The Buffalo Bills brought over a quality center to help quarterback Josh Allen in 2019, figuring that a veteran with experience calling NFL blitz schemes could help the then-second-year quarterback to identify pressure. The team made that center the highest-paid at his position in the league, and while his deal has since been eclipsed, Buffalo still has one of the league’s richest interior offensive linemen.
A troubling injury history and a curious lineup decision from 2020 left some wondering if that center had played his last game for Buffalo when the Bills lost to his old team, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the AFC Championship Game last January. However, he took a $3 million pay cut to stay with the Bills for at least one more year.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile Buffalo’s highly paid center.
Name: Mitch Morse
Height/Weight: 6’6” 305 lbs
Age: 29 (30 on 4/29/2022)
Experience/Draft: 7; selected by Kansas City in the second round (No. 49 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/13/2019
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Morse enters the third year of his four-year contract, a deal that totaled $44.5 million overall. For the 2021 season, Morse carries a cap hit of $8,327,941. If the Bills release him or trade him, they’re on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $10.625 million.
2020 Recap: Morse started and played in 14 games, though he did suffer the fifth concussion of his career during Buffalo’s Week 7 victory over the New England Patriots. He missed the following week’s game, a 44-34 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, due to the concussion. He cleared protocol prior to Buffalo’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and he was active for the game, but Morse did not start and did not play in the game. Afterward, head coach Sean McDermott was evasive as to why Morse sat, calling it a coach’s decision. In the weeks leading up to the Bills’ contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, McDermott merely said that Morse was “in the mix” to start—a strange thing to say about your prized free-agent acquisition along the offensive line from just a year prior. However, Morse played in and started all of Buffalo’s remaining games. He was called for six penalties on the year and he allowed one sack.
Positional outlook: Morse is the only true center on the roster, though the Bills do have other options at the position. Jon Feliciano and Ryan Bates are the two who immediately come to mind.
2021 Offseason: Morse is healthy and he participated in OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Barring another concussion or something strange, Morse’s contract structure indicates that he should be Buffalo’s starting center once again in 2021. The Bills seem to like an interior line of Ike Boettger and Cody Ford at guard with Feliciano at center, though, so the team could eat the cap hit if they can trade Morse somewhere else. I don’t think that would be likely or in the club’s best interests, however, as it’s pretty clear that Morse is the team’s top option at the pivot, especially in pass protection. Morse’s dead-cap number falls from over $10 million if he’s released this year to just over $3 million if he’s released prior to next season, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this is his final season with the Bills unless he agrees to an extension that lessens his 2022 cap number. In any event, the Bills have one of the league’s top pass protectors at center for one of the league’s best young quarterbacks in one of the league’s best passing offenses. It’s a win-win-win scenario.