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Buffalo Bills 53-man roster projection: final 2021 edition

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills have until Tuesday to cut their roster down to 53 players. Here is my final projection following the preseason finale.

There are some roster shenanigans at play here, with a few back-end roster veterans who could be released and then re-signed later in the week. If a player goes on IR before the final roster, they are done for the year. If they make the initial roster then go to IR, they can return in as little as three weeks. The Bills have done that with players like Dean Marlowe in the past so they can sneak a young player onto the initial 53-man roster before placing him on injured reserve. I have 54 names on this final roster, but Taiwan Jones and Jacob Hollister are perfect names for this type of roster move.

We listed players in alphabetical order in the roster list but there is a projected depth chart at the bottom. Free-agent signings are marked with an asterisk while NFL Draft picks are marked with a plus sign and UDFAs are marked with a double plus sign.

Quarterback (2)

Josh Allen
Mitch Trubisky*

Cut: Jake Fromm (trade if possible), Davis Webb
Change from previous: None

The Bills have Trubisky as the primary backup to Allen with Fromm and Webb both on the practice squad. With Allen presumably fully vaccinated and not at risk of a mandatory quarantine, they don’t need a third QB.

Running Back (5)

Matt Breida*
Reggie Gilliam
Taiwan Jones
Zack Moss
Devin Singletary

Cuts: Christian Wade, Kerrith Whyte*, Antonio Williams
Change from previous: none

Moss and Singletary may have to work hard to keep Breida off the field this year. Jones is a special teams roster spot and could be cut on the initial 53-man roster and re-signed later in the week after the Bills place another player on short-term injured reserve.

Wide Receiver (7)

Cole Beasley
Gabriel Davis
Stefon Diggs
Jake Kumerow
Isaiah McKenzie
Emmanuel Sanders*
Marquez Stevenson+

Cut: Tanner Gentry, Brandon Powell*, Steven Sims*
Injured reserve: Isaiah Hodgins, Duke Williams
Changes from previous: Marquez Stevenson back on

Hodgins is a player I didn’t want to cut, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to make an impact. Maybe they keep him on the initial roster before placing him on injured reserve so he can return. That move looks likely for McKenzie, who is potentially dealing with a multi-week injury right now. Stevenson was on my offseason projection, then off at the start of the preseason, but the injury to McKenzie means they need a punt returner. His concussion in the preseason finale complicates things. Powell could be a priority practice squader as a potential Week 1 call up as a punt returner.

Tight end (2)

Jacob Hollister*
Dawson Knox

Cut: Nate Becker, Quintin Morris*
Injured reserve: Tommy Sweeney
Change from previous: Sweeney to IR

Sweeney’s foot injury is just another example of the snake-bit former seventh rounder’s bad luck. I’m not anticipating the Bills thinking he is valuable enough to employ roster shenanigans to get him to short-term injured reserve. This is a position where they may bring in someone from the outside on cutdown day. Hollister is a potential veteran cut for the initial 53-man roster who could be re-signed quickly after another player goes on injured reserve.

Offensive tackle (4)

Spencer Brown+
Tommy Doyle+
Dion Dawkins
Daryl Williams

Cut: Bobby Hart*
Change from previous: none

Brown has been working at left tackle with Dion Dawkins sidelined and floated back to the right side after Dawkins returned. His injury is not considered serious. I had wanted them to try and trade Hart, but they couldn’t get a bag of footballs for him at this point.

Interior OL (5)

Ryan Bates
Ike Boettger
Jon Feliciano
Cody Ford
Mitch Morse

Cut: Jordan Devey, Jamil Douglas*, Jack Anderson+
Injured reserve: Forrest Lamp*
Changes from previous: none

A draft pick released, but I don’t see why they would keep ten offensive linemen and Anderson hasn’t been in the top five. Morse has been unquestioned while Boettger, Ford, and Feliciano have been rotating. I was thinking Boettger could be the surprise cut but then he rotated with the starters for two series in the preseason finale. Bates has been solid in camp, but we’ll have to see what his injury was from the Green Bay Packers game.

Defensive Tackle (5)

Vernon Butler
Star Lotulelei
Ed Oliver
Harrison Phillips
Justin Zimmer

Cut: None
Injured reserve: Brandin Bryant, Treyvon Hester*
Change from previous: Zimmer & Phillips makes the team

Justin Zimmer played like a man with his hair on fire and the general manager and coaching staff have talked him up like no other. Last time, Phillips was the last man off my roster but he’s had a strong camp. He is hurt right now and is another great candidate to make the 53 then immediately go on IR to be brought back later. While folks have wanted Vernon Butler gone, with Phillips hurt, I don’t see that as a legitimate possibility unless a team makes a trade offer and they could get by until Phillips comes back.

