The Buffalo Bills clearly felt that the tight-end position needed to be upgraded going into the 2019 NFL season. They jettisoned last season’s starter, Charles Clay, cutting the veteran in order to save $4.5 million against the salary cap (and eating $4.5 million in dead money in the process). They signed three free agents and added three rookies at the position, as well.
Lost in all of this was the lone returner at the position, a converted collegiate wide receiver who flashed some potential, albeit briefly, in his first NFL action last year. In this edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile the only holdover in a nearly brand new tight end room.
Name: Jason Croom
Height/Weight: 6’5” 246 lbs.
Age: 25 (26 on 2/28/20)
Experience/Draft: 2; entered league as UDFA with Bills after 2017 NFL Draft
Acquired: Signed as UDFA on 5/12/17; signed a reserve/future contract with the team on 1/8/2018
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Croom enters the second year of his deal that he signed after the 2017 season, a pact that totals $1,054,000. His cap hit for the 2019 season is $572,000, of which $2,000 is guaranteed.
2018 Recap: Croom played in 15 games in his first season on an active NFL roster, making three starts. He had more catches and receiving yards than starter Charles Clay, as Croom totaled 22 receptions for 259 yards and one touchdown on the year. Croom played on 36.54% of the team’s offensive snaps.
Positional outlook: Tight end was definitely a point of emphasis this offseason, and the Bills have sought to upgrade the position via all possible avenues. The team signed Tyler Kroft to a free-agent deal, and they also signed converted offensive tackle Jake Fisher. They cut Fisher once veteran blocking specialist (and former Buffalo Bill) Lee Smith became available, signing him to a three-year deal. The Bills also spent draft picks on Dawson Knox (third round; 96 overall) and Tommy Sweeney (seventh round; 228 overall), and they signed undrafted rookie free agent Moral Stephens, as well.
2019 Offseason: Prior to the free-agent signing period and the draft, Croom said he was looking forward to the chance to step up and expand his role this season. Little has been said since.
2019 Season outlook: While Croom has some great athletic traits, it’s also clear that the Bills don’t view him as a top-end solution at the position. Buffalo has worked hard to add depth and talent at the position, and Croom will struggle to earn the same amount of playing time he had last year. If Kroft, Smith, and Knox are viewed as roster locks, that leaves Croom fighting to keep himself on the team before he even begins to fight for playing time. It will take a huge step forward on his part for the Bills to continue developing their project tight end for the future.