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91 players in 91 days: Cornerback Dane Jackson

Buffalo’s seventh-round draft choice faces an uphill battle to make the roster

NFL Combine - Day 6 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are loaded in the defensive secondary. Three out of their four starters (well, three out of five if you consider the nickel defense the “true base” defense) are legitimately among the top players at their position leaguewide. That’s not to knock the other two, as they are solid players in their own right; however, they aren’t at the level of Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde.

In such a deep positional group, it’s difficult for younger players to claw their way onto a roster, as the veterans there are already established (and often have far more guaranteed money in their contracts). At corner, the Bills have many talented players vying for a few open roster spots.

In today’s edition of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile one of those young corners trying to make the roster.

Name: Dane Jackson
Number: 30
Position: CB
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 lbs.
Age: 23 (24 on 11/29/2020)
Experience/Draft: R; selected in the seventh round (No. 239 overall) by Buffalo in the 2020 NFL Draft
College: Pittsburgh
Acquired: Seventh-round draft choice

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jackson’s rookie deal is a four-year contract, standard for draft choices, that totals $3,376,306 overall. Of that total, Jackson’s contract has $81,306 guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. For the 2020 season, Jackson carries a cap hit of $630,326 if he makes the final roster. Buffalo is on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $81,306, the total of his signing bonus, if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster this year.

2019 Recap: As a senior, Jackson made 13 starts for the Panthers (no wonder why Buffalo drafted him!), and he was solid throughout the year. He led Pitt in pass breakups, making either 12 or 13, depending on what part of the college’s official stat log you trust. Jackson was in on 43 tackles, including three for a loss, and he also notched half a sack. He had one interception on the year, bringing his collegiate total to four. Jackson was named Second-Team All-ACC and he was a team captain. He also was asked to play in the Senior Bowl, though he did not record any statistics in the game.

Positional outlook: Jackson joins a loaded positional group headed by All-Pro Tre’Davious White—a lock to start at one corner position. Levi Wallace is the incumbent starter, and Buffalo signed a pair of veteran free agents with experience in head coach Sean McDermott’s system to compete with him—Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines—so unless something happens, it’s assumed that those four will be among the team’s top corners. Taron Johnson is the leading slot corner, though safety Siran Neal played there as well last year. Cam Lewis and Ike Brown round out the cornerback depth chart.

2020 Offseason: Check out this profile from ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques. It’s a great read about Jackson’s youth and the road he’s taken to the NFL.

2020 Season outlook: At first glance, it seems that Jackson has little chance to make Buffalo’s roster; however, digging a little deeper, that’s not really the case. Two of the five veterans on the roster (Gaines and Johnson) are constantly injured, so it’s not unreasonable to think that one either is hurt during the preseason or the Bills decide to part ways with one—probably Gaines—this summer. And while Norman was an All-Pro in his final year with the Carolina Panthers (and McDermott as his coordinator), that was in 2015. He’ll turn 33 at the end of this season, and he’s out to prove that he has something left in the tank. Norman’s guarantees aren’t substantial enough for him to be an absolute lock on the final roster. If Jackson comes in and can play special teams while showing some promise as a defender, he has a chance—albeit a slight one—to make the team this year. His best bet is beating Gaines, but anything is possible in what’s sure to be a weird training camp and preseason.