With the regular season set to commence in eight days for the Bills, the Bills find themselves in the same position as every other NFL team. They will scour the waiver wire and pay close attention to each team’s cut list, trying to find players that can improve the current 53-man roster (54, technically, with Marcel Dareus on the reserve/suspended list). While our own cutdown tracker is a running list of players the Bills could be interested in adding, the question of which group needs the most improving is one that’s open for debate. The following is an attempt to rank each positional group by need from outside help.
Looking at these groups, it’s difficult to find a true "need" from an outside player. Although the Bills only kept 5 CBs, 2 of their 6 safeties (Corey Graham and Aaron Williams) are capable of playing corner in a pinch, so this probably will not be as large an issue as it would otherwise be. All 5 corners are legitimate NFL players, with 2 budding stars in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, a solid veteran with great size in Corey White, an undersized fighter in Nickell Robey-Coleman, and an intriguing rookie in 6th round steal Kevon Seymour. The safeties have the aforementioned starters combining with some good young talent and solid veteran contributors, so it’s unlikely that an addition comes here.
A similar glut of talent can be found in the offensive backfield. With a stud RB1 in LeSean McCoy, a shifty veteran backup in Reggie Bush, and two young players who fill their roles well, it’s hard to imagine adding another body here. Surprising undrafted free agent Glenn Gronkowski pushed veteran Jerome Felton off the roster, and the coaching staff seems to love his toughness and versatility. Carrying 2 fullbacks is not something that typically happens in today’s NFL, so unless something changes, Baby Gronk is probably here to stay for the season.
Unlikely to Add
Is EJ Manuel the best backup in the league? Of course not. Could his position on the roster be improved? Absolutely. Is it likely to happen at this stage of the game? No. It’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but consider the haul that the Eagles just pulled in for Sam Bradford (seriously...whoa). Although acquiring a backup would not cost as much, it’s safe to assume that the resources necessary to acquire one would be too rich for Doug Whaley’s blood. Consider Manuel safe for this season, with a potential upgrade coming next year if Cardale Jones doesn’t progress.
Inside linebacker is a spot where I’m a little in-between. The team’s most-tinkered position has already seen a major overhaul due to injury. With solid veterans in Zach Brown and Brandon Spikes combining with promising third year starter Preston Brown, the top of the chart is fairly well set. Adding a player who is familiar with the defense in Ramon Humber helped the depth tremendously, and Jamari Lattimore is a solid athlete who should contribute on special teams. Consider this one the most likely of the unlikelies.
An Add Couldn’t Hurt
These spots ended up better than anticipated, what with injuries, cuts, and suspensions, but help could still solidify the group. On the defensive line, Corbin Bryant, Kyle Williams, and Jerel Worthy seem poised to start in Marcel Dareus’s absence, leaving Adolphus Washington and Leger Douzable as the only backups for a month. While Washington showed great strength and burst in the preseason, relying on him as the primary reserve with a 33 year-old coming off a major knee injury starting in front of him makes me a bit nervous. There have been plenty of cuts on the defensive line that make sense, and Douzable (who is probably gone once Dareus returns) is the easiest to upgrade. If they do add another player, they could stand to drop someone from another surplus position (safety or offensive line).
On the outside, the only real stud is Jerry Hughes. His complimentary parts are just that—complimentary parts. Lorenzo Alexander had a good preseason, but he’s never been a tremendous contributor on defense, doing most of his work on special teams. Bryson Albright might have great hair, but he’s light on experience and size. Recently acquired Larentee McCray should contribute, but he's another player with limited experience. Another player could help the overall depth here.
The Bills’ offensive line situation is an interesting conundrum. Three starters are fantastic, one is okay, and one is far below-average. The backups? Well, it wasn’t pretty with the second and third teams. Buffalo elected to keep 9 linemen, which seems like a lot to me, but I still see an upgrade as being paramount here. I have a bad feeling that Seantrel Henderson will not spend the entire season on the active roster, leaving the team with only Cyrus Kouandjio as the swing tackle. More pressing, however, is the interior line, with little proven help behind Richie Incognito and John Miller (who could stand to be replaced in his own right). Ryan Groy and Patrick Lewis have only played in 24 games in 6 seasons between them, so there is very little experience in Buffalo’s reserves.
The wide receiver position, based on the early cuts, might be the easiest one to upgrade. I count four players (Rueben Randle, Justin Hunter, James Jones, and Cecil Shorts) who would be immediate upgrades over Buffalo’s WR3, 4, and 5. All of those players have some warts (inability to remember a playbook, lack of production, age, and skill-set redundancy with the current roster, respectively), but they are all capable football players. I don’t think an addition here would end #TheSummerOfWaltPowell, as I think it would make more sense to drop a safety or an offensive lineman and keep him, but more insurance behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods would be helpful.
If When Marquise Goodwin is injured again, Buffalo will be incredibly thin without adding another talented player.
The position in the greatest need of an upgrade is tight end. After the oft-dinged Charles Clay, the Bills only have the oft-forgot about Jim Dray and the relative of some golfer, Nick O’Leary. Dray is here to block, and O’Leary did have a solid end to the preseason, but the former is not much of a receiver, and the latter is not nearly the athlete that presumptive TE3 (the injured Chris Gragg) is. Doug Whaley should be working overtime to find an extra athlete to add to the mix here in the coming days.
So Set that I Almost Forgot to Write About Them
Nothing to see here!
What do you think, fellow Rumblers? Have any suggestions about the order of the groupings here? Fire away in the comments section!