Spring 53-man roster projections are exercises in projection more than most. When you have a Buffalo Bills team with a new defensive play caller and a likely significant spike in 12-personnel usage on offense, the projection becomes even more meaningful.
Knowing that it serves as a starting point for the next wave of offseason discussions, let’s take our first crack at it:
Offense (24 players)
QB (2) - Allen, Allen
RB (4) - Cook, Harris, Hines, Gilliam
WR (6) - Diggs, Davis, Shakir, Harty, Sherfield, Shorter
TE (3) - Knox, Kincaid, Morris
OL (9) - Dawkins, Morse, Brown, Bates, Torrence, McGovern, Quessenberry, Edwards, Boettger
Defense (26 players)
DE (5) - Miller, Rousseau, Basham, Epenesa, Lawson
DT (4) - Oliver, Jones, Settle, Ford
LB (6) - Milano, Dodson, Bernard, Williams, Klein, Matakevich
CB (7) - White, Johnson, Jackson, Elam, Benford, Neal, Lewis
S (4) - Poyer, Hyde, Rapp, Hamlin
Specialists (3 players)
K (1) - Bass
P (1) - Martin
LS (1) - Ferguson
Von Miller didn’t go to PUP. Had he, I would have had to make a Kingsley Jonathan versus Cam Lewis versus Latavius Murray call and likely would have gone with Kingsley Jonathan simply for positional balance. I recognize that Miller isn’t likely to be ready for Week 1 and that him running and cutting is far more important to his rehab than lifting heavy weights, but general manager Brandon Beane referring to Miller as a “genetic freak” will make me shoot for the “under” on Week 6 right now, knowing full well it’s subject to change later on.
As it stood with Miller staying, the 53rd spot came down to Cam Lewis and Latavius Murray. And the logic between them is razor thin. Murray was available as a free agent in May and as such, the Bills could believe they could get him to the practice squad a la Duke Johnson and have him there. Murray was also on the New Orleans Saints practice squad last season before being called up to the Denver Broncos’ active roster. The Bills can deal with any potential call-up problems should they arise. Lewis’ value on special teams and ability to play multiple roles for the Bills’ defense tipped the scales in his favor this time around.
In the defensive tackle room, decisions had to be made. I think Jordan Phillips is a better player than Tim Settle, but Settle’s restructure means that cutting him gives the Bills $3.8 million in dead cap with only $516,000 in cap savings. With Phillips, those numbers are $1.22 million in dead money and $1.64 million saved. I’d love to find a way to keep five defensive tackles because Phillips is too good of a player when healthy, but the Bills have historically kept four. If the Bills could find a trade partner for Settle, they’d only incur $1.35 million of dead cap this year and also next while saving $2.974 million in cap space this year.
In the interior of the offensive line, I went with Boettger even though I really like Broeker as a prospect. The assumption at this point is that the Boettger will be back to form and the Bills feel like Broeker can be passed through to the practice squad. But if the team finds themselves impressed by the rookie, they could pull a classic Brandon Beane August maneuver and trade a vet offensive lineman for a Day 3 pick, adding to their already substantial 2024 slate.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!