As the Buffalo Bills did their best to cobble together a respectable (and maybe even good) offensive line during the course of the 2010s, one position tended to lag behind the rest: right tackle. It may well have been the team’s most frugal position, at any rate. Erik Pears was the moneymaker of the group, with a modest three-year, $9.3 million deal.
The Bills closed the decade by investing a second-round pick and a free-agent contract at the position, but the early returns were inconclusive. Looking back on the decade, who performed the best?
A desperate Buffalo Bills team grabbed Pears on the waiver wire at the tail end of the 2010 season. Pears started one game, and in comparison to Mansfield Wrotto and Cordaro Howard, he passed his audition. Honestly, he was pretty good even without that comparison in mind. He was the team’s full-time starter for 2011, and he started seven games the next year while dealing with a groin and hip injury. Healthy in 2013, Pears returned to good form and started 16 games at right tackle. In 2014, the Bills converted him to right guard so a rookie could start at tackle, and he started one more season for the team. All-in-all, Pears started 56 games for the Bills—40 at right tackle.
After finishing with the Bills, Pears signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He played one more season in the NFL as their starting right tackle.
In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills drafted two offensive tackles. The second-round pick, Cyrus Kouandjio, turned out to be a complete bust, and only started eight games in his career. The seventh-round pick, a talented-but-troubled Henderson, ended up earning a starting role as a rookie.
Henderson started a full 16 games that year, and ten games in 2015 as well. After that year, two key problems came up. First, Henderson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease—a debilitating digestive illness that caused him to lose nearly 40 pounds. Second, while treating his disease, Henderson failed the NFL’s drug-testing program (which he was already in due to his failed drug tests in college). Between the illness and suspensions, Henderson missed essentially the entire 2016 season, as well as half the 2017 season.
After his rookie contract played out, Henderson signed with the Houston Texans, being a back-of-the-roster player for parts of the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Mills was the reason Henderson couldn’t take back his starting job, though he spent four years as the player Bills fans would watch and wonder: “Why haven’t we tried to upgrade this guy?” Through four seasons of Rex Ryan and Sean McDermott, Mills was a constant. He appeared in 58 games and started 53, including three consecutive seasons from 2016 to 2018. Mills was not a great run blocker, and wasn’t known for skill in pass protection either—but he started more games at the position than any other player on this list.
In 2019, Mills signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. He started two games, but landed on injured reserve.
I’m reaching to even include Ford on this list. In 2019, his rookie season, Ford started 15 games—but only played 69% of snaps on offense. The Bills used him in a timeshare with veteran Ty Nsekhe, one which did not abate except when Nsekhe was dealing with an ankle injury. Even when he did play, Ford was inconsistent, struggling in pass protection against speed rushers. In my opinion, Ford should be a candidate for the team of the 2020s, not the previous decade. But in a nod to four other members of the 2019 offensive line who were eligible, Ford’s name will qualify by default.
Those are your candidates, now it’s your turn: pick the best one for our All-Decade team!
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Right tackle
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