The Buffalo Bills have revamped their defensive line numerous times over the last five years. General manager Brandon Beane has given the squad plenty of options when it comes to pass rushers, as he has allocated draft capital and financial resources to improve the defensive line.
Not all of these moves have panned out, but that doesn’t mean that all of his efforts have gone for naught. Beane’s constant tinkering has allowed the team to develop some unheralded players over the years. Whether those players have come far enough to warrant a spot on the 2021 roster, though, is up for debate.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one such young player—a developmental prospect whose roster spot is nowhere near a guarantee this fall.
Name: Darryl Johnson Jr.
Height/Weight: 6’6” 262 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 4/4/2022)
Experience/Draft: 3; selected by Buffalo in the seventh round (No. 225 overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft
College: North Carolina A&T
Acquired: Seventh-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Johnson enters the third year of his rookie deal, a four-year pact worth a total of $2,618,088. For the 2021 season, Johnson carries a salary cap hit of $874,522. The Bills will be responsible for a dead-cap charge of $49,044 if he’s released.
2020 Recap: Johnson played the same number of snaps on defense last year as he did in his rookie year—225—and he accrued nearly the same statistical output, as well. As a rookie, he notched 15 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, two quarterback hits, and one sack; last season, he made 14 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hits, and one sack in 15 games. He was once again a core special teams player, as his 258 snaps in that phase of the game trailed only Siran Neal and Tyler Matakevich.
Positional outlook: Johnson finds himself in a suddenly crowded defensive end group that is stockpiled with high draft picks and pricey veterans. Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, and A.J. Epenesa all return from last year, and the Bills added Efe Obada via free agency before drafting Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. with their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Mike Love is the only other defensive end on the current roster.
2021 Offseason: Johnson is healthy and he attended OTAs. He’s also apparently still growing, as this unfortunately worded Buffalo News headline would suggest.
2021 Season outlook: I love Darryl Johnson. Watching this behemoth bear down on kick returners throughout his tenure here has been one of my favorite things about this club. Imagine being the guy returning the kick and seeing a defensive end who runs like that coming at you? It would be terrifying. However, given the team’s obvious desire to improve on defense, I find it hard to believe that Johnson will make the final roster this year. Addison and Hughes should start, and the highly drafted trio of Epenesa, Rousseau, and Basham are going to make the squad. Obada was signed to bolster the pass rush, something that Johnson hasn’t been able to do in limited opportunities thus far in his young career. If the Bills can sneak him on to the practice squad, it would be a coup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “Bam” is on another roster in 2021.