Buffalo's Waiver Wire Strategy to Roster Building: Part 2 (2011 Season)

This is the second post in a 3 or 4 part series I'm working on detailing Buffalo's tendency to scour the waiver wire for useful roster players. The first post can be found here. In the first post, I highlighted Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix's first season as the Coach-GM pair running the Buffalo Bills, and the roster moves they made to bring in impact players like Kraig Urbik and Scott Chandler. Despite many people believing that the bulk of the roster would be put together through drafts, it certainly appeared after one season that just as much effort would be put into obtaining quality players through the NFL's quirky roster rules that don't get as much attention, like the Injured Reserve system. Now let's delve into their second operating season, the one that just finished, and we can see if this habit continued.

Again, I'm going to start the transactions beginning with the day of final cuts. Anything before that point is in a hazy section of the preseason when players can change teams in a hurry (as we saw with Lee Evans) and once the season begins, you get an idea of who was in the franchise's priorities.

The first month of the season was another instance of picking up cuts from other rosters, figuring out which players kept on the roster after final cuts weren't actually worth keeping more, and replacing players who had already became injured.

While Zach Pinalto impressed in training camp, Buffalo had to pounce when Lee Smith, a rookie 5th round pick, was cut by New England. Similarly, Ruvell Martin worked hard to make the roster, only to be cut when the Cowboys made their rookie late round tackle Sam Young available after cuts. It worked out for Martin, because he got resigned to the roster after Marcus Easley had his year ended. Another promising rookie in training camp, Robert Eddins, was IRed after a major injury which would make him lose most of the year. To replace him, the team brought back Reggie Corner for more DB depth. Roscoe Parrish had his season ended again, so the Bills brought back Naaman Roosevelt to play. After deciding that David Martin didn't present enough upside anymore over Lee Smith and Scott Chandler, he was released to promote another CB for more depth.

October was a relatively slow month in 2011, but things picked up heavily in November as the team got to the middle of the season and the injuries started spreading.

  • 10/25/2011: Place OLB Shawne Merriman on Injured Reserve - 10/26/2011: Signed OLB Antonio Coleman
  • 11/07/2011: Released CB Terrence Wheatley - 11/07/2011: Promoted TE Mike Caussin to the active roster
  • 11/08/2011: Placed NT Kyle Williams on Injured Reserve - 11/08/2011: Signed K Dave Rayner
  • 11/08/2011: Waived OT Ed Wang
  • 11/15/2011: Placed C Eric Wood on Injured Reserve - 11/15/2011: Signed DE Kyle Moore
  • 11/15/2011: Placed LB Chris White on Injured Reserve - 11/15/2011: Promoted S Josh Nesbitt to the active roster
  • 11/22/2011: Placed CB Terrence McGee on Injured Reserve - 11/22/2011: Promoted WR Kamar Aiken to the active roster
  • 11/22/2011: Placed WR Donald Jones on Injured Reserve - 11/22/2011: Signed WR Derek Hagan
  • 11/23/2011: Placed RB Fred Jackson on Injured Reserve - 11/23/2011: Claimed RB Tashard Choice off waivers
  • 11/30/2011: Placed NT Torell Troup on Injured Reserve - 11/30/2011: Promoted DE Lionel Dotson to the active roster

If you want an excuse for why the Bills went 1-8 during the middle of the season, here's as good of one as any. A huge amount of injuries, large enough that they stopped the players from being able to return until the very end of the season or later, all happened within one month. We lost 6 starters during this time period.

However, the huge number of injuries also gave the Bills plenty of new players - just like last year, they did a lot of mixing between practice squad signees, waiver claims, and street free agents. Shawne Merriman was replaced with Antonio Coleman, who played with Buffalo last year before being cut before this season started. Buffalo, feeling its corner depth was decent, replaced Terrence Wheatley with Mike Caussin, setting up our current TE trio. Kyle Williams needed surgery and was IRed, and his replacement was our Lindell insurance, Dave Rayner. When Eric Wood went down, we picked up a former fourth round defensive end. We did a couple more practice squad promotions before signing Derek Hagan and claiming Tashard Choice. Both were interesting adds - Hagan showed some chemistry with Ryan Fitzpatrick and seemed to be a competent number 2 to Stevie, and Choice provided us with a backup to CJ Spiller who was apparently supposed to be really good in the red zone. Hagan and Choice will probably stick around through final cuts if they are retained after free agency. Lastly, with Torell Troup giving up on the season with his back woes, we added another defensive lineman from our practice squad.

It was a tumultuous month, but December wasn't much better. Plenty of players were cycled through as the season came to a close for Buffalo.

  • 12/08/2011: Placed K Rian Lindell on Injured Reserve - 12/09/2011: Signed TE Fendi Onobun
  • 12/17/2011: Released OLB Antonio Coleman - 12/17/2011: Signed DE Jarron Gilbert
  • 12/20/2011: Placed TE Lee Smith on Injured Reserve - 12/20/2011: Promoted TE Kevin Brock to the active roster
  • 12/27/2011: Placed TE Mike Caussin on Injured Reserve - 12/27/2011: Promoted OL Michael Jasper to the active roster
  • 12/28/2011: Placed K Dave Rayner on Injured Reserve - 12/28/2011: Signed K Brandon Coutu

The influx of new players continued through the end of the season. With Buffalo giving up on Rian Lindell to preserve his health for the next few seasons, Fendi Onobun was signed. Onobun was a basketball-type TE who hadn't caught on in his other teams but had intriguing athleticism and a name that sounded like something you'd get at the falafel stand downtown.

With Antonio Coleman not showing anything in the way of pass rush, Buffalo took the opportunity to pick up Jarron Gilbert, he of jumping-out-of-a-pool fame, signing him off the Jets' practice squad. Next came two season ending injuries to TE's leading to practice squad promotions. Kevin Brock was a relatively young former UDFA who had floated all over the league before being brought to Buffalo's practice squad. He got his first two career catches playing in Buffalo's final games. Michael Jasper also saw a promotion to the active roster, allowing him to practice with the team for the final week of the season.

Finally, with Dave Rayner being ineffective and injured, there was no reason not to IR him to bring in one more kicker for tryouts before the end of the season. Brandon Coutu was a former 7th round pick of the Seahawks who had never attempted a field goal before. He missed his only try playing for the Bills, although he did alright on extra points.

So, how did season number two end for Chan Gailey and his partner in crime, Buddy Nix? Well, by my count, we had 15 players get IRed and stay there during the season (we also had Reggie Torber on IR since the preseason, and one or two players were waived/released from IR). We also added these guys to our end-of-season final roster who weren't there in training camp:

  • Lee Smith
  • Sam Young
  • Dave Rayner
  • Kyle Moore
  • Derek Hagan
  • Tashard Choice
  • Fendi Onobun
  • Jarron Gilbert
  • Kevin Brock
  • Brandon Coutu

Now then, that is a lot more of a disappointing list than the last one, I'll say that much. But maybe there's more to it than meets the eye. In the future, I'll analyze two years of roster gains from Buffalo to find trends, and see if I can figure out if there is a method behind the madness of so many IRed players. I'll also see if I can project which players picked up this year might stick around for the next one, and which players we might see Buffalo grab during next season.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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