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Cordy Glenn headlines Buffalo Bills offensive tackle questions

The Bills have a decision to make regarding their highest-paid offensive lineman

Coming into the 2017 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills had some question marks at offensive tackle. Cordy Glenn was recovering from offseason surgery on his foot and ankle area, the team had a player at right tackle in Jordan Mills who most fans hoped would not be the starter again, and they had a rookie in Dion Dawkins looking to prove himself.

Going into the 2018 season, the Bills have many of the same questions at the position. Glenn had another surgical procedure on the same foot just over a week ago, and although the team is optimistic about his chances of recovering in time for the start of Buffalo’s offseason program, they held the same hope last year. Mills is still entrenched as a starter, and Dawkins played well enough in filling in for Glenn that the team seems to have one too many players in starting roles.

In our latest look at the state of the Bills roster, we look at all six of Buffalo’s offensive tackles, although the main focus for the entirety of the offseason will most likely fall on the biggest man of the bunch.

*All sack and penalty data courtesy of Fox Sports

Cordy Glenn

  • Contract status for 2018: signed; $14.45 million cap hit ($11.1 million dead cap figure if released)
  • Age: 28 (29 on 9/18/18)
  • Playing time: 275 snaps (26.14% of offensive snaps), 24 ST snaps (5.49%)
  • Key statistics: 2 sacks allowed, 0 penalties

Many have speculated that the Bills and Glenn will part ways this offseason, but I wouldn’t wish for that to happen. While he has struggled with injuries for the better part of the last calendar year, he had only missed 8 games in five years prior to this season. If he is a trade chip that allows Buffalo to retain one of its first round draft picks this season while still moving into range to draft a quarterback, the team could consider moving him, but the salary cap considerations involved with such a move are not favorable to the Bills.

Glenn will make $14.45 million this season if he’s on the Bills’ roster, and the team will pay him $11.1 million if they decide to move on. That is an astronomical figure, one that doesn’t seem worthwhile when considering the struggles of the incumbent starting right tackle. When healthy, Glenn is worth every zero on his paycheck, and pairing him with Dawkins would create Buffalo’s best bookend tackle situation, arguably, since the Bills employed John Fina and Jonas Jennings (and maybe even since the days of Will Wolford and Howard Ballard).

Jordan Mills

  • Contract status for 2018: $2.15 million cap hit ($1.95 million cap savings if cut)
  • Age: 27 (28 on 12/24/18)
  • Playing time: 1,023 snaps (97.24% of offensive snaps), 62 ST snaps (14.19%)
  • Key statistics: 6 penalties, 50 yards, 6 sacks allowed

Mills struggled again in pass protection, as his lack of athleticism was routinely exposed against quick, agile speed rushers. He doesn’t achieve consistent push in the run game, either, and he has been a clear weak link on the offensive line for the better part of the past two seasons. One thing he does have going for him, though, is good health, as he has been among the Bills’ leaders in snaps played for two consecutive seasons.

$2.15 million isn’t terrible for a swing tackle, which is all Mills should be, but the Bills could clear all but $300,000 of his signing bonus from their books merely by releasing him. It’s a bit of a gamble given Glenn’s injury history, but if the team feels strongly that one of its younger backups could step into the lineup in the event of injury, it’s certainly something worth exploring.

Dion Dawkins

  • Contract status for 2018: signed; $950,736 cap hit
  • Age: 23 (24 on 4/26/18)
  • Playing time: 781 snaps (74.24% of offensive snaps), 62 ST snaps (14.19%)
  • Key statistics: 3 penalties, 30 yards, 3 sacks allowed

To paraphrase our man Skarecrow, Dion Dawkins was pretty good in 2017, but he’s no Cordy Glenn. The second round pick out of Temple University had some growing pains during his rookie season, but overall he was just fine on the offensive line. If there is one silver lining in Glenn’s injury, it’s that Dawkins was given plenty of on-the-job training that he otherwise may never have had.

