The modern NFL calls for a defense that can rush the passer and, frankly, the Buffalo Bills have not been very good at doing so over the last two years. In 2017, the team ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams in total sacks, notching only 27 sacks on the season. In 2018, their total improved to 36 sacks on the year, but they still ranked 26th in the league in the category.
The Bills have made multiple moves to improve the entire roster since head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane arrived, but they haven’t truly added an elite pass-rusher in that time, choosing instead to keep what they have on the roster. The one free agent addition they did spend big money on is the man we profile in today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days”—a converted outside linebacker who will try to perform better than he did during his first season in Buffalo.
Name: Trent Murphy
Height/Weight: 6’6” 260 lbs.
Age: 28 (29 on 12/22/19)
Acquired: Signed with Bills as unrestricted free agent on 3/14/18
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Murphy enters the second year of a three-year pact he signed last spring. The total value of the contract is $22.5 million, and for the 2019 season, Murphy carries the fifth-highest salary-cap hit among all Bills players at $8,706,250. If the team were to release Murphy, they would be on the hook for $6.5 million in dead money this year.
2018 Recap: Murphy found himself in a literal timeshare with fellow defensive end Shaq Lawson last season, as the two men combined to play the same number of snaps (440; 43.39%) on defense. Murphy started ten of the 13 games in which he appeared, making 24 total tackles and four sacks on the year. He also deflected one pass, forced two fumbles and recovered one, had five tackles for loss, and registered nine quarterback hits on the season.
Positional outlook: Murphy once again will compete with Lawson for time across from Buffalo’s top rusher, veteran Jerry Hughes. The team also has Eli Harold, Mike Love, Eddie Yarbrough, and Darryl Johnson competing for space on the roster.
2019 Offseason: Murphy has participated in all offseason activities to date, and according to teammates and coaches, he has looked much better than he did last season, which was his first since an ACL tear forced him to miss the entire 2017 regular season.
2019 Season outlook: Murphy will almost certainly end up on the roster this season, and he will almost certainly end up the starter across from Hughes. Now, if he endures another training camp and preseason marred by injury or ineffective play? Well, then he’ll top every prognosticator’s list of “surprise cuts” in August when those articles begin to publish. If Murphy can return to the form he showed in 2016, where he had nine sacks and 25 quarterback hits, then the Bills will be thrilled with their investment. If he can’t prove that year was anything more than a fluke (one potentially fueled by PED use, for which he would have been suspended for Washington’s first four games in 2017 had he not injured his knee), then Murphy will almost certainly be playing his last year in Buffalo. Either way, the 2019 season is a pivotal one in Trent Murphy’s career.