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Injury analysis: new Buffalo Bills DTs Justin Zimmer, Tanzel Smart

What injury baggage do they bring to the team?

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills, apparently not satisfied with the depth at defensive tackle, signed DTs Justin Zimmer and Tanzel Smart this weekend. This is in response to the recent opt-out of DT Star Lotulelei and possible insurance as DT Harrison Phillips continues to work back into form from his ACL tear last season. They also released Niles Smart with an injury designation in a related move. Today’s post will assess for any injury concerns and chances in making the roster.

Justin Zimmer

Injury History


UDFA out of Ferris State, no known injuries during his four years, appearing in 42 games. Following the draft, he signed with the Bills before getting cut as a training camp casualty. Ended the season with the New Orleans Saints practice squad. No publicly reported injuries.


Waived by the Saints following training camp, he went to the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes practice squad before appearing in the regular-season finale. No publicly reported injuries.


Found his way to the Atlanta Falcons, making the team out of training camp, appearing in one game before getting cut in October and re-signed to the practice squad. No publicly reported injuries.


Cut by the Falcons out of training camp, spent nearly the entire season out of football before getting signed by the Cleveland Browns in December, appearing in two games. No publicly reported injuries.


Spent the offseason with the Browns before getting waived with a non-football injury designation on July 31st. All major news outlets identify the injury as undisclosed, and there aren’t any clues to identify what he was dealing with considering it’s a Non-Football Injury.

Bills Injury Impact

Zimmer seems like a relatively healthy player, though due to a lack of experience. Impossible to say how this NFI designation will impact his ability to participate in training camp. He passed his physical but a casualty of Zimmer’s signing was the release of DT Niles Scott. He was waived/injured, which could be due to a training injury or that his foot from his time with the Cincinnati Bengals was still giving him problems.

There is a possibility that Zimmer re-aggravates his injury and becomes simply a training camp body. But if he stays healthy, he could find his way onto the Bills’ roster in some capacity, likely a practice squad position. The next two weeks will be vital to determine how the roster will shake out for the 2020 season.

Tanzel Smart

Injury History

Dating back to college, Smart has not suffered any publicly reported injuries. He appeared in 48 games during his time at Tulane before getting drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 as a sixth-round draft pick. He has appeared in 31 games over three seasons in a mostly reserve role.

Bills Injury Impact

While Smart has shown the ability to stay healthy, he has not shown the consistency needed to play on a regular basis. He could find himself with the Bills in some capacity this season as an insurance option when injuries occur, but is far from a guarantee. Fortunately, Smart has the ability to make a case for himself during padded practices over the next two weeks in order to find a home this season.