Buffalo’s “best five” offensive linemen includes both Dawkins and Glenn. Whether Dawkins lines up on the left side or the right side is irrelevant, as it’s tremendously important to have solid tackles who can pass protect and clear rushing lanes on both sides of the line. Dawkins played too well to revert to a backup role in 2018, but the decision regarding where Dawkins lines up next season may hinge more on Glenn’s foot than anything else.

Conor McDermott

  • Contract status for 2018: signed; $555,000 cap hit
  • Age: 25 (26 on 10/19/18)
  • Playing time: 1 snap (.1% of offensive total), 15 ST snaps (3.43%)
  • Key statistics: N/A

After coming over from the New England Patriots, McDermott spent most of the season inactive on game days. At 6’8” and 305 pounds, he is ridiculously agile for his size, having completed the three-cone drill in 7.52 seconds at the 2017 NFL Draft Combine (for comparison, Dion Dawkins did the drill in 7.3 seconds). He has intriguing potential as a swing tackle if Buffalo moves on from either Mills or Glenn. They kept him on the roster all year despite needing bodies elsewhere so they must value him.

Josh James

  • Contract status for 2018: signed; $480,000 cap hit on reserve/future contract
  • Age: 24 (25 on 5/9/18)
  • Playing time: N/A
  • Key statistics: N/A

James has never appeared in an NFL game, entering the league in 2016 after graduating from Carroll College in Montana. At 6’5” and 314 pounds, he is another big man with some raw potential. The Bills have him signed to a reserve/future contract, but he’ll have to impress during the offseason and training camp in order to move up the pecking order.

Seantrel Henderson

  • Contract status for 2018: unsigned; UFA
  • Age: 25 (26 on 1/21/18)
  • Playing time: 44 snaps (4.18% of offensive snaps), 25 ST snaps (5.72%)
  • Key statistics: N/A

I feel for Henderson, as his highly publicized battle with Crohn’s Disease has derailed what seemed to be a promising career. I don’t doubt that he’ll find work in the NFL, especially if his symptoms are under control, but I don’t think he’ll be back with Buffalo in 2018. Whether he is or he isn’t, I wish him nothing but the best, as he has worked through tremendous difficulty in a high-class manner throughout his young career.

Offseason Outlook

Really, the Bills are set at offensive tackle heading into 2018. They have a stud left tackle in Cordy Glenn, a strong up-and-coming player in Dion Dawkins, and a decent backup in Jordan Mills. Realistically, however, the Bills are almost certain to make a move here. The question then becomes what that move will be.

If general manager Brandon Beane wants to dangle Glenn in trade talks with his former boss, New York Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman, it could be of mutual benefit to both teams. The Bills could acquire a higher draft choice, while the Giants could plug in a legitimate top-10 franchise tackle on a bad offensive line. The problem is, however, that Glenn would have to be healthy in order to fit that title, and he hasn’t been fully healthy in quite some time.

Further complicating matters is the issue of dead cap money for the Bills. Spotrac provides a pretty solid breakdown, but the Cliff’s Notes version is this: Buffalo’s actual “out” from Glenn’s contract is after 2019, where they would save $6.05 million with a dead cap figure of $6.4 million. The problem is that Glenn’s value may decrease even more if he slogs through another injury-plagued season. If Buffalo were to trade Glenn this year, they would save $4.8 million with a dead cap figure of $9.6 million. The problem with opening up holes on the offensive line is the same as opening up holes in the walls at your house: everything might be fine back there, but if it isn’t, you just busted something that was perfectly fine and created a fix that you didn’t need.

The Bills absolutely should not go into next season with Jordan Mills penciled in as a starter. If it were me calling the shots, I’d release Mills, keep Glenn and Dawkins as my bookends, and think about adding a late-round project to compete with McDermott and James for the swing-tackle role on game days.