The Buffalo Bills have arguably the best safety duo in the league. That’s great for the team, but it’s not great for young players trying to earn playing time. Sure, it’s great for them to learn from the best, but let’s face it: Everyone in the NFL is a competitor, and everyone wants to play.
The truth is, however, that not everyone can play, and when a team has a pair of studs, there’s no reason to take them off the field unless they’re injured or the game’s result is no longer in doubt. That means that those young reserves have to earn reps in other ways, like on special teams. They also have to show the coaching staff that they can step in when those studs move on to other places.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one of Buffalo’s young safeties—a player who might not have a role this year, but who could set himself up for one as early as next year.
Name: Josh Thomas
Height/Weight: 6’ 205 lbs
Age: 25 (26 on 11/19/2022)
Experience/Draft: 1; signed with Buffalo as UDFA following the 2020 NFL Draft
College: Appalachian State
Acquired: Signed as UDFA
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Thomas enters the first year of a two-year reserve/futures contract he signed in January. That contract is worth a total of $1.575 million, none of which is guaranteed. If he makes the 53-man roster, Thomas carries a cap hit of $705,000 this year.
2021 Recap: Thomas was with Buffalo throughout the entire offseason, then he went through camp and preseason with the team as well. He was waived on August 31, and he signed to the practice squad the following day. Unlike the 2020 season, where he was elevated for and appeared in two games, he spent the whole season on the practice squad without appearing in a game. He was not elevated once during the season, either.
Positional outlook: Thomas’s positional group looks exactly the same as it did last season. It’s topped by Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, with Jaquan Johnson serving as the top reserve. Damar Hamlin is on the roster, as well, and Siran Neal has safety experience even though the team now lists him as a corner.
2022 Offseason: Thomas is healthy and he has participated in OTAs. He’s ready for training camp.
2022 Season outlook: It’s quite likely that Buffalo goes with the same safety group as they did last year, with Hamlin serving as the gameday inactive more often than not. Johnson would then back up both Poyer and Hyde, with Neal the emergency safety should they need one. This leaves Thomas fighting for a spot on the practice squad, but playing the long game, he’s fighting for a chance to step in next year. Both Poyer and Johnson are in the final year of their contract, so if Thomas can make an impression this year, he could step into a role as either the third safety or a starter next year. For this season, however, he’s a longshot to make the club.