The Buffalo Bills continued to toss their line out into the free agent pool on Friday and wound up pulling out another player, signing veteran safety Robert Blanton to a one-year contract worth $840,000. The contract includes an $80,000 signing bonus.
A fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, Blanton has spent his entire four-year career with the Minnesota Vikings since being drafted in 2012.
Standing at 6-foot-1-inches and weighing 200-pounds, the former college cornerback has made the transition to strong safety since entering the league with the Vikings.
The 26-year-old started just three games in his first two seasons, racking up 73 tackles (47 solo, 26 assists) along the way before breaking onto the scene in 2014.
Under then first-year head coach Mike Zimmer, Blanton totaled 106 tackles (72 solo, 34 assists) and one interception in 13 starts. His one interception fittingly came off of Kyle Orton in a Week 7 loss to Buffalo in Orchard Park.
Following his first season as a starter, Blanton was moved back to a reserve/special teams role in 2015 as the Vikings went with Andrew Sendejo at strong safety instead. Minnesota re-signed Sendejo to a 4-year contract this offseason, while also inking former Titans safety Michael Griffin to a one-year deal.
Blanton tallied 34 tackles (28 solo, 6 assists) and three pass break-ups in that role, helping the Vikings clinch a playoff berth last season for the first time since his rookie season in 2012.
Although he was moved back to a reserve role last season, the former Fighting Irishman was the 17th-ranked safety in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus.
Since Buffalo decided to move on from fan-favorite Bacarri Rambo this offseason, Blanton should come in and compete with Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks for the primary backup role to Corey Graham and Aaron Williams.
Should Williams be unable to effectively return from last year’s season-ending neck injury, the newly-signed safety would most likely be the top-candidate to replace Williams unless the team decides to draft a safety in late April.
In addition, Blanton should become another core player for Danny Crossman’s special-teams unit in Buffalo this season, which adds even greater value.
The Bills’ roster now stands at 69 players following the addition of Blanton and Wednesday’s signing of tight end Jim Dray.
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