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Buffalo Bills add depth behind superb starting safeties Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde

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The Bills saw great play from their starters and added depth this offseason

The Buffalo Bills overhauled their entire starting secondary to begin the 2017 NFL season, replacing every player who started a game for them in 2016. The Bills went ahead and signed three new safeties, including starters Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. They changed head coaches, as well as defensive schemes, and the safety play improved dramatically. Hyde made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, and Poyer probably should have made his first, as well.

In our latest look at the state of the Buffalo Bills roster, we profile the safety position, one which includes excellent top-end players, with added depth from this offseason.

Jordan Poyer

  • Contract status: $3.375 million cap hit
  • Age: Turned 27 on 4/25/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1038 snaps (93.68% of defensive snaps), 79 ST snaps (18.08%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 95 combined tackles, 2 sacks, 5 interceptions, 13 passes defended, 1 fumble recovered, 1 TD

What a great year for the former Cleveland Browns starter. Poyer came to Buffalo after suffering a lacerated kidney in 2016, which ended his season after only six games. As a member of the Bills in 2017, Poyer set career highs in literally every meaningful defensive category. He is the perfect safety for Sean McDermott’s defense. He possesses the speed and awareness to close on passes from “center field,” the toughness to make tackles in the box, and the cover skills to match up against all types of receivers in man-to-man looks from the slot. His versatility and overall ability immediately led to the Bills’ secondary improving tremendously last season.

Micah Hyde

  • Contract status: $6.8 million cap hit ($5.2 million cap savings if cut post-6/1)
  • Age: Will turn 28 on 12/31/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1065 snaps (96.12% of defensive snaps), 82 ST snaps (18.76%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 82 combined tackles, 5 interceptions, 13 passes defended

The bigger-ticket addition of the Bills’ new safeties, Hyde came to Buffalo after four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. After playing a Swiss-Army knife role with the Packers, rotating between both safety spots and the nickel corner position, he settled in as Buffalo’s starting strong safety. Similarly to Poyer, Hyde possesses incredible athleticism and solid cover skills that allow the coaching staff to use him in a variety of ways. Hyde set career highs in interceptions, tackles, and passes defended on the way to making his first Pro Bowl.

Siran Neal

  • Contract status: signed for four-year rookie deal for $2.75 million ($551,504 cap hit in 2018)
  • Age: Will turn 24 on 8/24/18
  • Key 2017 statistics: 39 tackles, 12 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception at Jacksonville State University

Neal was the Bills fifth round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. While reports are his head has been swimming during spring workouts, we’ll see if he used the time off to wrap his mind around the changes at the NFL level. He is jumping from Division II to the pros, so some learning curve is expected. Neal could be the addition Sean McDermott has been looking for to run his Big Nickel defense.

Rafael Bush

  • Contract status: signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal this offseason ($1.7 million cap hit in 2018)
  • Age: Turned 31 on 5/12/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 181 snaps (17.11% of defensive snaps), 130 ST snaps (28.14%) for the Saints
  • Key 2017 statistics: 1 pass defended, 1 sack, 22 tackles for New Orleans

A journeyman throughout his career, he has nonetheless contributed at every stop. He’s a solid depth option with 18 career starts in seven seasons and should stick as the veteran depth option behind the two entrenched starters.

Dean Marlowe

  • Contract status: signed for one year at a $555,000 cap hit
  • Age: Turns 26 on 7/25/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

Marlowe played his college football at James Madison University, and he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2015. Of course, Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott were both with Carolina at the time, so they are familiar with the 6’2”, 205-pound Queens, New York native. He has appeared in five NFL games, with four in 2015 and one in 2016. He spent December on the Bills practice squad after being injured during the 2016 preseason in Carolina.

L.J. McCray

  • Contract status: signed for one year at a $630,000 cap hit
  • Age: Turned 27 on 6/18/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

McCray is another Carolina connection, having spent the 2017 offseason and training camp with the Panthers. Perhaps Beane’s familiarity with McCray led to his signing with the Bills in a reserve/future capacity. The Catawba College product has 14 NFL tackles to his name, all with the San Francisco 49ers between 2014 and 2015. He spent most of the 2017 season on the Bills practice squad.

Kelcie McCray

  • Contract status: signed for one year at a $790,000
  • Age: Will turn 30 on 9/21/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

McCray was out of football in 2017 after serving as a special teams player and reserve safety for the Seahawks in 2015 and 2016. Buffalo is his fifth team since joining the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He has been traded twice during his career.

Offseason Outlook

After both free agent additions in 2017 ended up playing so well, the Bills only needed to worry about sub-packages and depth this offseason. When Poyer and Hyde went down to injury a year ago, options were limited. Luckily they each were in for more than 93% of the defensive snaps. If they can stay healthy again, there isn’t much to worry about.

Neal and the rest of the depth is intriguing if full of question marks. Can one of them step into the Big Nickel role? Can they carve out sub-package roles or are they just there for special teams duty? Without any questions in the starting lineup, that is what we are looking for in training camp.