For the last few years, the Buffalo Bills have had one of the best safety tandems in the league. The top backup for much of that time has been Dean Marlowe, a veteran player who came to Buffalo by way of the Carolina Panthers along with head coach Sean McDermott.
Now that Marlowe has moved on, the Bills have a big role to fill behind starters Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. While it shouldn’t be a big role in terms of playing time, it’s big in the sense that someone has a chance to earn some time on the field that otherwise would have gone to Marlowe.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one of the young players vying for that top backup role.
Name: Josh Thomas
Height/Weight: 6’ 205 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 11/19/2021)
Experience/Draft: 1; signed with Buffalo as a UDFA following the 2020 NFL Draft
College: Appalachian State
Acquired: UDFA signing
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Thomas signed a two-year reserve/futures contract with Buffalo last winter, a pact worth a total of $1.485 million. In 2021, Thomas is set to carry a salary cap hit of $660,000 if he makes the final roster. He can be released and the Bills will not have a dead-cap charge this season.
2020 Recap: Thomas joined the Bills following the draft, but he was released at final cut-downs. He was signed to the practice squad immediately thereafter, and he remained on the practice squad for the duration of the season. He was elevated to the active roster twice—Week 8 against the New England Patriots and Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals—and he appeared in each game. Against the Patriots, he played 14 special teams snaps and made a tackle. Against Arizona, he only appeared on one special teams snap. That constitutes the entirety of his rookie season in terms of play time and statistics.
Positional outlook: Thomas is one of six safeties on the roster. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde will start, barring injury or something crazy, so Thomas is fighting for a reserve spot with Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson, and Tariq Thompson.
2021 Offseason: Thomas is healthy and he participated in OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Thomas is a solid athlete who had a good career in college. With a year in the system, he might have an early leg up on a player like Hamlin or Thompson, though the team drafted Hamlin in the seventh round this year, so that could show that it’s actually the rookie who has a shot at the fourth safety spot. I imagine that Johnson is going to make the final roster, so the battle for that hypothetical last spot should come down to Thomas, Hamlin, and Thompson. Thomas will have to show up in the preseason to prove that he belongs come September.