Defensive End (6)

Carlos Basham, Jr.+
A.J. Epenesa
Jerry Hughes
Darryl Johnson Jr.
Efe Obada*
Greg Rousseau+

Trade: Mario Addison
Cut: Mike Love
Injured reserve: Treyvon Hester*
Change from previous: Mario Addison traded

I think the Bills can get a draft pick back for Mario Addison or Efe Obada, and I anticipate one of them being moved before Tuesday. I’d prefer to keep Obada as he’s cheaper. I kept Darryl Johnson as a special teamer, stealing a spot from the linebacker group. I’ve had the Bills keeping seven DEs with the ability of several to kick inside and play DT, but the strong play from the tackles made one of the ends expendable. Also making the veteran DE expendable has been the impressive performance of first-round rookie Greg Rousseau. He’s a guy I didn’t expect would have an impact until the end of the year, if at all, but he and A.J. Epenesa have flashed in the preseason.

Linebacker (5)

Tremaine Edmunds
A.J. Klein
Tyler Matakevich
Matt Milano
Andre Smith

Cut: Tyrel Dodson, Marquel Lee*, Tyrell Adams*, Joe Giles-Harris, Mike Bell
Change from previous: Dodson out

The Bills only kept six linebackers a year ago, so several NFL-caliber players are going to be off the list at five. I want to find a place for Dodson, but Smith’s special teams usage and great preseason play gives him the roster nod here. Instead, Dodson finds a place as a practice squad call up—If he makes it through waivers.

Cornerback (6)

Dane Jackson
Taron Johnson
Cam Lewis
Siran Neal
Levi Wallace
Tre’Davious White

Cut: Rachad Wildgoose Jr.+, Nick McCloud++, Olaijah Griffin++
Change from previous: Cam Lewis makes the team

Cam Lewis is a sneaky 53rd man on the roster, knocking out a draft pick in Wildgoose. He can play inside and outside, and ultimately that’s what gave him the nod. They’ve exposed him to waivers before and he went unclaimed, so maybe they’ll try that again and roll with five corners as they’ve done in the past. With injuries to Wallace, Jackson, and Johnson right now, they shouldn’t mess around. When those guys are healthy again, Lewis could be the cut to bring back one of those short-term IR guys.

Safety (4)

Damar Hamlin+
Micah Hyde
Jaquan Johnson
Jordan Poyer

Cut: Josh Thomas, Tariq Thompson++
Change from previous: none

Hamlin moves into the developmental safety role over former UDFA Thomas, but it was close, and Thomas will end up on the practice squad again. If Johnson is expected to be out multiple weeks with his injury, he’s another player they could carry for a few days before placing on injured reserve and re-signing a veteran cut.

Specialists (3)

K Tyler Bass
LS Reid Ferguson
P Matt Haack*

Change from previous: none

Write it in ink.

Here is the depth chart provided by the team prior to the opener:

2021 Buffalo Bills Offseason Depth Chart

Position Starter Backup Reserve
Position Starter Backup Reserve
QB Josh Allen Mitchell Trubisky*
RB1 Zack Moss Matt Breida* Taiwan Jones
RB2 Devin Singletary
FB Reggie Gilliam
WR1 Stefon Diggs Jake Kumerow Marquez Stevenson+
WR2 Emmanuel Sanders* Gabriel Davis
SWR Cole Beasley Isaiah McKenzie
TE Dawson Knox Tommy Sweeney
LT Dion Dawkins Spencer Brown+
LG Jon Feliciano
C Mitch Morse Ryan Bates
RG Cody Ford Ike Boettger
RT Daryl Williams Tommy Doyle+
LE Mario Addison Greg Rousseau+ Efe Obada*
NT Star Lotulelei Vernon Butler Harrison Phillips
DT Ed Oliver Justin Zimmer
RE Jerry Hughes A.J. Epenesa Carlos Basham+
MLB Tremaine Edmunds A.J. Klein Tyler Matakevich
WLB Matt Milano Tyrel Dodson Andre Smith
CB Tre'Davious White
FS Jordan Poyer Damar Hamlin+
SS Micah Hyde Jaquan Johnson
NB Taron Johnson Siran Neal
CB Levi Wallace Dane Jackson
K Tyler Bass
P Matt Haack*
KR/PR Isaiah McKenzie Marquez Stevenson+