The Buffalo Bills need to protect their franchise quarterback. That much is obvious. While most fans can look at the offensive linemen on the roster and come pretty close to consensus on a starting five, it’s the final three or four spots that might see some variance.
Heading into the 2023 NFL season, I’d argue that the team is deeper on the interior offensive line than they are at tackle. That means that the Bills may end up seeing some surprise names sneak on to the back end of the roster come the end of August.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one such player — an offensive lineman who is extremely athletic and extremely inexperienced, as well.
Name: Ryan Van Demark
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 307 pounds
Age: 25 (26 on 3/22/2024)
Experience/Draft: 1; signed as UDFA with Indianapolis Colts 5/2022
Acquired: Signed with Bills’ practice squad 9/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Van Demark signed a two-year deal worth a total of $1.665 million in the offseason. That reserve/futures contract carries with it a total of $9,000 in guarantees. In he makes the roster this summer, he’ll carry a cap hit of $754,500.
2022 Recap: Van Demark spent the preseason with the Colts, and he was waived as part of the team’s final cuts last year. He then signed with Buffalo’s practice squad, where he remained for the duration of the season. He was not activated for a game, so he has yet to make his official NFL debut.
Positional outlook: Buffalo enters the year with a pretty clear pecking order at tackle. Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown figure to start, with David Quessenberry a good bet to make the roster as a swing tackle. Tommy Doyle, Alec Anderson, and Richard Gouraige are the other tackles Van Demark will compete against for a roster spot.
2023 Offseason: Van Demark is healthy and he has participated in offseason activities to date.
2023 Season outlook: Buffalo is banking on bounce-back seasons from Dawkins and Brown, and with the lack of proven talent behind them, that is a tremendous gamble. The team has Doyle cross-training at guard, and he actually appeared more there last season than he did at tackle before tearing his ACL. If Van Demark can prove himself reliable in the preseason, the tackle position isn’t so deep that it’s impossible for someone who isn’t a household name to crack the roster. In college, Van Demark played left tackle almost exclusively, and he did so immediately, starting at the position as a true freshman. I’m sure that I’m not the only Bills fan who doesn’t exactly want to see quarterback Josh Allen’s blindside protected by someone other than Dion Dawkins this year, but the fact is that the team doesn’t have a ton of depth here. A young player stepping up and showing well this summer would be a great development, and Van Demark has the athletic traits — his RAS was 9.45 coming out of college—to be that guy.