When the Buffalo Bills announced a year ago that the team would be transitioning to a 3-4 defense under George Edwards, many assumed that several Bills defensive linemen - including veteran Spencer Johnson - were not long for the roster. Though Johnson had signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract with the team just two years prior, at 6'3" and 286 pounds, Johnson met the bare minimum requirements, at best, for a five-technique defensive end.
Entering year two of the 3-4 in Buffalo, however, Johnson appears to have a firm grip on a roster spot as a rotational player, coming off a career year with the Bills in which he recorded 55 tackles and two sacks.
Bills GM Buddy Nix has now conducted two drafts with Buffalo. He's had a total of six picks within the Top 75 in those two years, and has used half of them on defensive linemen - Torell Troup, Alex Carrington and, most recently, Marcell Dareus. He also signed free agent Dwan Edwards last year. Kyle Williams' outstanding 2010 season ensured he'd be back, but Johnson has quietly - and adequately - hung onto a roster spot post-Dick Jauron era, as well.
Yes, it's helped that the team has used a lot of 4-3 looks as it transitions personnel. It may also be true that Johnson isn't part of the team's long-term plans. For now, however, he's a big - and surprising - part of the team's rock-solid defensive line depth, regardless of scheme.