The Buffalo Bills entered the 2018 offseason with multiple holes to fill. After losing numerous key members on both sides of the ball to free agency and retirement, the Bills’ front office faced the difficult task of filling as many needs as possible before the 2018 NFL Draft. Each of their free agent signings will play a certain role with the team to start training camp. Some guys will be Week 1 starters, and others may not make the roster.
This is the list of Buffalo’s free agent signings and their potential role for the upcoming season:
1. Star Lotulelei, DT
2. Trent Murphy, DE
3. Vontae Davis, CB
These guys were brought in to start immediately. Lotulelei, signing the biggest contract of any Bills’ free agent in 2018, will most likely play the most snaps at the defensive tackle position. With Kyle Williams going into the season at 35 years old, Lotulelei will be relied on to anchor the defensive line with Williams likely playing a more limited amount of snaps.
The Bills have lacked a consistent pass rush for the past couple of seasons. Along with other factors, such as poor overall production from Shaq Lawson, Murphy was brought on to play opposite of Jerry Hughes and create the type of pass-rush Sean McDermott desires and take pressure off Hughes, who saw multiple double teams last season.
After E.J. Gaines left in free agency, Davis will try to fill his shoes as the other starting corner across from Tre’Davious White.
4. AJ McCarron
5. Jeremy Kerley
6. Phillip Gaines
7. Russell Bodine
8. Marshall Newhouse
The quarterback competition is wide open, and no assurance of who will be the starter on opening day will come about until much deeper into training camp and the preseason. McCarron was signed to a two-year deal to be the “bridge” quarterback while the undetermined (at the time) rookie quarterback developed.
Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones are the only two definite starters at the receiver position. Kerley will spend most of his playing time in the slot where he performs at his best, and although Kerley may not be a starter on a regular basis, he will see a good amount of snaps.
Gaines is a candidate for the nickel corner. During training camp, expect Gaines and rookie fourth-round pick, Taron Johnson to compete for a chance to earn that spot. Last season, the nickel was on the field for more than 50% of the snaps.
After the heartbreaking news that longtime center Eric Wood was retiring, most assumed that Ryan Groy was the guy to replace him. Bodine signed shortly after, and during OTAs, there was no clear-cut starter between Bodine and Groy.
Jordan Mills hasn't turned into a solid starter at the right tackle spot. With shuffling among the offensive line in the distance, Newhouse and Mills will battle it out in training camp, but it seems as of now that it is Mills’ job to lose. (Conor McDermott is in the mix, as well.)
9. Chris Ivory
10. Rafael Bush
11. Owamagbe Odighizuwa
12. Kaelin Clay
13. Julian Stanford
LeSean McCoy is 30 years old, and although it would be preferred for him to take on a large amount of carries, Ivory will be there to keep McCoy fresh throughout the season.
Behind the best safety duo in the NFL, Bush will serves as quality depth. He has been a serviceable backup at the safety spot for multiple years in the league, and his real worth will come on special teams.
Odighizuwa hasn't lived up to his expectations as a third-round pick for the New York Giants. McDermott and his staff will try to coax the third-year man into playing up to his potential. If he makes the roster, he will play backup to Murphy and Hughes, along with Lawson in the meantime.
Clay is one of the only receivers on the roster that is a deep-ball threat with good straight-line speed. He will likely be the fourth or fifth option at the receiver position for the Bills, depending on how training camp plays out for the group.
Before Tremaine Edmunds fell into the Bills’ lap, Stanford was the only middle linebacker on the roster. Edmunds might play every down on defense this season, but Stanford will be the next man up depending on the circumstance. He also projects as a major contributor on special teams.
Back of the Roster
14. Terrence Fede
15. Tenny Palepoi
Fede and Palepoi are both towards the back of the depth chart at this point. Fede has had a sliver more production than Odighizuwa, but Odighizuwa has more untapped potential. Palepoi is deep in the rotation of defensive tackles behind Williams, Lotulelei, Phillips, and Washington. Both of these guys are going to be on the roster bubble for most of training camp and preseason.