Following an exciting offseason in which the Buffalo Bills brought in quite a few talented players, such as Mike Williams, Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, Corey Graham, Sammy Watkins, Cyrus Kouandjio and Preston Brown, among others, the team’s roster stands at 90 players.
Offseason Training Activities are right around the corner, so I took a look at the roster as it stands to determine which players are likely to survive through the final cuts.
EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel
Cuts: Dennis Dixon
This one is simple enough. The Bills could opt to go into the 2014 season with just EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis as the two quarterbacks, but after last season’s injury scares, it’s likely that Doug Marrone keeps Jeff Tuel as insurance. Dennis Dixon isn’t anything more than an extra arm for training camp.
Running Backs/Fullbacks (4)
C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon
Cuts: Ronnie Wingo, Frank Summers, Evan Rodriguez
This will be an interesting position to keep an eye on. The team made it obvious that they wanted to improve the position, signing Anthony Dixon in free agency and trading for Bryce Brown during the draft. Anthony Dixon can serve as a fullback in addition to a small role as a short yardage specialist, and is an upgrade over Frank Summers on special teams.
Wide Receivers (6)
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley, Kevin Elliott
Cuts: Chris Hogan, Ramses Barden, T.J. Graham, Caleb Holley, Cordell Roberson, Chris Summers
The top four wide receiver spots are all but set in stone, but the last two spots (maybe three?) will be up for grabs. I picked Marcus Easley based on his special teams abilities, to go with Kevin Elliott, a big, strong project that Marrone has spoken highly of on multiple occasions. Marquise Goodwin’s skill set makes T.J. Graham extendable. Two other players that will be fighting for the last roster spots are Chris Hogan and Ramses Barden. Caleb Holley, who the team signed after the rookie minicamp could be a serious practice squad consideration.
Tight Ends (4)
Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Cuts: Mike Caussin
The Bills went into the 2014 offseason looking to upgrade the tight end position, but eventually re-signed Scott Chandler after letting him test free agency. The coaches and front office have made it clear that they’re happy with the position, and the only real question is whether they’ll keep three or four tight ends, as each one brings a unique quality to the team. Ultimately, Lee Smith’s blocking prowess Chris Gragg’s athleticism, and Tony Moeaki’s ability as a pass catcher all deemed worthy of roster spots.
Offensive Tackle (4)
Cordy Glenn, Cyrus Kouandjio, Chris Hairston, Seantrel Henderson
Cuts: Erik Pears
Erik Pears was a liability on the Bills’ offensive line throughout the 2013 season, leading Doug Whaley to select Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round of the draft, and doubling up with Seantrel Henderson in the seventh. Chris Hairston stated on Twitter that he was ready to return to the team after sitting the year out with an undisclosed injury, but he brings a huge frame that has experience at both right and left tackle.
Offensive Center/Guard (5)
Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson, J.J. Unga
Cuts: Doug Legursky, Mark Asper, Randy Coling, Edawn Coughman, Antoine McClain
Kraig Urbik signed a contract extension prior to the 2013 season, but he wasn’t the best fit in the Bills’ power run offense, to the extent that J.J. Unga began cutting into his snaps as the year wore on. While he’s at the risk of being released, I couldn’t bring myself to keep Doug Legursky as the primary backup center over him. The team signed Chris Williams to replace Legursky at left guard, so it’s unlikely they have high hopes for him at center. Cyril Richardson and J.J. Unga will compete for playing time as well.
Defensive End (5)
Mario Williams, Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Alan Branch, Jarius Wynn
Cuts: Damien Jacobs, Bryan Johnson
Defensive end is an interesting position for the Bills, as Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes aren’t great fits as 4-3 edge rushers, while Alan Branch and Jarius Wynn don’t offer anything in terms of pass rush. However, they have some flexibility to move players around and be put in a position to make plays.
Defensive Tackle (3)
Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Stefan Charles
Cuts: Corbin Bryant, Colby Way, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun
On the surface, three defensive tackles seems like a small number, but both Alan Branch and Jarius Wynn can play there. The team really likes Stefan Charles, but an injury to either Kyle Williams or Marcell Dareus could be devastating.
Outside Linebacker (4)
Kiko Alonso, Keith Rivers, Nigel Bradham, Randell Johnson
Cuts: Jacquies Smith
On paper, the Bills have a talented group of linebackers that each bring unique physical tools to the table. Kiko Alonso is an instinctive coverage specialist that will start at weakside, while Keith Rivers and Nigel Bradham project well to both the weak and strong sides. Randell Johnson is a developmental player that will start off on special teams.
Inside Linebacker (3)
Brandon Spikes, Preston Brown, Ty Powell
Cuts: Nathan Williams, Darrin Kitchens
The Bills added Brandon Spikes, a dominant run stuffer in free agency, while using their 3rd round draft pick to select Preston Brown, a big, physical linebacker that should be a rotational guy as a rookie. Ty Powell will be a reserve that plays special teams.
Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ross Cockrell
Cuts: Ron Brooks, Brandon Smith, Mario Butler, Darius Robinson
After the Bills’ secondary was decimated by injuries last season, the Bills revamped the unit by bringing in Corey Graham as a free agent and Ross Cockrell through the draft. Ron Brooks will be fighting for a roster spot, but it’s likely he will be released.
Aaron Williams, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks, Kenny Ladler
Cuts: Da’Norris Searcy, Jajuan Harley, Derek Brim, Deon Broomfield
The Bills lost Jairus Byrd in free agency and didn’t acquire any true safeties during the offseason, which means they are confident enough in Duke Williams, the team’s 2013 4th round pick to step into a large role. Undrafted free agent Kenny Ladler is a talented player who fell out of the draft after a bad combine performance, but I think he has a better chance to make the roster over Da’Norris Searcy, who is only a “box” safety.
Special Teams (3)
K Dan Carpenter, P Brian Moorman, LS Garrison Sanborn
Cuts: Dustin Hopkins, Jake Dombrowski
The Bills used a 6th round pick last year on Dustin Hopkins (don’t draft kickers or punters) but after a training camp injury, Dan Carpenter was brought in and had an incredible season that was rewarded with a multi-year contract extension.
Special Teams- 3