The Buffalo Bills have set their initial 53 man roster. The word “initial” is very important there. Over the next few days, a lot of changes could be made to the roster. Players like Isaiah McKenzie and Harrison Phillips appear likely to head to injured reserve (heading there after making the initial 53 means they can be designated for return) and players like Reid Ferguson seem obvious candidates to fill those spots back on the roster.
But the Bills could potentially move five or more players to injured reserve. Along with Phillips and McKenzie, Marquez Stevenson, Tommy Sweeney, and Jaquon Johnson could also find themselves on the injured list. The Bills could bring back Cam Lewis (who they cut twice in 2020) or Josh Thomas assuming they clear waivers, but could also choose to fill one or more of those potential openings with players cut by other teams. It’s very rare, but as a thought experiment, where could they look?
Returner - Travis Benjamin
If Marquez Stevenson and Isaiah McKenzie are BOTH in danger of missing Week 1, Steven Sims (who just finished a cup of coffee on the Bills) could be brought back as a steady hand in the return game, but if Buffalo looked to outside the organization, a player like Travis Benjamin makes sense. Cut by the San Francisco 49ers and not subject to waivers, the Bills could offer Benjamin immediate playing time and an opportunity to impress in the absence of their usual returners. Benjamin has returned 109 regular-season punts in his career along with 19 kicks. He’s been a special teams player of the week four times and is second in the NFL among active players with 10.9 yards per punt return. You could do a lot worse to get by while McKenzie and Stevenson recover.
Cornerback - Jimmy Moreland
The key here is that Moreland, like the released Cam Lewis, is primarily a slot corner but has some experience outside. Moreland allowed a passer rating of 81.8 into his coverage in 2020 and played a lot of snaps for a good Washington Football Team defense. A hedge against a potential Taron Johnson slump who’s played reasonably in the NFL at that position before is a boon. The thing that could stop head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane from being interested is that Moreland isn’t known as being a reliable tackler, which is so important for a defense that overwhelmingly plays nickel.
Safety - Karl Joseph
The Bills have a lot of youth at backup safety. Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin are currently on the roster, but with Johnson’s injury, he could be headed to IR. Maybe Josh Thomas comes back as mentioned above. If McDermott and Beane want to go in a more veteran direction after losing stalwart Dean Marlowe to the Detroit Lions this offseason, former Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns safety Karl Joseph might make sense. He carries with him the versatility the Bills love in their safeties, playing over 200 snaps in both the box and deep in 2020 as well as over 100 special teams snaps. He’s been a sound tackler and could provide some insurance in the safety spot given Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde’s presence on the far side of 30.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” and “Food for Thought” every week on Buffalo Rumblings!