For thirteen seasons, the Buffalo Bills had one constant along their defensive line: veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams. With his retirement at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL season, it’s clear the Bills will miss his play and his leadership, though not necessarily in that order.
For a new generation of Bills’ defensive players, the time has come to be the leader that Williams was. In terms of on-field value, the team has a strong crop of interior defensive linemen ready to step in and take over where the man affectionately known as “Meatball” left his cleats. In terms of locker-room value, Williams was a once-in-a-generation leader, so asking a teammate to step in and be as good as him in that regard right away is difficult at best.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile an interior defensive lineman with similar measurables to Williams.
Name: Kyle Peko
Height/Weight: 6’1” 305 lbs.
Age: 25 (26 on 7/23/19)
College: Oregon State
Acquired: Signed to Bills’ practice squad on 9/12/18; signed reserve/future contract with the team on 12/31/18
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Peko signed a two-year deal worth $1,380,000 in December. None of the contract is guaranteed. If he makes the 53-man roster, he will count $645,000 against the 2019 salary cap.
2018 Recap: Peko spent the entire season on NFL practice squads. He was waived by the Broncos when they cut down to 53 players at the end of the preseason, and then he was released from the team’s practice squad just ten days after signing. He signed with Buffalo the day after he was released by Denver. During the 2018 preseason, Peko made seven tackles in four games with Denver.
Positional outlook: Peko is on the outside looking in thanks to a pretty solid top-four at his positional group. Star Lotulelei serves as the big space-eater, and Harrison Phillips is the primary backup as the “one-gap” defensive tackle. The Bills drafted Ed Oliver to replace Williams as the starting “three-tech” in Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 alignment, with big Jordan Phillips slotting in as the primary reserve there. Along with Peko, Robert Thomas and Quindarius Thagard will provide depth throughout training camp and the preseason.
2019 Offseason: Little has been said about Peko since he joined the Bills last September.
2019 Season outlook: Peko is likely auditioning for a gig in another town, barring injury, as the pecking order at defensive tackle is pretty clearly set. Unless one of the top four suffers an injury or finds himself in trouble with the law, Peko won’t make the 53-man roster in Buffalo.