Starting Buffalo Bills cornerback EJ Gaines was considered an afterthought when he was acquired in the Sammy Watkins trade that netted the Bills an extra second round draft pick in 2018. However, he quickly earned a starting spot in the preseason and has turned in a very respectable season playing next to rookie Tre’davious White. Per ESPN Insider Field Yates, this puts him in position for a large payday once the NFL free agency period begins.
When the Bills traded wide receiver Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles in the preseason, the centerpiece of the package they received was a 2018 second-round pick. 2014 sixth-round pick Gaines, however, was also acquired, and he has exceeded expectations. He has been a reliable part of Buffalo’s secondary and is now set to hit the open market. Quarterbacks, offensive lineman and defensive backs are usually the highest-paid spots in free agency, which should set up the productive Gaines for a bigger deal.
There are reasons to doubt Yates’ conclusion. While Gaines’ play has exceeded expectations, he has dealt with frequent injuries both this season and when he was with the Rams. The fourth-year cornerback missed five games due to various lower-body injuries and was forced to leave a few others early.
Gaines’ size and speed also limits him to certain types of defensive schemes. As Turf Show Times told us back in August, his lack of size and top-end speed ensures that he can only be used in zone coverages or underneath man coverages. Sean McDermott’s defense is one of the few in the NFL that predominantly feature such coverages.
It’s likely that the Bills cornerback does not even make it to free agency as the Bills likely have the desire and the cap space to re-sign the diminutive corner to a long-term contract, which would keep him in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.