Coming into the 2022 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills had a lot of questions at the tight end position. A pair of third-year players had failed to show definitively that they could be consistent, trustworthy weapons at the position, which led fans to hope for outside acquisitions to add firepower for quarterback Josh Allen.
When those acquisitions never came to fruition, one of Buffalo’s tight ends took that big leap from “guy who shows flashes of ability” to “guy who can cause damage for opposing teams.” With both of Buffalo’s top tight ends entering the final year of their rookie contract, it certainly was a good time for that young man to take the leap.
In our latest look at the state of the Buffalo Bills’ roster, we profile the tight end group.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; final year of four-year rookie contract ($2,745,545 cap hit; $205,545 dead cap if cut or traded)
Age: 25 (26 on 11/14/2022)
Playing time: 15 games (14 starts), 917 offensive snaps (76.54% of team total), 18 special teams snaps (4.15% of team total)
Key statistics: 71 targets, 49 receptions, 587 yards, 9 touchdowns
Entering the 2021 season, Dawson Knox had played in 27 regular-season games. He had 52 receptions for 652 yards and five touchdowns in those games. Expectations weren’t exactly high for Knox this year, but for most, it certainly seemed that it was the time to show the Bills’ brass that they had made the right move by keeping Knox atop the depth chart at the position. He did not disappoint, as he essentially equaled his career production in a little over half the time. Along the way, he set a franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end, breaking a record shared by Scott Chandler, Jay Riemersma, and Pete Metzelaars. He led the league in touchdown receptions by a tight end this year, tying Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, and Hunter Henry for the honor. Knox saw the fourth-most targets on the team, with only Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders seeing more looks. It was the breakout year that everyone hoped for, and it gives hope that the team has a long-term solution at a long-ignored position.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; final year of four-year rookie contract ($989,046 cap hit; $24,046 dead cap if cut or traded)
Age: 26 (27 on 7/1/2022)
Playing time: 13 games (3 starts), 267 offensive snaps (22.29% of team total), 1 special teams snap (.23% of team total)
Key statistics: 12 targets, 9 receptions, 44 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 fumble
Sweeney’s career has been marred by injury, as he’s already missed an entire season on injured reserve (due to a combination of a foot injury and myocarditis following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis). By the end of this year, he was a healthy scratch, as the Bills chose to go wide receiver-heavy on offense. With a new offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey, it’s possible that Sweeney will have a chance to earn his game jersey this year, but at this point, it’s unlikely that he’s anything more than a change-of-pace for Knox given the way the two 2019 draft choices have progressed in their careers.
Contract status for 2021: Signed reserve/futures deal on 1/24/2022 ($705,000 cap hit; $0 dead cap)
Age: 23 (24 on 1/21/2023)
Playing time: N/A
Key statistics: N/A
Morris spent the year on Buffalo’s practice squad. He wasn’t called up when the team needed bodies at the position, as the Bills chose to elevate Kahale Warring for one game and three offensive snaps in Week 8.
Buffalo is sure to add depth here, as they can’t go through an entire offseason and training camp with just three tight ends. Even if you count fullback Reggie Gilliam as a hybrid, the Bills typically go with six tight ends throughout the summer months. Expect some low-end moves like adding undrafted rookies as camp fodder. There is an outside chance that a bigger name might want to chase a Super Bowl with his hometown team now that Tom Brady called it a career, but if the Bills and Rob Gronkowski were to unite on a contract, I’d be a little surprised. Given Buffalo’s cap situation and needs at other positions, tight end doesn’t seem like a high priority, especially since they have a player they love in Knox sitting atop the depth chart.
Adding a young player who can step into Sweeney’s role as the TE2 in 2023 should be the second priority among this group, with the first being an extension for Knox. In addition to his outstanding regular season, Knox has continuously shown himself to be a monster (or a Juggerknox, if you will) in the playoffs, making seven receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns this year. He has Josh Allen’s trust, and with good reason. Adding some developmental depth pieces could add yet another layer to Buffalo’s imposing offense.