Regardless of whether the team is able to bring back unrestricted free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines, the secondary is considered a strength of the Buffalo Bills heading into the 2018 NFL season. During their sessions with members of the media Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane commented on the importance of signing two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis Monday evening.
“Let’s start off first by giving Brandon and his staff credit for being able to land a free agent like Vontae at this time of year,” McDermott said of Davis. “He has a lot of benefits, a lot of which have been talked about already. A veteran player that fits into our system. He has a number of starts obviously and ball production. So that said, every spot on our roster has to be earned and he’ll embrace that mindset.”
Davis inked a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Bills to shore up Buffalo’s secondary. His deal carries a base salary of $5 million dollars, according to an NFL source, with $3.5 million in guaranteed money and a max salary of $8 million.
The chance to sign a player of Davis’ talents before the official start of free agency March 14 — since Davis was released by the Colts, he was free to sign with any team before the 2018 league year officially begins— represented an immediate opportunity to upgrade the team’s roster, McDermott said.
Rooke Tre’Davious White put together a Rookie of the Year-caliber season last year, while 2017 free agents Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer exceeded expectations while solidifying the back end of Buffalo’s 4-3 defense. With Gaines’ status up in the air, Buffalo moved to add the veteran Davis.
Davis, a former first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, played in only five games in 2017 before the falling out over his injury. He apparently suffered the injury during the preseason and was absent from the Colts’ first three regular-season games before returning to the starting lineup for five straight games.
What intrigued Beane most and made him push hard to land the former Pro Bowler?
“Vontae’s skill set. He’s obviously been a No. 1 corner most of his career. Last year I know he had the injury. We vetted him out, did a lot of research. We had some people who had been with him in Miami. We did our recon on him in Indianapolis and what happened last year. We brought him in and had a good visit,” Beane said. “I think he had some teams he thought he’d be a good fit at. He and his agent circled back, and we thought it’d be a good fit. He brings size, speed, experience. We’ve got a lot of experience back there other than Tre. He’ll be going into his second year. It’s just a guy you can get your hands on early before free agency. We were able to work something out.”
McDermott said Davis’ career in Western New York will start as an outside cornerback opposite White, who enjoyed a Rookie of the Year-caliber season. Buffalo’s head coach added that Davis could see valuable reps as a slot cornerback, too.
“We’ll start off outside and then go from there,” McDermott said of his new defensive acquisition. “We do have some flex with Vontae and Tre’Davious as well. At this point in the year, really nothing is off the table, whether it’s schematically, personnel-wise.”