The Buffalo Bills return all 11 of their starters on defense from 2020, and the list really extends down to 12 if you consider the third linebacker (A.J. Klein) and the nickel corner (Taron Johnson) as interchangeable in the lineup. A third player, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, was slated to start prior to opting out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He returns as well.
With that in mind, most, if not all, of the new additions to the roster are more likely battling for time as rotational players or backups rather than as starters. This is especially true of the team’s rookie class. Playing time is even more difficult to come by at certain positions due to the sheer talent level of the players expected to start.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile a rookie safety trying to prove that he belongs on the roster.
Name: Damar Hamlin
Height/Weight: 6’ 200 lbs
Age: 23 (24 on 3/24/2022)
Experience/Draft: R; selected by Buffalo in the sixth round (No. 212 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft
Acquired: Sixth-round choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Hamlin enters year one of his standard four-year rookie contract, a pact worth a total of $3,640,476. For the 2021 season, Hamlin carries a cap hit of $700,119 if he makes the final roster. The Bills are on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $160,476 if he’s released.
2020 Recap: Hamlin had a strong senior season at Pitt, starting all ten games he played while leading the Panthers in tackles (67) and pass breakups (7). Hamlin added 3.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions to his total. For his efforts, he was named Second-Team All-ACC at his position. He played in the Senior Bowl, as well, and he made a gorgeous interception on a pass intended for Marquez Stevenson, whom the Bills also drafted in the sixth round this year.
Positional outlook: Hamlin is fighting for the right to back up starters Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. The only safety on the current roster with NFL game experience other than the two starters is Jaquan Johnson. Josh Thomas and Tariq Thompson are the other safeties on the roster.
2021 Offseason: Hamlin is healthy and attending OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Hamlin is a solid overall prospect who may not develop into a starter, but he has the potential to help out as a solid backup and special teams contributor this year and beyond. The good news is that Buffalo doesn’t need him to start, as Poyer and Hyde are under contract through the 2022 and 2023 seasons, respectively. Hamlin is a willing tackler who has the ability to come in and help in the third phase of the game right away. He’s squarely “on the bubble,” but he’s someone I expect will make the roster come September.