The Buffalo Bills have plenty of depth in the secondary, and while Pro Football Focus may have ranked them sixth in the NFL as a group, the team’s performance during the tenure of head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier suggests that the group may be closer to the league’s best overall. The Bills have a tight-knit defensive secondary that plays assignments well, using each player’s strength as an individual to create a cohesive unit.
Three of the four spots in the secondary have remained the same since 2017, when McDermott and Frazier joined the Bills. Even though the CB2 spot has been to the defense what the lead singer’s spot was to Black Sabbath’s lineup, the team hasn’t missed a beat. Part of developing that depth is good drafting and solid work through the post-draft process, as the team trusts its staff to develop young players into solid contributors.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one of those undrafted free-agent signees.
Name: Nick McCloud
Height/Weight: 6’ 193 lbs
Age: 23 (24 on 7/9/2022)
Experience/Draft: 2; signed with Buffalo following the 2021 NFL Draft
College: Notre Dame
Acquired: UDFA signing; signed to practice squad on 11/8/2022 following initial departure
Financial situation (per Spotrac): McCloud signed a reserve/futures deal with the Bills in January. That two-year contract calls for him to make a total of $1.765 million, none of which is guaranteed. Should he make the roster this year, McCloud will carry a cap hit of $825,000.
2021 Recap: McCloud signed with Buffalo following the draft, and he spent the offseason with the club. He did not make the 53-man roster, and he was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Bengals after Buffalo waived him at the end of August. He appeared in two games with the Bengals—their Week 4 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and their Week 6 victory over the Detroit Lions—without accruing any statistics. He played special teams in both games, amassing ten total snaps. In the game against the Lions, he played 14 snaps on defense without being targeted or making a tackle. The Bengals waived him on November 4 and then Buffalo signed him to their practice squad on November 8. That’s where he remained for the rest of the 2021 season.
Positional outlook: McCloud rejoins a solid secondary group that has a lot of familiar faces. Tre’Davious White, Siran Neal, Taron Johnson, Cam Lewis, Olaijah Griffin, Dane Jackson, and Tim Harris were all with the club last year. Buffalo added Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford through the draft, and they signed Travon Fuller and Ja’Marcus Ingram as rookie free agents following the draft.
2022 Offseason: McCloud is healthy and he’s participated in OTAs to date. All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer said that McCloud reminds him a lot of himself as a young player.
2022 Season outlook: McCloud is a dark-horse candidate for the last spot in the secondary when final rosters are made at the end of August. He’s a great athlete whose biggest knock coming out of college was that the tape didn’t necessarily match up to the traits. After spending his first year in two different defensive systems, and working with two highly successful teams in the Bills and the Bengals, perhaps McCloud has found that mythical “it” needed to take his game to the next level.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Buffalo doesn’t have White, Jackson, Elam, Johnson, and Neal all on the roster, so McCloud is going to need to show that he belongs as a versatile piece in order to make it. In the interview linked above, Poyer noted that McCloud has been moonlighting a bit at safety during offseason workouts, which certainly helps his case. If White begins the year on the PUP list, he’ll have an even better chance at making the roster. In any case, McCloud will be among the more intriguing reserves to watch this summer.