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91 players in 91 days: Tight end Jason Croom

The oft-injured tight end faces stiff competition to make the 53-man roster

NFL: Buffalo Bills-Training Camp Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have made plenty of changes to their roster this offseason, but one positional group remains exactly as it was at this time last season. The tight end group contains six names it did in May of 2019, though those names won’t necessarily appear in the same order on the 2020 depth chart (and it doesn’t include players like Mik’Quan Deane or Keith Towbridge).

In today’s installment of our “91 players in 91 days” series, we look at one of those six tight ends—the one who has currently been with the team for the most consecutive seasons.

Name: Jason Croom
Number: 80
Position: TE
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 246 lbs.
Age: 26 (27 on 2/28/2021)
Experience/Draft: 3; signed with Buffalo as UDFA following 2017 NFL Draft
College: Tennessee
Acquired: Signed as UDFA

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Croom signed his exclusive-rights free-agent (ERFA) tender this offseason, a one-year pact worth a total of $675,000. None of that is guaranteed.

2019 Recap: Croom entered 2019 as the lone returning tight end on the roster, and he hoped to parlay that into an expanded role. However, the team seemed to have other plans right from the jump, as they signed veterans Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith before drafting Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. Then, Croom suffered a hamstring injury during OTAs that never quite healed, and while he was able to participate in some individual drills throughout training camp, he was ultimately placed on injured reserve without ever appearing in a game. The team stashed him on IR for the duration of the season.

Positional outlook: As we mentioned above, the positional group is basically the same as it was last year. Kroft’s contract was restructured in such a way that he is a roster lock, and Knox earned starter’s reps last year. Smith remains as the team’s blocking specialist, and Sweeney flashed some ability in limited action early in the season. Nate Becker rounds out the depth chart.

2020 Offseason: Croom is fully recovered from his hamstring injury.

2020 Season outlook: Two players are guarantees to be on the roster come September, and that’s Kroft and Knox. After that, there are four players battling for two spots. While the coaching staff limited Smith’s snaps as the season progressed, they have prioritized a blocking tight end over the last few years, and they invested a draft choice in Sweeney, so it’s safe to regard that crew as the top four at the position. If it were me, I’d replace the lumbering Smith with the better athlete in Croom, whose pedigree as a former wide receiver gives him a leg up as a receiver. I’m not confident that the coaching staff agrees with me, though, so this battle for the last two spots in the tight end room will be a fun one to watch this summer.