Beginning in 2011, the Buffalo Bills started Eric Wood at center. This was a given each year, as the Bills kept Wood at the pivot through the 2017 season. Prior to the start of the 2018 season, however, Wood had to retire due to a neck condition discovered during his postseason exit physical.
What had been one of the most solid positions on Buffalo’s roster became one that was a mess in 2018, as the team went through two below-average centers in Russell Bodine and Ryan Groy. Making matters more difficult, the team also had a rookie quarterback trying to learn the ropes of the NFL.
The Bills and general manager Brandon Beane made the offensive line a priority following that disastrous 2018 season, and the “center”piece of their offseason acquisitions was a big-ticket center with some experience breaking in a young quarterback. In today’s installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile that center.
Name: Mitch Morse
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 305 lbs.
Age: 28 (29 on 4/21/2021)
Experience/Draft: 6; selected in the second round (No. 49 overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft
Acquired: Signed as free agent on 3/14/19
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Morse signed a record-setting contract in the spring of 2019, inking a four-year deal worth a total of $44.5 million. For the 2020 season, Morse owns the highest salary-cap hit on Buffalo’s roster at $11.625 million. Thanks to the contract structure, this is the highest cap hit for Morse under the current deal—it drops to $10.375 million next year before coming back up to $11.25 million in 2022.
2019 Recap: Morse made 16 starts for only the second time in his professional career last year, although he did suffer a few injuries that caused him to miss some time. He was fourth among Bills offensive linemen in total snaps, ahead of the right tackle platoon of Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe. Buffalo’s offense improved greatly last season as compared to the 2018 vintage, and while the offensive line had quite a bit to do with that, much more credit goes to the improvements at wide receiver and of Josh Allen himself. Morse was a significant help in setting protections for Allen, and while he wasn’t the world-beater his contract would suggest, he was a strong solidifying presence in the middle of the line. He did commit a career-high nine penalties last year, though in somewhat of an oddity, six of the nine penalties were either declined or offsetting penalties.
Positional outlook: Morse is the man at center. The players who are most likely to play center are Jon Feliciano, who slid over from his job as the starting right guard when Morse was injured, and Spencer Long, who was used as the right guard in Feliciano’s stead. Ryan Bates has experience at center, and the Bills experimented a bit with Ike Boettger there last year, as well. Evan Boehm has played guard in the NFL, but he was actually a center in college, where he started at Missouri even when Morse was on the team playing tackle. Overall, the Bills have plenty of options if something were to happen.
2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report.
2020 Season outlook: Barring something crazy, like some suspensions or injuries, Morse will be the starting center yet again for the Bills. Morse may not have lived up to the money he received in the eyes of some, but his steady performance was a tremendous help for a young offense. His presence will only help that unit to grow.