For one last time, at least for another year or so, we're about to talk about the roster bubble. It's pretty difficult to define a roster bubble, particularly if you're nerdy enough - like yours truly - to project an NFL's 53-man roster obsessively until your thoughts are no longer relevant.
Heading into their pre-season finale, the Buffalo Bills (and more particularly, its coaching staff) very likely has their final 53 already selected. For fans, however, speculation rules the day this time of the year. This post is meant to do three things: define Buffalo's list of "bubble" players, force you to pay attention to those bubble players, and serve as one last spot for y'all to formulate your thoughts before tomorrow's "Buffalo Rumblings Roster Projection Contest" begins.
Staying with the team, but they don't count yet (2)
RB Marshawn Lynch (Reserve/Suspended) - Lynch probably won't play tonight, and he begins his three-game suspension on Saturday.
WR James Hardy (Physically Unable to Perform) - Right now, Hardy is on Active PUP, meaning that he counts against the active roster, and that he can be activated at any time. Active PUP ends when the pre-season ends. It's very likely the coaches will give Hardy an extra six weeks to get into football shape and all healed up by placing him on Reserve PUP.
With those two moves in mind, the Bills will have 72 active players. That list, obviously, needs to be whittled down to 53 - so 19 more must go.
Certain cuts (11)
Let's face it - if any of these eleven players make the roster, every single one of us will be floored.
QB Matt Baker, RB Bruce Hall, WR Felton Huggins, WR C.J. Hawthorne, TE Tyson DeVree, OT Nick Hennessey, C Christian Gaddis, DE Ataefiok Etukeren, DT Derrick Jones, DT Corey Mace, LB Ryan Manalac
That list puts us down to 61 players. We've now officially reached the bubble portion of our roster.
THE BUBBLE (15)
I've got 15 players listed as "on the bubble." All of these players have at least something going for them that could keep them on the roster through the weekend. By current math, eight of these players will make the final roster, while seven will try to latch on with other NFL teams.
RB Xavier Omon, FB Corey McIntyre, WR Justin Jenkins, TE Jonathan Stupar, OT Jonathan Scott, OG Brandon Rodd, DE Chris Ellis, DE Copeland Bryan, LB Marcus Buggs, LB Jon Corto, LB Alvin Bowen, LB Ashlee Palmer, CB Cary Harris, FS Ko Simpson, SS John Wendling
Picking eight of these names as keepers may seem easy, but it's made a bit more difficult by potential surprises. We've got four such scenarios below. For every scenario that comes to fruition below (and we're not saying any of them will), pick another name from the above list and toss it onto your final roster.
Surprise cuts/roster decisions (4)
TE Derek Fine - He's dealing with a hamstring issue, and to say the competition at tight end is heavy is an understatement. It wouldn't completely shock us to see him released, even after being a 2008 fourth-round draft pick.
OT Langston Walker - WGR 550 reporter Paul Hamilton is already on the record as saying Walker could be a surprise release. I'm not sure I buy that, particularly given Demetrius Bell's bad back, but Walker's apparent fall from grace seems legitimate. I can't fathom a scenario in which the Bills would be comfortable entering a season with three highly unproven tackles - but in the spirit of "it wouldn't shock me," we'll list Walker anyways.
DE Ryan Denney - The Bills, for the first time in what seems like forever, actually have some depth at the defensive end position. They've got three young ends - two listed on the bubble above - that have proven worthy of roster consideration. It's difficult to imagine the team cutting Denney, but it's not impossible. They could also dangle him in trade talks if they try, as some suspect they might, to swing a deal for veteran linebacker depth.
CB Ashton Youboty - Speaking of veterans that are candidates to be dangled in trade talks, meet Mr. Youboty. 25-year-old corners with some promise aren't exactly easy to come by, but the Bills have solid depth at corner without considering Youboty. (There's also a reason I listed Cary Harris as "on the bubble" above.) Buffalo obviously doesn't feel the need to actively try to trade Youboty, and he certainly won't be released. But if the right offer comes along - particularly if it involves that aforementioned veteran linebacker - the Bills might just pull the trigger.
That's it. That's about as ironclad as you can get on a pretty ambiguous topic. I'm off to Ralph Wilson Stadium to take in tonight's game; the open thread will air at 6:00 PM ET, and I'll have a recap up for y'all when I get back from the stadium. Enjoy yourselves this evening.