Cornerback E.J. Gaines is returning to the Buffalo Bills after a one-year absence, agreeing to a contract with the team on Monday. According to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle, the deal is a one-year contract worth (up to) $3.6 million.
Gaines was one of the first major acquisitions of the Brandon Beane era, when he arrived in 2017 as part of the trade that sent Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. Playing in the final year of his rookie deal, Gaines started opposite rookie Tre’Davious White in one of the league’s more underrated cornerback lineups. He struggled with injuries, only starting 11 games, but intercepted a pass, defended nine, forced three fumbles, and showed off his run support with 48 solo tackles.
In 2018, the Bills (possibly concerned about his ability to stay on the field) chose to sign Vontae Davis instead of Gaines, who connected with the Cleveland Browns. While we all know how the Bills end of that decision panned out, Gaines also struggled through an injury-plagued down year. Multiple concussions limited Gaines to only six games played, and he landed on injured reserve in early November.
Gaines adds another potential starter to a Bills roster that already held second-year pro Levi Wallace and former first-round pick Kevin Johnson. It reunites a team and a player who were a great combination in Sean McDermott’s first season as head coach. His contract value is a tick lower than the $4 million deal Gaines signed with the Browns, but still pays him like a player who could earn the starting job.