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91 players in 91 days: Running back T.J. Yeldon

Is he the third-down back? Is he a healthy scratch? Is he trade bait? Your guess is as good as ours

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

While not as drastic as the changes made to the receiving corps, the Buffalo Bills have made plenty of moves to change their running back room over the last two seasons. Heading into the 2019 preseason, Buffalo had the oldest one-two combo of running backs in the NFL, as their depth chart was topped by LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore.

Now, both of those players are gone, and the Bills have flipped the “old running back” group for a much younger pair. One veteran from the 2019 running back room does remain, however.

In today’s edition of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile that veteran running back, a receiving specialist who could be anything from a game-day mainstay to an offseason afterthought in 2020.

Name: T.J. Yeldon
Number: 22
Position: RB
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 223 lbs.
Age: 26 (27 on 10/3/2020)
Experience/Draft: 6; selected in the second round (No. 36 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars
College: Alabama
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 4/22/19

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Yeldon enters the final year of the two-year contract he signed with Buffalo last year. In total, the contract is worth $3.2 million. Yeldon carries a cap hit of $1.9 million if he makes the 53-man roster this year, and the Bills are on the hook for a $250,000 dead-cap charge if he’s released or traded. As a vested veteran, Yeldon’s whole salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster for Week 1.

2019 Recap: More often than not, Yeldon was a healthy scratch last season, as the Bills decided to go with Gore and rookie Devin Singletary at the top of the depth chart. Yeldon was active in Buffalo’s first two games, though he only played a combined five snaps and did not touch the football. After Singletary pulled his hamstring during Buffalo’s Week 2 victory over the New York Giants, Yeldon saw an increased snap share over the ensuing three games. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3, Yeldon carried the ball eight times for 30 yards, adding two catches for 19 yards on three targets. However, he lost a fumble deep in Bengals territory, killing a drive and nearly preventing Buffalo from winning the game. The following week, Yeldon saw his highest snap share (44 snaps; 56%) of the year in the 16-10 loss to the New England Patriots. Yeldon caught four passes on four targets for 68 yards in that game. The following week, he played 31 snaps against the Tennessee Titans, carrying twice for 15 yards and adding four more receptions for 13 yards. Following their bye, Buffalo re-signed special teams ace Senorise Perry, who was released with an injury settlement in the preseason. Perry was active over Yeldon until Week 17 against the New York Jets. For the season, Yeldon finished fourth on the Bills in rushing yards (63), sixth in receptions (13; tied with Gore), and seventh in receiving yards (124) despite only appearing in six games.

Positional outlook: While Gore and Perry are gone, their roles have been filled by rookie Zack Moss and veteran Taiwan Jones. Singletary returns along with Christian Wade, and the Bills added undrafted rookie Antonio Williams, as well.

2020 Offseason: Yeldon’s name has come up often, with both head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane speaking highly of him at different points.

2020 Season outlook: Yeldon is a plus route runner and receiver out of the backfield, so he can only make the running back group better. There aren’t going to be many snaps or touches to go around with a budding star in Singletary and a hammer in Moss, but Yeldon does more for the offense than someone like Jones, whose only role should be on special teams, or a fourth tight end would do. At worst, I’d expect that Yeldon will remain on the roster and reprise his role as the “healthy scratch” unless there’s an injury.