFC East title in 25 years and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game last season, throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns -- both career highs. Most notably, he improved his completion percentage from 58.8% in 2019 to 69.2% last season, working with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer to clean up his mechanics and get a better feel for the timing of certain routes.

This offseason, Allen said he wants to focus more on sharpening his decision-making and accuracy when throwing to his left, where eight of his 10 interceptions occurred last season.

"Just working on in-breaking routes. That's something that maybe wasn't my strongest suit last year," Allen said. "Just making sure I'm putting it in a catchable spot for these guys to catch and run. That's going to be a huge asset for us to be able hit those type of throws and allow our guys to stay up and stay on the move."

This will be an important season for Allen -- not just on the field, but financially, as well. The Bills exercised his fifth-year option last month and general manager Brandon Beane has publicly stated the team's desire to sign Allen to an extension as early as this summer.

Spotrac estimates Allen's market value at about $42 million per season, which would make him the NFL's second highest paid player -- an honor no Bills player has been in the conversation for since quarterback Jim Kelly's playing days (1986-96).

Allen said although he wants to be in Buffalo long-term, he isn't as focused on his next contract as he is on his job. As Bills coach Sean McDermott puts it, Allen is fulfilling his end of the bargain as the team enters its second week of Phase 2 OTA practices.

"I can tell you, on the field Josh has looked good," McDermott said. "He's off to a good start."

Regardless of what compliments his coaches offer him, Allen has made it a habit to find aspects of his game that he's unhappy with, and it can be taken as a positive sign that the Bills' franchise player and team captain has found joy in the process of improvement.

"As many good things as we did last year," Allen said, "there was still a lot of stuff on tape where I look back and say, 'Why did I do this?' That's the common theme every year and that's really cool that you get to look back and like I said, even though the wins and the numbers and all that stuff looked good on paper, there's still so much room to improve and I'm excited for that process."