With the start of training camp about a month away, the coaching staff is presented with the daunting task of finding a way to cut a 90-man roster down to 53. Coming off of a productive session of OTA’s and a mandatory minicamp, Bills players will begin the intense portion of offseason training at the end of July at St. John Fisher’s College. In training camp, every snap counts and every situation is make or break for all players on the roster bubble. Here is my first 2019 53-man roster predictions.
Keep: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Tyree Jackson
Cut: No one
Unlike last offseason there is no uncertainty on who will be leading this team under center. Josh Allen has made strides and plans on continuing to grow in his second season, this time as the definite starter. The real competition is who will be Buffalo’s QB2. Matt Barkley is slated there for now and performed well when needed in 2018, but a strong camp and preseason for Tyree Jackson could lead to him rising on the depth chart. While most NFL teams prefer to keep two quarterbacks on their roster, coach Sean McDermott has often felt more comfortable carrying three signal callers and in his first two years of coaching, has only had a handful of games with less than three quarterbacks on his roster. That being said, don’t hold your breath for any of these guys to get let go.
Keep: LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, TJ Yeldon, Devin Singletary, Christian Wade
Cut: Marcus Murphy, Senorise Perry
This group provides the Bills with a unique skill set with some maturity, competition, and also some fresh legs. This room mimics the deep running back room owned by the New England Patriots the past few seasons. General Manager Brandon Beane has already stated that McCoy is in their 2019 plans and his running mate Frank Gore looks to be a lock as well. Buffalo drafted Devin Singletary in the third round of this years draft, making him a lock, as he appears to be the heir to McCoy’s throne at starting running back.
Wade, assigned to the Bills via the International Player Pathway Program, will likely be a premier special teamer in 2019. His rugby background bodes well for him in special teams if he can impress coaches in camp. That leaves TJ Yeldon as the only non-lock to make this roster but his experience and his skills in the receiving game could create match up nightmares for opponents.
Marcus Murphy has been a solid backup in his two-year tenure with Buffalo but with a bolstered position room, his time may be up. With McCoy, Gore, Singletary, and Yeldon, it makes finding a roster spot hard for Murphy who previously found it easy to win over the coaches. The Bills may also cut special team ace Perry. Despite being signed for his special team abilities, I predict Wade will beat out Perry for a roster spot.
Keep: No one
Cut: Patrick DiMarco
DiMarco’s snap count dropped by over one hundred downs as the Bills transitioned from Rick Dennison’s 2017 offense to Brian Daboll’s 2018 offense. That being said, DiMarco was a great special teams player and an excellent blocker when he was on the field. But DiMarco’s role may easily be filled with new special teamer Christian Wade and blocking tight end Lee Smith.
Keep: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams
Cut: David Sills, Nick Easley, Victor Bolden, Isaiah McKenzie, Da’Mari Scott, Cam Phillips, Ray Ray McCloud
Newly signed John Brown and Cole Beasley are both locks as they will both play a very important role in the 2019 offense. 2018’s leaders, Zay Jones and second year player Robert Foster are likely locks as well, leaving little room for receivers on the bubble to make the roster. Andre Roberts was a pro-bowl return man a season ago and that is an area the Bills struggled with in 2018. Roberts has also emerged as the positional leader, taking charge of the receiver room and organizing times for the receivers to get together off the field to build chemistry. Lastly, Buffalo should consider keeping CFL standout Duke Williams as their primary red zone threat. Williams provides the Bills with both height and strength close to the endzone and could be what Kelvin Benjamin never was for them.
Ray-Ray McCloud may have taken his rookie year for granted, disappearing in 2018, a year where the Bills had little production from any of their receivers. Now, the position is loaded with talent and his strong offseason will be too little too late. Bolden and Scott have hung around on the Bills roster but have never earned much field time, which will likely result in their departure before the season commences. Cam Phillips has looked good but that will likely not be enough for him to earn a spot on this roster, but may be enough to yield him or fellow undrafted receiver David Sills and practice squad spot.
Keep: Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney
Cut: Jason Croom, Nate Becker, Keith Towbridge
Despite his broken foot, Tyler Kroft was a big offseason purchase for Buffalo and is certainly a lock. Third-round draft pick Dawson Knox is also a lock and will likely start in place of Kroft while he finishes his recovery. The Bills signed Lee Smith about a month ago, starting his second stint with the Bills. Smith provides Buffalo with strong blocking in both the running and passing games as well as being a special teams stalwart.
Lastly, Tommy Sweeney, the seventh-round draft pick, may sneak his way on to the roster as the Bills run into the problem with Sweeney, where he is not good enough to be a huge piece in this offense, but he is too good to be on the practice squad. Sweeney has looked good in practice thus far and it is a known fact that McDermott likes having four tight ends on the roster and with Kroft’s injury sidelining him for at least the first quarter of the season, the Bills will need an extra set of hands.
