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90 Players in 90 Days: Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes

The move back to a 4-3 could bring a return to form for the veteran pass rusher

For all of Doug Whaley’s issues with the NFL Draft, the former Buffalo Bills general manager was great at evaluating pro players. For example, back in 2013 as he was transitioning from pro personnel director to general manager, the Bills traded middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for an outside linebacker who had failed to live up to his first-round draft status. That man came to the Bills and immediately posted two straight 10-sack seasons. Five years later, he’s still in Buffalo and set to play a huge role in the team’s defense in 2017.

Name: Jerry Hughes
# 55
Position: DE
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 254 lbs.
Experience: 8
College: Texas Christian
Draft: Round 1, Pick 31 by the Indianapolis Colts (2010)

Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Hughes is entering year three of the five-year contract he signed prior to hitting free agency in 2015. His cap hit this year is $10.45 million, a figure that drops a hair to $10.4 million in the final two years of the deal. The dead cap hit drops below the actual cap hit after this year.

2016 Recap: In his fourth year with the Bills, Hughes appeared in all 16 games (starting 15) and finished second on the team with six sacks. He opened the year with monster performances against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, but faded as the year went on. He also continued to be a source of stupid penalties that just made Bills fans shake their heads in disbelief.

Positional Outlook: While the back end of the depth chart still holds a bit of intrigue, the starting defensive ends are set. Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson are going to be controlling the edges for the Bills defense in 2017.

2017 Offseason: Hughes had a pretty quiet offseason until his annual training camp fight, this time with Tyrod Taylor of all people. On the field, he’s been the Bills best defender among the starters so far in the preseason. He’s notched a sack in both games, adding two tackles in Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

2017 Season Outlook: The move to a 3-4 defense under Rex Ryan clearly didn’t do Hughes any favors. If the move back to a 4-3 helps, and he can still make some noise from the end, he could easily return to the double-digit sack for he showed in his first two years with the Bills.