It’s that time again. The dust has settled on free agency and the draft, leaving just one question to answer: Who will be on the Buffalo Bills come September? This question will not be answered today, tomorrow, or anytime soon. However, it’s fun to think about this as we ramp up towards OTAs and, soon, training camp. (Plus, roster projections are just as much a guessing game as mock drafts. So why not just get it out of the way?)
Like last year, in addition to merely projecting cuts and practice squad players, I will also project some potential player trades that serve as de facto cuts (or “compensatory trades” as I refer to them). These moves are aimed at certain players who are expendable but could hold trade value to other teams. (Think Brandon Beane trading Marshall Newhouse, Russell Bodine, Wyatt Teller, and Lee Smith.)
QB (2): Josh Allen, Case Keenum
This seems pretty straightforward. Keenum was acquired to backup Josh Allen, while Barkley fills the Davis Webb role (foot races and all).
Practice Squad (1): Matt Barkley
RB (5): Devin Singletary, James Cook, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones, Reggie Gilliam (FB)
Singletary will be RB1 to start the year. The selection of James Cook in the 2nd round makes veteran receiving back Duke Johnson expendable. While he could hold some trade value, I think Beane gives him the professional courtesy of releasing him early, so he can try and latch on with another team.
Barring the acquisition of another power back or an increased role for Reggie Gilliam, Zack Moss settles into the RB3 role. (Unless… Bah Gawd, is that Darius Victor’s music?)
As for RB4, all I have to say is… death, taxes, and Taiwan Jones on special teams.
Lastly, Blackshear ends up on the practice squad.
Practice Squad (1): Raheem Blackshear
WR (6): Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, Jake Kumerow
Basically, the main question here is WR6. Kumerow gets the job because of his ST acumen. (Kumerow could be a parking lot cut.) They could keep Stevenson as a seventh WR, but I think they use that roster spot elsewhere initially. (Sorry @SportsRoc.)
Isaiah Hodgins still hasn’t shown anything to warrant a roster spot, but the Buffalo Bills have stashed underutilized players before who have become solid contributors (Ike Boettger and Ryan (Rick) Bates).
Practice Squad (2): Isaiah Hodgins, Marquez Stevenson
TE (3): Dawson Knox, O.J. Howard, Quintin Morris
Knox and Howard are set as the Bills’ top two TEs. The real intrigue comes at TE3. The contenders here are former 2019 seventh rounder Tommy Sweeney, second-year Bowling Green product Quintin Morris, and 2022 UDFA Jalen Wydermyer.
I just don’t see any reason to keep Sweeney. (Sorry @adamnannini.) He’s not a pass catcher and his run block ability can be easily replaced (and enhanced) by a swing tackle. Wydermyer and Morris both had solid production in college (in their respective conferences), but Morris showed significantly better athleticism coming out. I think that is the tiebreaker. So, barring another signing, Morris wins the TE3 job and Wydermyer goes to the practice squad.
Practice Squad (1): Jalen Wydermyer
OT (3): Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, Tommy Doyle
We all know Dawkins and Brown are the starters. But who’s the swing tackle? That comes down to Tommy Doyle and 2022 sixth-round pick Luke Tenuta. Doyle did a decent job last year, so it’s his job to lose.
As for Derek Kerstetter, I see him being Buffalo’s RB2 (Rick Bates 2). Since Bates is now a starting guard, he can’t fill the Jeremiah Sirles/Swiss Army knife role on the OL anymore. The former Texas Longhorn, has the experience at tackle, guard, and center to be the emergency backup at all three positions, justifying a practice squad spot (at the very least).
Practice Squad (3): Luke Tenuta, Alec Anderson, Derek Kerstetter
OG (4): Rodger Saffold, Rick Bates, Cody Ford, Ike Boettger (PUP), David Quessenberry
Saffold and Bates are the starting guards.
Ford will likely get another chance with new OL Coach Aaron Kroemer. However, if he doesn’t show anything in camp or someone else impresses, he could end up as a compensatory trade candidate*.
Boettger is likely to start the season on the PUP list while he recovers from his torn Achilles. (This frees up a roster spot for another offensive lineman.)
Practice Squad (1): Jacob Capra
*Hypothetical Compensatory Trade: If Cody Ford gets traded, he goes to the New York Giants for… a conditional bag of Lay’s chips (future 5th round pick)
C (2): Mitch Morse, Greg Mancz
Morse is the starting center. Mancz is likely the backup option at both center and guard.
DE (5): Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Shaq Lawson, Carlos Basham
With a Jerry Hughes reunion out of the picture (at this point), the DE room is relatively easy to predict. However, Epenesa could be a potential compensatory trade candidate*. I would put Kingsley Jonathan on the practice squad but, if he doesn’t make the roster, he likely goes to the CFL.
Practice Squad (1): Mike Love
CFL (1): Kingsley Jonathan
*Hypothetical Compensatory Trade: If A.J. Epenesa gets traded, he goes to the Chicago Bears for… a chicken salad sandwich (future 6th round pick)
DT (4): Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips, Justin Zimmer (Short-Term IR/PUP)
The DT room is also relatively easy to determine. The only thing to add here is, assuming his recovery goes well, I hope the Buffalo Bills find a way to bring Justin Zimmer back. He was an excellent role player for them the last couple years and provides a ton of athleticism to the DL. (The fact that he is still available is encouraging.) If they re-sign him, they will probably put him on the short-term IR or PUP list initially, then either try to put him on the practice squad or cut a depth player elsewhere (like LB).
*Note: I know they probably won’t re-sign him, but…
Practice Squad (1): Eli Ankou
LB (6): Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, Andre Smith, Tyler Matakevich
In my opinion, Edmunds (starting MLB), Milano (starting OLB), and Bernard (LB3/Milano backup) are locks. Dodson likely makes it as Edmunds’ backup. Smith would be a capable fifth LB/special teamer. Matakevich takes the final spot (initially) because of his special team ability and presence in the locker room. However, given that the Buffalo Bills run a base Nickel defense, that sixth LB spot is expendable.
Practice Squad (2): Baylon Spector, Joe Giles-Harris
CB (6): Tre White (Short-Term IR/PUP), Kaiir Elam, Taron Johnson, Dane Jackson, Siran Neal, Cam Lewis, Christian Benford
While Tre is making progress in his ACL rehab, it’s still unknown when he’ll return. More likely than not, the Bills will have to put him on the short-term IR or PUP list. This opens up an extra CB spot on the initial roster.
The final spots come down to a ton of players, but I think they go with Cam Lewis and Christian Benford. Lewis, because of his experience and (inside-outside) versatility in the scheme. And, since I didn’t retain a seventh WR, there was an extra spot for Benford, one of Buffalo’s 2022 sixth round picks. There is a thought that he could provide positional flexibility either at cornerback (on the boundary and inside) or at safety. That would strengthen his case for a roster spot.
Practice Squad (2): Olaijah Griffin, Nick McCloud
S (4): Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson
The safety room probably stays the same. While I did consider the possibility of moving Benford and cutting Jaquan, I found another way to keep both players.
Practice Squad (1): Josh Thomas
K (1): Tyler Bass
Swaggy B is the Buffalo Bills’ kicker. That is all.
P (1): Matt Araiza
Punt God beats out Matt Haack (pronounced *hack*). There is much rejoicing.
LS (1): Reid Ferguson
Reid Ferguson will be the Long Snapper again in 2022. (Whether that involves another visit to the parking lot is to be determined.)