ORCHARD PARK - Josh Allen said he does not envy the job Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have in the coming week as they pare the Buffalo Bills roster down to the league-mandated 53 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“I do know that Brandon Beane’s got a tough job ahead of him,” Allen said after learning he and most of the starters will not play in the preseason finale Friday night at Carolina. “I’m sure he wants to see some guys out there that maybe haven’t been out there enough or need to be out there more.”
The game against the Panthers will be devoted to getting one last live action look at the players who are riding the thin line between making the team that is the early betting favorite to win the Super Bowl, or becoming one of several hundred names on the NFL’s waiver wire.
“I mean it’s tough,” said nickel cornerback Taron Johnson, a fourth-round pick in 2018 who had to sweat out the final cut five summers ago. “That’s just the business aspect of it. I feel like we have so much competition on this team everywhere, so I feel like that’s a sign of a really good team, just having guys out here competing every single day to get that job.”
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As the Bills have improved year after year in the Beane/McDermott Era, there have been fewer and fewer big decisions to make on final cutdown day because the roster has been constructed so well. Beane admitted Tuesday that around 50 of the spots have already been decided, and the majority of those were probably decided even before training camp began.
But the flip side of that coin is that picking those final few players has become increasingly difficult because competition is so keen. And taking the next step, trying to get waived players back on the practice squad is a chore because unlike those drought years when no one paid any attention to Buffalo’s castaways, now, the Bills are releasing talent into the wild.
When the Bills announce their final roster Tuesday, I would expect that several of their waived players will be signed by other teams. Here are five who could end up elsewhere in the NFL:
Tight end Quintin Morris
O.J. Howard’s contract, and the dead cap the Bills would have to absorb (about $3.2 million), makes cutting him an ill-advised proposition. That’s why I think he will make the team, as well as locker room favorite Tommy Sweeney behind starter Dawson Knox, though I also think Beane could be working to find a trade partner which would at least save the Bills his $1.9 base salary.
Why would Beane do that? Because Morris has flashed enough in practice and the first two preseason games - he started last week against Denver - and he may be a low cost player the Bills would want to retain and develop.
If he’s cut, he will warrant attention from outside the organization and you can almost be guaranteed that Giants GM Joe Schoen will sign him immediately. In fact, the Giants could be signing several former Bills, given the knowledge they have of Buffalo’s roster between Schoen, head coach Brian Daboll, and several assistants.
Morris has improved as a blocker which is impressive because at 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds he’s undersized for the position. But his main strength is that he was a former receiver in college at Bowling Green who converted to tight end for the second half of his career.
So there’s two things that are intriguing: He has the speed and receiving skills which teams now love in tight ends, and he also has room for growth. Because of that, nothing would surprise me regarding Howard, either a trade, or a release.
Defensive tackle Brandin Bryant
He is caught up in a numbers game after the Bills’ offseason free agent additions of DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips, who joined holdover Ed Oliver. Plus, Eli Ankou is a vested veteran who won’t be subjected to waivers, so he’ll almost certainly be cut and then brought back to the practice squad.
Bryant is the sixth man in line, and he has to go through waivers. Given the way he has played, the Bills would love to get him back on the practice squad, but there will be teams willing to give him a chance because he’s a mature 28-year-old with some upside.
He’s had a roundabout journey in the NFL since entering the league with Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He didn’t get into his first game until 2019 when he was with the Browns, and then after being released by the Dolphins in 2020, he hooked on with the Bills and played in five games the last two years.
Defensive end Mike Love
If it seems like Love has been around forever, he sort of has. He originally came to the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he spent most of that first year on the practice squad before getting into the final three games.
He spent 2019 on injured reserve, and was back on the practice squad for almost all of 2020 and 2021, appearing in just one game. But every training camp, Love seems to flash because he does have speed coming off the edge.
With Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, A.J. Epenesa and Shaq Lawson in front of him, there’s no way he’s making the 53-man roster. If he’s available, he has a good chance to sign elsewhere because teams are always looking for pass rushers.
Safety Josh Thomas
The Bills have been experimenting at the safety position by giving reps to a pair of cornerbacks, Cam Lewis and Nick McCloud. That seems to be an ominous sign for Thomas who has been on the practice squad almost the entire first two seasons he has been with Buffalo.
The depth chart is set with Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin, so Thomas is not beating out anyone there. Lewis and McCloud are making themselves more valuable by being able to play corner and safety in a pinch, so one of them could make the 53-man roster, and the other could end up on the practice squad.
My guess is Lewis will make the team, Thomas and McCloud will both get cut and therefore could get claimed by another team.
Running back Duke Johnson
He was the consolation prize back in free agency when the Bills’ deal to sign running back J.D. McKissic away from the Commanders fell through. Beane, looking to add a pass catching back, pivoted to Johnson, but when he also selected James Cook in the second round of the draft a month later, that essentially doomed Johnson.
Cook, Devin Singletary, and Zack Moss are going to be the three primary backs, and Taiwan Jones will probably be kept because he’s a key special teams player. The only way Johnson makes the team is if the Bills decide to keep five backs, or they move on from the 34-year-old Jones, but we all know how much McDermott loves special teams guys, especially Jones.
Johnson is an eighth-year veteran who, at 28 years old, still has plenty to offer. He has 311 career receptions for 2,870 yards and 12 TDs and he can certainly help a running back needy team.
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