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Buffalo Bills build cornerback position group around Tre’Davious White

New faces adorn the cornerback group in 2018.

From 2016 to 2018, the Buffalo Bills have completely re-shaped their secondary. There are a lot of new faces in the cornerback corps again this year and, as a result, lots of interesting battles to watch.

Tre’Davious White

  • Contract status: signed; $2.29 million cap hit
  • Age: Turned 23 on 1/16/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 1,093 snaps (98.65% of defensive snaps), 80 ST snaps (18.31%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 70 combined tackles, 18 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 1 fumble forced, 2 fumbles recovered, 1 touchdown

White’s rookie season was nothing short of spectacular, as he routinely performed exceptionally throughout the campaign. Aside from a terrible showing against the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was burned multiple times by A.J. Green, White was superb. Many a talented corner has been burned by the ultra-talented Green, and to White’s credit, he immediately owned up to his poor showing, vowed that it would never happen again, and followed through with that promise. At only 23 years old during the 2018 season, White’s best football should definitely be in front of him.

Vontae Davis

  • Contract status: signed an incentive-laden one-year deal for up to $5 million
  • Age: Turned 30 on 5/27/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 330 snaps (30.67% of defensive snaps)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 2 passes defended, 21 tackles in five games for the Colts

A free agent addition this offseason, Davis is slated to play the starting cornerback role opposite White. He missed more games last season than the previous six years combined, so he’s not injury prone but dealt with problems last year. The former Pro Bowl cornerback should have a good year or two left in him.

Lafayette Pitts

  • Contract status: signed a one-year ERFA contract for $630,000
  • Age: Turns 26 on 9/24/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 30 snaps (2.71% of defensive snaps), 138 ST snaps (31.58%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 3 combined tackles

When I read his name, I think of Civil War generals, not football players, but Pitts is a bona fide NFL cornerback and special teams contributor. After being claimed off of waivers on October 25, he was on Buffalo’s 53-man roster for the entire 2017 season.

Breon Borders

  • Contract status: signed; $555,000 cap hit (no guaranteed money)
  • Age: Turned 23 on 7/22/18
  • Playing time: N/A
  • Key statistics: N/A

The Bills added Borders from the Oakland Raiders practice squad prior to Week 15. He had a productive college career at Duke, totaling 148 tackles, 1 sack, 12 interceptions, and 34 passes defended. The Bills did keep him on the 53-man roster for the final four games of the season, even though he didn’t see the field. I imagine the coaching staff thinks that he has a real shot at making the team.

Philip Gaines

  • Contract status: signed a one-year veteran minimum deal ($675,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Turned 27 on 4/4/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 419 snaps (38.06% of defensive snaps), 142 snaps (30.74% of special teams snaps) for Kansas City
  • Key 2017 statistics: 3 passes defended, 30 tackles with Chiefs

Gaines has been taking the starting reps at slot cornerback, replacing the departed Leonard Johnson (who is still a free agent). Gaines wasn’t great in Kansas City, but he has starting experience and Bills head coach Sean McDermott, a former defensive backs coach, is the expert on these matters.

Taron Johnson

  • Contract status: signed a four-year rookie deal this offseason for $3,106,068 ($641,517 cap hit)
  • Age: Turned 22 on 7/27/18
  • Key 2017 statistics: 49 tackles, 12 passes defended, 1 FF, 3 INTs for Weber State

Buffalo’s fourth round pick is going to battle Gaines for the slot role or will at least see time as the fourth cornerback. His head was reportedly swimming at minicamp but that can happen to a rookie coming from the Football Championship Division. Read our full scouting report.

Levi Wallace

  • Contract status: signed a standard UDFA deal for three years, $1.71 million ($480,000 cap hit)
  • Age: 23
  • Key 2017 statistics: 48 tackles, 18 passes defended, 3 INTs, 1 INT return touchdown with Alabama

A walk-on at Alabama who played his way into the starting rotation, Wallace is a strong-willed defender and could definitely make enough of an impact to land on the back end of the roster or the practice squad.

Ryan Carter

  • Contract status: signed a standard UDFA deal for three years, $1.71 million ($480,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Will turn 24 on 11/4/18
  • Key 2017 statistics: 33 tackles, 10 passes defended, 3 INTs for Clemson

Physical and a sure-tackler, Carter isn’t afraid to lay the wood on receivers or in the run game. Lacking athleticism, Carter’s much more decisive and effective when his eyes are on the quarterback. Destined for the slot.

Camp Outlook

Despite his young age, White is set as the leader of this group. Davis brings veteran experience but he’s only on a one-year contract.

Who wins the slot? That’s the biggest question as Johnson and Gaines fight for the spot.

How many will they keep? The next question is how many of the guys will make the roster. The Bills played most games with only four or five active cornerbacks last season. It’s really unclear what they think of Borders. If Gaines loses the slot competition, will they keep him? Can one of the UDFA guys fight their way to the final 53? Lots of intrigue as camp kicks off.