The Buffalo Bills could use some help on defense, which isn’t news to anyone closely following the team this season. What started out as one of the most-dominant units in the NFL has turned into a mash unit of sorts. With three players on season-ending (or minimally in-season) Injured Reserve (IR), the Bills have had to rely on team depth more than anticipated at each level.
It’s true that both linebacker Matt Milano (leg injury) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (torn pectoral) have not been ruled out for a return later this season, but cornerback Tre’Davious White suffered an Achilles injury that required season-ending surgery to repair. As such, head coach Sean McDermott has had to play chess in fielding a competent starting tandem of starting outside cornerbacks, both in the wake of White’s injury and to compensate for other injuries to the team’s defensive back room.
Second-year cornerback Christian Benford began the season as the team’s CB2, but shifted over to CB1 immediately following White’s injury. Cornerback Dane Jackson then took the field at CB2 after Benford shifted over. But due to no fewer than injuries to eight different defensive backs, the team’s hand has been forced in starting second-year cornerback Kaiir Elam — the former first-round pick whose fallen as far out of favor as possible with McDermott. Despite such high hopes for Elam, he appear to be a poor fit for Buffalo’s defense, lacking in zone prowess and playing a physical brand of defense that makes him a liability in the penalty arena.
With the trade deadline looming less than 24 hours from now, many believe the Buffalo Bills are prime candidates to make a move to bring in help at cornerback, especially now with so many considering Elam’s time with the team all but over.
Everything appeared to come to a head this past Thursday when 35-year-old cornerback Josh Norman was activated (after joining the practice squad a few weeks prior) over Elam. Norman only played on special teams, those he proved to be an adept player even at this stage of his career. The bigger concern, of course, is that Elam can’t crack the starting lineup, even on special teams. When Elam has played this season, it hasn’t gone well. Something’s happened to Elam, and none of it appears favorable for his future with the Bills.
If a trade is the preferred path, there are of course interesting names to consider, with Patrick Surtain II of the Denver Broncos the most popular and oft-referenced name. But bringing Surtain on board would require a lot of heavy lifting by general manager Brandon Beane, both in terms of a trade and the financial impact his addition would create. But make no mistake, adding Surtain to Buffalo’s defense would give the Bills’ cornerback room a major upgrade.
But Brandon Beane likely isn’t putting all his oysters in the Rocky Mountains. That’s because there are no shortage of NFL cornerbacks, and plenty of teams looking to move on from players who don’t fit their system due to one reason or another, both on-field and in terms of the salary cap.
One such player the Bills could attempt to bring in via trade is veteran cornerback Levi Wallace. Adding Wallace would provide the Bills with near-immediate help, given Wallace’s familiarity with Buffalo’s defense, having been drafted by the organization in 2018 and playing under the direction of defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier through the 2021 NFL season. Wallace was inactive for the Steelers in Week 8, which might make him expendable to Pittsburgh moving forward. Though head coach Mike Tomlin will have other decisions to make, with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Jr. injuring his hamstring this past Sunday.
There is another cornerback whose name has entered the fray as it relates to the Buffalo Bills. Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson has drawn interest from the Bills, per a tweet on Monday by Benjamin Allbright. But Buffalo isn’t the only team interested in the possibility of Johnson — so, too, are the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
Not just SF.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) October 30, 2023
Dallas and Buffalo too. https://t.co/wFdcb5GtRH
Jaylon Johnson joined the Chicago Bears as a second-round pick of the team during the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s played well since moving to the Windy City, and his Pro Football Focus (PFF) numbers this season include a lead-leading (as in lowest allowed) 22.2 passer rating through seven weeks.
It’s unknown at this point what the cost would be to bring in Johnson, but with several teams potentially interested in his services, it’s unlikely to be a bargain. The Bears must also decide if they’d prefer to land a bevy of picks and/or players in trade, or feature Johnson as part of their rebuild on defense.
Jaylon Johnson: 22.2 passer rating allowed this season— PFF (@PFF) October 23, 2023
Lowest among all CBs pic.twitter.com/fomCixHxVe
With the trade deadline fast approaching, anything can and sometimes does happen. But could any of these three players find their way to One Bills Drive, and would adding them help the team in their goals for the 2023 NFL season, or has the time expired to meaningfully integrate outside talent at the position? Stay locked in with Buffalo Rumblings as we continue to bring you updates leading up to the trade deadline, including official news, reported interest, and of course those rumors certain to spark the best debates.