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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: DE Kingsley Jonathan

Dark-horse roster candidate or last man left off the edge?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have been in pursuit of perfection along the defensive line for quite some time. Last offseason, the team thought they had finally added the missing piece, and while that future Hall of Fame player was healthy, they weren’t wrong — the team forced 20 turnovers in the first 11 games, but just nine in the final seven. They totaled 30 sacks in those 11 games, but just 15 in the final seven.

It seems pretty obvious that a team with a healthy Von Miller is significantly better than one without him, but the stark difference in Buffalo’s pass rush highlights just how important he is — and, perhaps, just how average the other pass rushers are, as well. Given the resources poured into the defensive line, that’s not exactly encouraging news, but it does give some “fringe” players a better shot to make the final roster than one might expect.

In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one such fringe player — a prototype 4-3 end with a high motor looking to stick on the 53-man roster.

Name: Kingsley Jonathan

Number: 59

Position: DE

Height/Weight: 6’4”, 260 pounds

Age: 25 (26 on 4/28/2024)

Experience/Draft: 2; signed with Buffalo as UDFA following the 2022 NFL Draft

College: Syracuse

Acquired: Signed to practice squad on 11/17/2022

Financial situation (per Over the Cap): Jonathan signed a reserve/futures contract in January, a two-year pact that totals $1.855 million. For the 2023 season, Jonathan carries a cap hit of $871,750 if he makes the 53-man roster. If he’s released, the Bills are on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $3,500.

2022 Recap: Jonathan spent the summer with Buffalo after signing as an undrafted free agent. He played in two preseason games with the club, totaling four tackles. However, he was waived as part of the team’s final cut downs, and the Chicago Bears claimed him off waivers on September 1. He appeared in five games for the Bears, notching four tackles and a hurry in limited action. The Bears released him on November 15, and Buffalo signed him to their practice squad two days later. Coincidentally, he was elevated from the practice squad for just one game, and it came against his old team. Jonathan managed one tackle for loss in Buffalo’s 35-13 victory over the Bears. He played 18 snaps in that contest, which was the only game that he appeared in for the Bills.

Positional outlook: Jonathan is one of just five players listed at defensive end, joining Boogie Basham, A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, and Shaq Lawson with that designation. Shane Ray and Von Miller are each listed at linebacker, although they both will function more as “edge” players, AKA defensive ends, in Buffalo’s defense.

2023 Offseason: Jonathan is healthy and participating in offseason activities to date.

2023 Season outlook: I have to assume that, even with Miller expected to start the year on the PUP list, the team’s top four options at DE are Rousseau, Epenesa, Lawson, and Basham — and that’s the foursome that probably makes the final roster. However, Basham doesn’t have much going for him aside from the round in which he was drafted, and Epenesa has been far more “miss” than “hit” so far in his young career, as well. Lawson had a nice year last season, but I don’t think he’s suddenly going to morph into a fearsome pass rusher in his age-29 season. Keeping this in mind, I don’t think it’s too crazy to say that Jonathan has a legitimate shot at making the roster out of the preseason if he shows well this summer. I think he’s on the outside looking in, at least to start, but a strong summer could lead to a six-week audition for him in the beginning of the year while Miller works his way back.