The Buffalo Bills needed a major infusion of offensive talent to support young quarterback Josh Allen in his development. While they added plenty of beef to the offensive line along with some solid veteran wide receivers, they also made a trio of additions at the running back position. Even with one of the highest-paid running backs in the league already on the roster, Buffalo added depth to the position for the present and the future.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile a running back who could very well provide quality depth for the future—but first, he’ll have to make the roster.
Name: T.J. Yeldon
Height/Weight: 6’1” 223 lbs.
Age: 25 (26 on 10/2/19)
Experience/Draft: 5; selected in the second round (36 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 4/22/19
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Yeldon signed a two-year contract with Buffalo this spring—a pact that includes $500,000 in guarantees among the contract’s $3.2 million total value. For the 2019 season, Yeldon would count $1.3 million against the cap, and the Bills would only be on the hook for his $500,000 bonus should they decide to release or trade him prior to Week 1. As a vested veteran, his base salary ($1 million) becomes guaranteed if he’s on the Bills’ roster for the first week of the season.
2018 Recap: Yeldon was Jacksonville’s backup running back, acting as a change-of-pace for starter Leonard Fournette, but thanks to the latter’s injuries and overall ineffectiveness, Yeldon saw plenty of action. He was the Jaguars’ best running back on a per-touch basis last year, as he carried the ball 104 times for 414 yards, an average of four yards per carry, with one rushing touchdown. He was more impressive as a receiver, hauling in 55 passes (second on the Jags’ team) over 78 targets for a total of 487 yards and four touchdowns. He was blasted publicly by Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin following the team’s Week 17 loss, as Coughlin felt Yeldon and Fournette displayed “disrespectful, selfish” behavior during the game.
Positional outlook: Yeldon finds himself in the midst of a crowded backfield with Buffalo, as LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, and Devin Singletary should all vie for carries throughout camp and the preseason. Christian Wade will spend the summer learning to play American football and should occupy a spot on the team’s practice squad. Veteran Senorise Perry is a fantastic special-teams gunner, but he offers little value on offense. Marcus Murphy, whose best role is that of return man, is the seventh running back on the roster.
2019 Offseason: Yeldon has participated in all offseason activities to date. He has rotated in with the first unit, though much of his time has been spent with the second team.
2019 Season outlook: Yeldon is firmly on the roster bubble with regard to both making the team and then, if he makes the squad, carving out a role for himself this year. With the age and contract status of Gore and McCoy, it would be wise for Buffalo to keep a young player like Yeldon in the fold. He offers excellent pass-catching ability, so he could immediately slot in as the team’s third-down back, and next year he could rotate with Singletary to form a solid one-two punch. Anything is possible with Buffalo’s backfield, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the team chooses to keep six—McCoy, Gore, Singletary, Yeldon, Perry, and fullback Patrick DiMarco—this year in the offensive backfield. Personally, I’d rather they choose between Perry and DiMarco, but with the downturn the Bills’ special teams unit took last year, head coach Sean McDermott is clearly trying to solidify that group. The running backs and their usage will be a major storyline all throughout camp, and I hope that Yeldon remains with the Bills when September comes.