Jason Croom would be a surprise cut, but with the performance of Knox and Sweeney and the importance of Kroft and Smith to the long-term performance of this roster, Croom is the odd one out, despite having great chemistry with Josh Allen. Nate Becker was added to the roster a few weeks ago and may earn a chance to make the practice squad. Towbridge joined the Bills last week, starting his second stint with the Bills after being with the team last offseason.
Keep: Mitch Morse, Dion Dawkins, Cody Ford, Ty Nsekhe, Quinton Spain, Wyatt Teller, Spencer Long, LaAdrian Waddle, Jon Feliciano
Cuts: Jerimiah Sirles, Connor McDermott, Ike Boettger, Vlad Duccase, Russell Bodine, De’ondre Wesley, Garrett McGhin
So many new faces on this line and rightfully so. The Bills’ 2018 line was horrendous, which is why only Dawkins and Teller will be returning for 2019. Cody Ford has now blocked for two consecutive Heisman winners (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) and Ty Nsekhe provides competition for Ford and Dawkins. Morse and Waddle give life to McDermott’s “Playoff Caliber” narrative with veteran leadership, as both have been part of teams that have made extensive playoff runs. Long and Feliciano provide the Bills second unit with strength and flexibility, as all three can play both guard spots and the center position.
Connor McDermott, Boettger, McGhin, and Wesley are guys that you root for in training camp to earn a spot on the roster but this year, the roster is simply too good for any of them to edge anyone out. Boettger and McGhin are still practice squad eligible and might find their way back with the Bills in a lesser role. Sirles will be right on the bubble but he is the most disposable of the linemen due to his easy-to-cut contract. Given the need of all other positions, Sirles will be the victim of being the last man out on a roster that only keeps nine offensive linemen.
If the Bills opt to keep ten, I recommend Sirles. Ducasse was the weakest link in 2017 on a line that included Dawkins, Jordan Mills, Eric Wood, and Richie Incognito. He was again the worst on the line in 2018, finding himself being replaced by Wyatt Teller and Ike Boettger. Russell Bodine is the another player on the bubble and may find his way on the roster if he edges out Sirles. Bodine was decent at center in 2018 but will that be enough to warrant a spot on the 2019 roster?
Keep: Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Shaq Lawson, Eddie Yarbrough
Cut: Eli Harold, Darryl Johnson, Mike Love
Jerry Hughes has been a leader on the defensive line since he was traded to the Bills in 2012 and that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon, as he signed a two-year extension last month. Murphy’s 2018 season wasn’t exactly what some expected, but his 2017 ACL injury clearly hindered him last season. Both Murphy and the coaching staff have already noticed a difference in his performance through OTA’s so he appears to be primed for a breakout year. Shaq Lawson appears to be an intriguing potential trade piece before the 2019 season commences after the Bills declined to pick up his fifth-year option.
Although, between his increased performance in 2018 and McDermott’s preference to run a stacked defensive line rotation, Lawson looks like he will be around for 2019. Personally, I believe that Eli Harold may be more skilled that Eddie Yarbrough, but Yarbrough’s familiarity with the defensive scheme and his chemistry with his teammates has resulted in him taking the majority of the second-team snaps at right end, while Harold took third-team snaps. The last spot will be determined in camp but Yarbrough looks to be the current favorite.
Harold may make a name for himself in camp but as of right now, I’m predicting he will be cut. Seventh-round pick Darryl Johnson may also get cut but will likely find his way to the practice squad if he beats out Mike Love who spent most on the 2018 season there.
Keep: Ed Olilver, Star Lotulelei, Harrison Phillips, Jordan Phillips
Cut: Robert Thomas, Kyle Peko, L.T. Walton
This positional group seems like a sure lock and I am 100% confident that barring any trades or unorthodox signings, this will be the group we see heading into 2019. Ed Oliver is a lock to start, replacing Kyle Williams as the 3-tech tackle. Lotulelei, contrary to popular belief, is doing a great job at what the Bills signed him to do. He is not a defensive tackle that will rack up the sack numbers but he is perhaps the most unselfish player on the defense, eating up blocks to free up guys like Oliver, Hughes, and Murphy so they can pressure the quarterback, as well as managing the run game. Both Harrison and Jordan Phillips provide the Bills with solid depth at the position and Jordan surges energy into the team and the fans in both home and away games.
There is quite a large talent gap in this group and it is safe to assume that Peko, Thomas, and Walton will be the ones that are shown the door come cut time. This is one positional group where there is really no wiggle room, there is no one that is on the bubble that has a chance to beat out even the lesser tackles in Phillips and Phillips.
Keep: Lorenzo Alexander, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Vosean Joseph, Maurice Alexander, Julian Stanford
Cut: Deon Lacey, Corey Thompson, Juwan Foggie, Tyrel Dodson
Lorenzo Alexander, Tremaine Edmunds, and Matt Milano are all locks as starters for the Bills in 2019 but after those three it gets tricky. I suspect that McDermott would want to hang on to 2019 fifth-round pick Vosean Joseph, as well as back up middle linebacker Julian Stanford who performed well on special teams and on defense when Edmunds missed some time. Newly signed Maurice Alexander seems like a no-brainer, as he can be a crucial special teams contributor and provides flexibility, as he can play outside linebacker and strong safety, both of these qualities are important to McDermott.
