The Buffalo Bills have plenty of depth in their defensive secondary just one year after being perilously thin at the position. While their depth still comes with some risks, as injuries could quickly unravel the surplus of talented players the team has built, Buffalo is in a much better place entering the 2019 season.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we examine one of those depth pieces—a late-season add in 2018 who has an uphill battle to make the roster in 2019.
Name: Denzel Rice
Height/Weight: 6’ 185 lbs.
Age: 26 (27 on 3/31/20)
College: Coastal Carolina
Acquired: Signed to practice squad on 11/13/18; promoted to active roster on 12/4/18
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Rice enters the final year of his contract, and he will make $720,000 this year if he’s on Buffalo’s 53-man roster. There’s no guaranteed money in the pact, so the team can cut him with no dead-cap charge if they so choose.
2018 Recap: Rice began the 2018 season as one of the primary special-teams players on the Cleveland Browns. He took no fewer than 61% of the special-teams snaps for Cleveland through the team’s first eight games, although he didn’t play a snap on defense until that eighth game. When he finally did play on defense, he made the most of his opportunity, as he notched his first career interception and first career pass breakup in Cleveland’s 37-21 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns waived him after that game, and Buffalo signed him to the practice squad one week later. He played on special teams for the Bills in each of the team’s final four games. Overall, he made five tackles (two with Buffalo, three with Cleveland), all of which came on kick coverage.
Positional outlook: Rice finds himself in the midst of a crowded positional group, as Tre’Davious White, Kevin Johnson, Levi Wallace, E.J. Gaines, and Taron Johnson all have fairly solid holds on roster spots. Lafayette Pitts was one of Buffalo’s primary special-teams gunners last year, so he appears to be the sixth man at the position. Cam Lewis and newly signed Abraham Wallace are the other corners currently on the roster.
2019 Offseason: Rice has participated in all offseason activities to date.
2019 Season outlook: Unless Gaines or Johnson (or perhaps both) suffer an injury, it’s highly unlikely that Rice will make Buffalo’s roster. The young corner obviously has some talent—Buffalo is his fifth NFL team since coming into the league in 2015, so teams keep trying him out—but either he just doesn’t have enough to stick on a roster, or he hasn’t been in the right situation yet. This preseason, he’ll likely be auditioning for a role on another club.