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91 players in 91 days: Defensive end Trent Murphy

Our offseason dive into every player on the Bills’ roster begins now!

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Buffalo Bills fans—we’re back! Welcome to the 2020 version of our annual “90 players in 90 days” series. This year, we’ve preemptively changed the title to “91 players in 91 days” because, like they did last year, the team will have a roster exemption for running back Christian Wade, who was placed on the team’s roster through the International Player Pathway program.

Just like in years past, we’ll look at every corner of the roster, leaving no stone unturned in our quest to discuss every player on Buffalo’s roster. As is always the case, the Bills will inevitably add, subtract, and multiply players throughout the offseason, making this series far longer than a mere 91 days. And, yes—I will love every second of it.

We begin this year’s series with a familiar face and, for me, a familiar name. Defensive end Trent Murphy finds himself in the most precarious position he’s been in since signing with the Bills as a free agent. That’s because the team has brought in multiple players around him. Will he make the Bills’ final roster? That’s yet to be seen. For now, he is the subject of our first installment of “91 players in 91 days.”

Name: Trent Murphy
Number: 93
Position: DE
Height/Weight: 6’6” 260 lbs.
Age: 29 (30 on 12/22/2020)
Experience/Draft: 7; selected by Washington in the second round (No. 47 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft
College: Stanford
Acquired: Signed as UFA with Buffalo on 3/14/18

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Murphy enters the final year of a three-year deal worth a total of $22.5 million. For the 2020 season, his salary cap hit is $9.775 million, fourth-highest on the Bills.

2019 Recap: Murphy had another pedestrian season in terms of his overall statistical production, but he certainly saved the best for last. He had 36 total tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for a loss, nine quarterback hits, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, three pass deflections, and an interception for the year. Through 11 games, Murphy only had one sack, three quarterback hits, and five tackles for a loss. From Week 13 onward, he was much better. Including Buffalo’s loss to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs, Murphy totaled six sacks, eight quarterback hits, and five tackles for loss in his final six games.

Positional outlook: The defensive end spot is one of Buffalo’s most overhauled positions heading into this season. While Murphy may have played more snaps than any defensive end on Buffalo’s roster in 2019, the team still added Quinton Jefferson, Mario Addison, and A.J. Epenesa through free agency and the draft, respectively. Buffalo lost Shaq Lawson, who signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins, but they still have Jerry Hughes, Darryl Johnson Jr., and Mike Love on the roster from last year. Jonathan Woodard and Bryan Cox Jr. round out the positional group.

2020 Offseason: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there hasn’t been much of an offseason.

2020 Season outlook: For a multitude of reasons, Murphy finds himself squarely on the roster bubble for the 2020 season. For starters, it’s a crowded house, and while we won’t go so far as to dream that his time with the team is over, we can at least begin to speculate that he may be gone next year. The names you can write in Sharpie on the roster at defensive end are Addison, Epenesa, and Hughes. Epenesa wasn’t drafted No. 56 overall to be released, and unless he’s hurt, he’s active. Addison just signed this year, so he isn’t going anywhere. While Hughes’s production of late has been just as disappointing as Murphy’s, his cap number goes up if he is released this year, as it would cost the Bills north of $11 million to release their longest-tenured player.

Part of the decision with Murphy will rest on how they view the defensive tackles on the roster. If the team decides that Quinton Jefferson is a defensive tackle, and they keep (for argument’s sake) Jefferson, Star Lotulelei, Ed Oliver, and Vernon Butler, then perhaps they’ll keep Murphy as part of a four-man rotation at defensive end. But with Harrison Phillips set to return and Darryl Johnson looking every part a heat-seeking missile on special teams, it may spell the end for Murphy in Buffalo.

I don’t see the Bills keeping nine defensive linemen—head coach Sean McDermott has rolled with eight more often than not—and if they do, the ability for other players to play multiple spots along the line makes Murphy expendable. The Bills save $8.025 million on the cap by releasing or trading Murphy, and while general manager Brandon Beane has pulled off some impressive trades in his time here, it’s unlikely that he’ll find much of a market for a soon-to-be-30-year-old defensive end averaging 4.5 sacks per season over his last two years. Murphy may yet prove me wrong, but I think he has already played his last game with the Bills.