Deon Lacey was re-signed by the Bills this offseason after his solid special teams work but he isn’t the greatest in terms of being Lorenzo Alexander’s back up. Corey Thompson played solid football in Milano’s absence and could find his way on to the roster if he beats out Stanford or Foggie, but as of right now I am predicting he gets cut. Tyrel Dodson has an amazing story, but thus far fellow undrafted rookie Juwan Foggie has stolen the show and in a competitive linebacker room, I don’t know if he can edge anyone out. Dodson or Foggie may be able to earn a spot on Buffalo’s practice squad, but currently they is outside looking in.
Keep: Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Taron Johnson, Kevin Johnson, EJ Gaines
Cut: Lafayette Pitts, Ryan Lewis, Denzel Rice, Cam Lewis
Compared to last season, this corner group is a dream. After a season where is took many trials and tribulations to find a solid partner to match up opposite of Tre White, now the CB2 competition is hot and heavy. Failed attempts to fit Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines opposite of White resulted in McDermott giving undrafted rookie Levi Wallace a shot and man oh man did he take advantage of it. Wallace was ranked extremely high by PFF for his consistent corner play, helping lock down opposing receivers. As the incumbent CB2 Wallace is likely a lock to make the roster, but will it be in the same role? The Bills signed EJ Gaines from the Browns, but Gaines played with the Bills in 2017 and was a solid CB2 alongside White when he was able to stay on the field.
Gaines is scrappy and will do anything to make a play, which bodes well for his ability to make the roster. With a deep corner room this time around, he may find a new role in this defense. Taron Johnson, the 2018 fourth-round pick, was one of the best slot corners in the league before his season ended early. Do not expect Johnson to miss the cut in 2019. Lastly, newly signed Kevin Johnson, the former first-rounder, was given a prove-it deal by the Bills this offseason and has been a pleasant surprise in offseason training thus far. Johnson may fight Wallace and Gaines for the CB2 spot and the competition will be entertaining to say the very least. With this projected roster, someone would have to fill the void in special teams left by Lafayette Pitts, currently, I am pegging Kevin Johnson or Gaines to fill the role.
This room is now stacked and guys like Ryan and Cam Lewis, and Rice don’t have a chance to make this roster. Both Ryan and Cam Lewis may be vying for a practice squad spot but that is it. The only corner on this list that may find himself on the 2019 roster is Pitts who has been a special teams ace for the Bills the past two seasons. If I am McDermott, I would not want to let go of any of the keepers and could find a way to replace Pitts, but McDermott seems to have developed a soft spot for Pitts so he may make the roster.
Keep: Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Siran Neal, Jaquan Johnson
Cut: Dean Marlowe, Rafael Bush
Hyde and Poyer are both locks and are also one of the most underrated safety duos in the NFL. I am expecting pro-bowl caliber seasons out of both of them this season, as they both did not get the recognition they deserved last season. I have a feeling McDermott might jump on keeping 2018 fifth-round pick Siran Neal and 2019 sixth-round pick Jaquan Johnson. Neal has looked good in offseason activities thus far and Johnson seemed to be a steal in the sixth round.
Marlowe has bounced around the Bills’ roster since 2017 and is likely looking to earn a more permanent role but with the development of Neal and Johnson, he may not get the chance. Rafael Bush was solid for the Bills in 2018 and may earn a spot on the roster in 2019 but if I am McDermott, I would opt in the direction of giving the younger players a shot than Bush, who is now 32.
Keep: Stephen Hauschka (K), Reid Ferguson (LS), Corey Bojorquez (P)
Cut: Cory Carter (P), Chase McLaughlin (K)
Hauschka was a big signing two seasons ago, after Buffalo’s kicking woes with Dan Carpenter in previous years. Hauschka has been the captain on special teams for two years and is not going anywhere, at least in 2019, as he enters the last year of his three-year deal. Last season, Hauschka endured a dirty blow from New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson and was not the same after that.
Now with an entire offseason to heal, we should see the normal Hausch-money we are used to. Long snapper Reid Ferguson has been solid during his time with the Bills and has just signed an extension this offseason. His extension and the fact that he is the only long snapper on the roster makes him a lock. Lastly, I predict the Bills will turn to Bojorquez for 2019. Bojorquez took the punting role after Carter tore his ACL in a preseason game in 2018. Bojorquez also sustained an injury during the season and did not finish the year. I expect a solid leap in year two as Bojorquez wins the battle of the Cor(e)y’s.
Carter has looked solid thus far but his injury may have put him behind the eight ball, as the coaching staff have already been able to see Bojorquez’s work in in-game scenarios. As of right now, Bojorquez is my pick over Carter. I do not see McLaughlin edging out Hauschka and I am unsure if the Bills are willing to keep McLaughlin on the practice squad but stay tuned.
This roster will likely give the Bills the best chance to be successful in 2019 but we still have all of training camp and preseason to further scrutinize this roster. I will continue to publish updated roster predictions as the offseason progresses.