The Buffalo Bills have invested plenty of resources into their defensive line. In some cases, those resources have paid immediate dividends. In other cases, it’s been a little less obvious to see the benefits to having added particular pieces.
We might learn a little bit this year about why that is, as a change in defensive coordinators from Leslie Frazier to Sean McDermott may mean a change in responsibility for the defensive ends. We may also see that some of the players who fans have been down on are not as good as their contract or draft position would suggest they should be.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one such defensive lineman — a soon-to-be third-year man with a lot to prove.
Name: Boogie Basham
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 274 pounds
Age: 25 (26 on 12/16/2024
Experience/Draft: 3; selected by the Bills in the second round (No. 61 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft
College: Wake Forest
Acquired: Second-round draft pick
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Basham enters the third year of his four-year rookie contract, a deal worth a total of $5,624,943 overall. For the 2023 season, Basham carries a cap hit of $1,534,075 and a dead-cap number of $725,434 if the Bills decide to move on this summer.
2022 Recap: Basham appeared in 15 of the Bills’ 16 games last year, and he played the fourth-most snaps among the team’s edge rushers. He played 37% of the team’s defensive snaps in what was a rotation-heavy front. He totaled 21 tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery, five quarterback hits, two pass breakups, and an interception in the regular season. In two playoff games, Basham totaled five tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack, one tackle for loss, and one pass breakup. Nearly all of those stats — everything but the pass knockdown — were accrued in Buffalo’s victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card Round.
Positional outlook: Most of Buffalo’s pass-rush crew returns, as Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Shaq Lawson, and A.J. Epenesa are all still on the roster, as is Kingsley Jonathan. Kameron Cline, Shane Ray, and Leonard Floyd have been added to the fold, as well.
2023 Offseason: Basham is healthy and participating in offseason activities to date.
2023 Season outlook: Basham is a player who definitely does things the coaching staff likes — he’s big enough to set the edge against the run, and he’s also versatile enough to kick inside as a pass-rusher on 3rd & Long situations — but he has shown so few flashes throughout his first two seasons that it’s hard to be excited about him at this point. That’s not to say I’m giving up on the guy, even though I know many Bills fans have and I don’t blame them for doing so. I think he’s been a bit miscast in the defense that the team has run, as he’s a little too small to do what he does best, which is penetrate gaps from the interior line, and he’s a touch too slow and lacking in agility to beat offensive tackles on the outside.
His career ceiling, at this point, actually looks to me to be a little like another former Bills early draft choice who underperformed, left the team, and came back: Shaq Lawson. Where we fans want a dominant pass rusher on the edge, we may instead end up with a technically sound player who makes a solid, if unspectacular, career for himself. Basham has shown ability in limited duty, but it’s hard to argue that the top three players in the edge rotation this year being anyone other than Miller, Rousseau, and Floyd.
Those flashes, as I mentioned above, have also come in too-few situations. Basham played more across two games last season — Buffalo’s victories over the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions — than in any two-game stretch of his career. He totaled 103 defensive snaps over those two games, and he came away with just one solo tackle and one assisted tackle over that time. Even if Miller starts the year on the PUP list, that means that Basham will have a six-week window to show that he deserves to stay on the roster.
The defensive line is going to come down to a numbers game, both at the edge and on the interior, and I think Boogie may be on the wrong side of the line when the rubber meets the road. He’s going to be right on the borderline all summer, and it’s going to take a strong showing to keep him in red, white, and blue this season.