The Buffalo Bills under head coach Sean McDermott have placed a high priority on ensuring that the kick coverage units are well stocked with talented players. McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have given the Bills’ special teams coaches, first Danny Crossman and now Heath Farwell, plenty of players to work with during their tenure. While some teams use a combination of rookies and veteran hangers-on to populate the “third unit,” the Bills have fortified it with special teams specialists.
As more contract decisions regarding the top-end players on the roster start to arise, the Bills will have to tighten the belt in other areas in order to make ends meet. This will absolutely lead to some changes throughout the roster, and the first place most fans of the team will want to start is with those special teams specialists.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile a running-back-in-name-only who serves as one of the Bills’ core special teams players.
Name: Taiwan Jones
Height/Weight: 6’ 195 lbs
Age: 32 (33 on 7/26/2021)
Experience/Draft: 11; selected by the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders in the fourth round (No. 125 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
College: Eastern Washington
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 3/30/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jones re-signed (or re-re-signed, I suppose, since this is his second stint with the team) this offseason, inking a one-year contract worth a total of $1,667,647. The Bills can release Jones, but at a price—they’ll be responsible for a $700,000 dead-cap charge, which is the total they guaranteed him at signing. If Jones is on the Week 1 roster, then his entire base salary ($1.1 million) becomes guaranteed since he is a vested veteran.
2020 Recap: Jones began his second stint in Orchard Park much the same way he began his first one: He was a stalwart on special teams who saw little to no action on offense. In fact, Jones played on just four offensive snaps this season, all of which came against the Denver Broncos when the Bills were clearly trying to set an NFL record for having the most different receivers catch a touchdown pass. Josh Allen targeted Jones twice, but he couldn’t make either grab. As for his real role, Jones made six special teams tackles during the regular season. In the playoffs, he recovered a punt that Mecole Hardman had fumbled in the AFC Championship Game, setting up a three-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Dawson Knox that gave the Bills a brief 9-0 lead in the first quarter.
Positional outlook: Jones is the highest-paid player at his positional group, and he also has the highest dead-cap figure among all of Buffalo’s running backs. He’ll be competing for roster space with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida, Antonio Williams, and Christian Wade.
2021 Offseason: Jones is healthy, but he did not attend Buffalo’s voluntary OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: If this were playing old-school Madden franchise mode, Jones would be among the first players I released in finalizing the roster. The Bills have three players in Singletary, Moss, and Breida who are clearly better options on offense, and a fourth in Williams who has greater potential than Jones in that phase of the game. However, this isn’t Madden, and it’s the Beane and McDermott show in terms of roster construction. There’s a chance that Jones is released, but I won’t hold my breath. I think he ends up one of four running backs kept on the roster.