After Monday’s roster shuffle, the Buffalo Bills face quite the predicament. One of the team’s biggest holes going into the offseason was at the tight-end position. Now with the bulk of free agency and the NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, the Bills have six tight ends under contract. As a result of Buffalo signing Lee Smith and Moral Stephens and cutting offensive tackle turned tight end Jake Fisher before training camp, there appears to be a short leash regarding expectations for the position. Here are each tight end’s chances at making it out of Bills’ training camp with a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Chance to make final roster: Very, very, very high
The Bills signed TE Lee Smith to a three-year deal on Monday. His chances to make the final roster are as close to 100 percent as possible. Not only is he a former Buffalo Bill with great locker room chemistry and play to back it up, but his $9 million contract has guaranteed money in the second year. If the Bills did not see him as a future piece, that guaranteed money would not exist. He will be in Buffalo blue at the beginning of the season.
Chance to make final roster: Very, very high
Just like Smith, TE Tyler Kroft is on a three-year deal. The big difference is Kroft’s contract is worth double at $18 million, suggesting he’s in Buffalo’s future plans. Kroft has the potential to be the starting tight end at the beginning of the season in the Meadowlands, but it remains to be seen if he will stay in the starting 11 given his blocking-tight-end status. Expect him to make the final roster.
Chance to make final roster: Very high
Moving from free agents to rookies, TE Dawson Knox is a solid investment for the Bills who cost them their two fourth-round picks in the draft. As a third-round pick, it would not make sense for Buffalo to cut him before he gets his first taste of the regular season. Knox is a tight end who thrives in the passing game and could develop alongside quarterback Josh Allen perfectly. If anything is close to being certain at tight end, it is that Smith, Kroft, and Knox will all make the roster and Knox will evolve as the primary receiving threat of those three.
Chance to make final roster: Neutral
This is where the Bills start to make the tough decisions. Three tight ends on a 53-man roster is the norm, but Tommy Sweeney has a good chance to be the fourth. Despite being the Bills’ seventh-round pick, he checks a lot of boxes for what Buffalo looks for in process players. The Boston College product made first-team All-ACC in his senior season for a team that preferred to run the ball. Sweeney also played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, a pattern for the Sean McDermott Buffalo Bills. Sweeney has the talent, but it depends on if the Bills choose youth and process over experience.
Chance to make final roster: Slim
TE Jason Croom is a two-year veteran who played in Buffalo last season. Croom emerged as the Bills’ top tight end after starter Charles Clay struggled with injury, finishing fourth on the team in receiving yards with 259 and one touchdown. Despite last year’s performance, the slew of tight-end signings and draft picks indicate Buffalo may prefer going into the 2019 campaign without a single returning tight end from 2018. Croom will likely not make the final roster in favor of Sweeney or a three-tight end set, but there is still a chance if he can prove at training camp that his past-year experience outweighs the potential of the other rookie tight ends.
Chance to make final roster: Very Slim
As an undrafted free agent, former Florida TE Moral Stephens signed with Buffalo following the team’s rookie minicamp. Despite the good impression and the Bills rewarding him with a contact, Stephens has a very long, uphill battle if he wants to make the 53-man roster. With no guaranteed money in multiple years, expectations of a higher draft pick, or past experience in Buffalo, Stephens will have to impress immediately at St. John Fisher College to make it past the first couple rounds of cuts over the summer.
Chance to make final roster: zero
Fisher was released by the Bills on Monday following the signing of Smith, in case you were wondering.