The Buffalo Bills will be making some changes to their offensive line in 2018. Center Eric Wood retired, for all intents and purposes, after learning that he would no longer be cleared to play in the NFL due to a degenerative disc condition in his neck. Wood’s linemate, Richie Incognito, just made his third consecutive Pro Bowl; however, at 35 years old, his $7.575 million cap hit for 2018 could be viewed as too high for the Bills to handle.
If the Bills were to move on from Incognito, they do have a potential successor on the roster in guard John Miller. The soon-to-be 24 year-old is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and with the team switching back to a power-based rushing scheme like the one employed by former offensive coordinators Greg Roman and Anthony Lynn, a return to stronger play for the Louisville product is probable.
The problem with putting Miller into the lineup and releasing Incognito is that the scheme shift also makes it possible that the team’s other guard, Vlad Ducasse, could be on the chopping block, as he performed better in the zone-based scheme employed by former offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Ducasse has some familiarity in a power-based man scheme (he ran one in 2016 with the Chicago Bears), but Miller performed better in Buffalo than Ducasse did in Chicago. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller was the single most improved second-year player in the NFL in 2016, earning a 77.8 overall grade for his second year. Ducasse scored a 54.6 in 2016.
Incognito will be compensated well in 2018, and while the Bills could save more than $6 million by releasing him, his play has been far better than the other guards on the roster. With Ryan Groy or another mystery player set to take over at center, removing one of the stronger pieces from the offensive line in addition to the center position may not be the best maneuver.
However, if the Bills choose to go that route, they have an inexpensive, capable replacement in John Miller. Even then, they’d need to add a backup to Ducasse and Miller.
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- Potential NFL Draft options at left guard
- State of the Bills roster: interior o-line in flux
- Vote: What should the Bills do with Incognito this offseason?