Earlier in this series, I made mention of the group of former Carolina Panthers players who followed Sean McDermott over to the Buffalo Bills this offseason.
Today’s player is another member of that group, one who may be on the decline but has plenty of experience, versatility, and a skill set that fits with what the Bills may be looking to do on offense this year.
Name: Mike Tolbert
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 250 lbs
College: Coastal Carolina
Draft: UDFA (2008)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Tolbert is playing on a one-year deal that will pay him $900,000. His cap hit is $695,000. There’s a minuscule dead money hit if the Bills cut him.
2016 Recap: Tolbert played in all 16 games for the Panthers last season, his fifth with the team. He ran the ball only 35 times (his lowest total since 2009) for 114 yards, and he caught ten passes for 72 yards and a score. He made the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last four seasons, although it wasn’t enough for the Panthers to keep him around.
Positional Outlook: It’s rare for teams to employ two traditional fullbacks, but the Bills signed both Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco after letting Jerome Felton walk away in free agency. Given that both players were signed after the new coaching staff was put in place, it’s entirely possible that Rick Dennison has a role in mind for both players next season.
2017 Offseason: Tolbert was released by the Panthers on February 21st, and signed with the Bills on the eve of free agency in March.
2017 Season Outlook: Tolbert has been a versatile player throughout his career. He can play in the backfield as both a blocker and a runner, and he can contribute to the passing game as a blocker, backfield receiver, or even out of the tight end position. He also has plenty of special teams experience. He’s a bit like Lorenzo Alexander in that regard, and seeing him play a part-time but important role with the offense in the same vein that Alexander did with the defense last year is something I expect to see.