We’re entering the time of year where peak roster competitions are taking shape. From now until the regular season begins, players will seek to demonstrate why their team can’t go on without them. Which Buffalo Bills have the most to lose during this critical time? Here’s a few thoughts on the matter. Don’t be shy about adding your own below.
Lawson currently sits in an odd limbo. As a result, he’s a player with the most to lose (or gain) during training camp this year. The Bills decided not to pick up Lawson’s fifth-year option, making it look more likely the former first-round pick will hit free agency after the season. Though Lawson and Trent Murphy had an identical number of snaps on defense, the Bills appeared to favor Murphy when he was healthy.
Lawson’s 2019 is about playing for his second contract, whether it’s with the Bills or elsewhere. As it stands currently, he’s not in a position of strength for negotiations. A big year is needed to get things headed in Shaq’s favor and that needs to start now by making sure he’s not overshadowed by Murphy.
While Zay Jones was the number-one receiver for the Bills in almost all measures last year, he shouldn’t feel safe. Despite limited playing time, Robert Foster began to shine brighter than Jones later in the season. The Bills also added many new faces to the group this offseason including Cole Beasley, John Brown, Duke Williams, Cam Phillips, and David Sills V. Making matters worse for Zay, he’s missed time already. If just a few things go the wrong way for Jones, he could find himself on the outside looking in.
Typically an undrafted free agent doesn’t have much to lose, but every rule of thumb gets tossed out the window when it comes to quarterbacks. Matt Barkley absolutely can hold down the fort for a few years at the backup quarterback spot. But Tyree Jackson needs to be gunning for that position himself. If Jackson has any hope of making it further in the league than “camp arm for a couple years” he’ll need to push for a roster spot as soon as possible. A strong camp and preseason could lead him there, whether it’s with the Bills or another team.
Yeldon finds himself in a weird spot in Buffalo. On paper, he’s behind a certain Hall of Famer in Frank Gore and a potential Hall of Famer in LeSean McCoy. Both are getting up there in years (for running backs), which could open up opportunities for depth players such as Yeldon. On the other hand, the running back position is considered one of the more easily replaceable ones in the league. If McCoy and/or Gore fall off the map, it might not be Yeldon who gets called up. With rookies often contributing right away, Devin Singletary could get the nod over Yeldon. Camp impressions can go a long way in making that decision when the time comes.
Last year Patrick DiMarco’s role was reduced to about 16% of the offensive snaps. While he was in on over 50% of special teams snaps, it’s fair to wonder if DiMarco really has much of a role on the team at this point. Lee Smith’s return to Buffalo adds a capable blocker, which is the role DiMarco has primarily played under Sean McDermott. With many teams not even bothering to employ a fullback, it’s possible the Bills see more value in keeping another player at a different position, with tight end seemingly the most likely candidate. As a result of the devaluation of the position, DiMarco might find a smaller market for his services than any other position. Per Spotrac, only 18 teams paid for a fullback last year with one team having two players at the position. In contrast, 31 teams had a long snapper, which has a legitimate claim to the title of “Most Specialized Position.”