As the old saying goes, there are but three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Buffalo Bills signing an aged veteran cornerback to compete for a starting job. While Benjamin Franklin may have accurately summed up life in the new American land with the real portion of that quote, Rumblers far more observant than I can certainly take note of the invented portion’s truth over the last few years.
In 2018, 2019, and 2020, the Bills signed a veteran to compete for a starting job across from Tre’Davious White. While those veterans contributed (well, almost all of them did, at least), they never quite wrestled the starting mantle away from the undrafted free-agent signee who was on the roster prior to their arrival.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile the presumptive starter at CB2—a player who has fended off challenges at every stop along his football journey.
Name: Levi Wallace
Height/Weight: 6’ 179 lbs
Age: 26 (27 on 6/12/2022)
Experience/Draft: 4; signed with Buffalo as UDFA following the 2018 NFL Draft
Acquired: UDFA signing on 5/1/2018
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Wallace signed a one-year contract in the offseason, a pact that will pay him a total of $1,676,460 overall. If Buffalo releases him, they’ll be on the hook for a $1 million dead-cap charge.
2020 Recap: Wallace fought off a challenge from veteran Josh Norman in order to retain his starting gig across from Tre’Davious White. The third-year pro started 12 games, missing some time due to an ankle injury and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wallace was second on the Bills with eight pass breakups, and he tied for second on the team with two interceptions. He had 48 tackles, one tackle for a loss, and one quarterback hit. In the playoffs, Wallace forced a fumble against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round and he notched a sack of Lamar Jackson against the Baltimore Ravens the following week. While Wallace started all three of Buffalo’s playoff games, he did not play more than 56 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in any of the three games, splitting time fairly evenly with Norman.
Positional outlook: The Bills did not sign a veteran presence to compete with Wallace this summer, so he enters the camp portion of our program as the presumed starter at CB2. His greatest competition comes in the form of second-year man Dane Jackson. Olaijah Griffin, Nick McCloud, and Rachad Wildgoose Jr. all can play on the outside opposite Tre’Davious White, while Siran Neal, Cam Lewis, and Taron Johnson all remain primarily in the slot.
2021 Offseason: Wallace is healthy and he attended OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: The Wallace-Jackson battle should be a good one this summer, and while I’ve never been the President of the Levi Wallace Fan Club, he’s grown on me over the years as he’s continued to improve. I expect that Wallace will be the starter, but I don’t see him playing a huge chunk of the snaps, either. Wallace still struggles in man coverage, which is something Jackson excels at, so a 60-40 split depending on scheme and opponent is more realistic. If Wallace is an “A” zone defender, he’s a “C-” man defender, so having someone like Jackson who is a bit more balanced gives the Bills the ability to hide their intentions pre-snap, thereby making their defense that much more effective. This much is certain: Wallace is used to nerds like me doubting him, and he’s also used to proving all of us wrong. The kid fights hard and has worked himself into a viable starter at the highest level. He doesn’t need a veteran safety net anymore, as Wallace himself has evolved into the veteran safety net across from Tre’Davious White.