With each new NFL season, established veterans find themselves among the “notable cuts” that come as a surprise to pundits and fans alike. For those veteran players looking to remain with the Buffalo Bills, there’s a new regime in town, adding another layer to the difficulties of making an NFL roster. Buffalo’s roster has already experienced a tremendous amount of change, but the possibility of more still remains.
With that in mind, there are a few veterans on the current 90-man roster who could become former Bills sooner than many of us may have thought. Patrick Lewis, who was released on Tuesday, was initially someone considered for this article; however “he gone” (to quote Chicago White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson). Which veterans will suffer the same fate as Lewis? All contract information comes from Over the Cap unless otherwise noted.
OT Seantrel Henderson
Having already released 2014 second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio, it’s very possible that the team also releases the other tackle it drafted that season. Seantrel Henderson’s story is a roller-coaster ride; the hyper-talented recruit ran into trouble at the University of Miami, as he was suspended at least three different times for various offenses, the most notable of which involved marijuana usage. After settling in as Buffalo’s starting right tackle for the first 20 games of his NFL career, health issues caused by Crohn’s Disease derailed his positive start. After using marijuana as part of his Crohn’s treatment, he was suspended multiple times by the NFL, and will serve the remaining five games of a ten-game suspension handed down at the end of the 2016 season to begin 2017. If the Bills feel good about incumbent Jordan Mills, 2017 draft pick Dion Dawkins, and veteran Vlad Ducasse, cutting Henderson would save them $1.8 million against the cap.
OT Jordan Mills
Speaking of the Bills’ 2016 starting right tackle, the team could choose to move on from Jordan Mills if rookie Dion Dawkins shows well in camp and the preseason. Mills was easily the weakest link on a fairly strong offensive line last season, as he struggled mightily with speed rushers coming off the edge. He was penalized seven times a year ago and also allowed seven sacks. Depending on the combination that McDermott chooses to play on the offensive line, Mills could either start or be out of work when the first week of September comes. Cutting him would save the Bills $1.45 million in cap space.
WRs Rod Streater, Corey Brown, Rashad Ross, Walt Powell, Brandon Tate, and Andre Holmes
Admittedly, this is a bit of a cop-out, but several of these veterans will be cut. I think Andre Holmes is the least likely of them to be released based on salary cap implications, as cutting him doesn’t really save the Bills any money. It could, however, have the potential to help the Bills earn a compensatory draft pick in 2018. Whether or not the team signs Anquan Boldin, who came in on Monday for an official visit, look for them to keep six wideouts to begin, with Walt Powell serving as the seventh as he serves his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones are safe.
LB Preston Brown
If the organization feels that either second-round pick Reggie Ragland or free agent Gerald Hodges can handle the middle linebacker spot in Sean McDermott’s defense, Preston Brown could be a surprise slash at the end of the preseason. My gut says that he’ll be among Buffalo’s starting linebackers, but if he has a bad camp, he could end up in trouble. Cutting him would save the team $1.8 million.
CBs Shareece Wright and Leonard Johnson
It’s possible that one of these players will make the final roster, and the other will move along. The top of the cornerback depth chart is fairly settled, with Ronald Darby and Tre’Davious White manning those spots. Kevon Seymour appears to be safe, and he will compete with Wright and Johnson for the nickel corner role. Since Wright and Johnson both count for under $700,000 against the salary cap, it’s also entirely possible that they both make the squad and another veteran, Charles James, is given the ax instead.
DL Kyle Williams
Mentioning Kyle’s release is as unpopular as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, but hear me out (and, for the record, I’m not advocating for it to happen, either). Williams enters his 12th NFL season at 34 years old, coming off his most productive season since 2013. He counts for $8.3 million on the salary cap, and the Bills could save $6.8 million by cutting him. If Fred Jackson can be cut after leading the team in receptions and yards from scrimmage, then anyone perceived to be on his “last legs” can be cut. I don’t think it would happen, especially with McDermott’s commitment to leadership and character, but it’s the kind of move that happens when a team wants to move on from a player one year too soon instead of one year too late. Given Williams’s history of leg injuries, if he’s lost his burst, he could be vulnerable to release. Given the troubles of the other top players in his position group, it’s more likely that Williams remains a Buffalo Bill for 2017.
PR Jerry Hughes
Speaking of character(s), Jerry Hughes is one of the fieriest personalities in the locker room. Cutting him would leave a tremendous amount of dead money on the team’s cap ($8.7 million this season alone). Again, he’s not someone who I’d expect to see cut, but if he clashes with McDermott or is unable to return to his 2013/2014 self, we could be talking about the soon-to-be 29 year-old in the past tense as a Buffalo Bill.
P Colton Schmidt
I’m actually anticipating that he will be released, with undrafted rookie Austin Rekhow coming to camp to compete with him. Schmidt was brutal last season, so it would not be a surprise to see the team move on in short order if the former Vandals’ punter proves that he is NFL-caliber.
Which other veterans might have a meeting with “the turk” on cut day, fellow Rumblers?