The Buffalo Bills had woeful injury luck in 2022. At one point, all three of the All-Pro defensive backs they expected to start missed time. One of those players ended up playing in just one full game, and his position—safety—is often overlooked and undervalued. It was clear that the Bills missed him.
With that in mind, Buffalo clearly felt it necessary to ensure that they had quality depth at the safety position for the 2023 NFL season. While one of those depth players, Damar Hamlin, gained valuable experience last season, he definitely struggled in his first time as a starter. Given the fact that he’s also trying to work back from a near-death experience, it was a good move on the part of general manager Brandon Beane to acquire more depth.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss Buffalo’s newest safety — a young player with 57 games (and 48 starts) under his belt.
Name: Taylor Rapp
Height/Weight: 6’, 208 pounds
Age: 25 (26 on 12/22/2023)
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/31/2023
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Rapp signed a one-year deal in March that, essentially, is fully guaranteed. The contract is worth a total of $1.77 million, and $1.65 million is guaranteed. Those numbers represent Rapp’s cap hit and the dead-cap charge that Buffalo would be responsible if he were released, respectively.
2022 Recap: Rapp started all 16 games that he played for the Rams last season, and he was third on the team in tackles with 92. In the three seasons where Rapp has played in at least ten games, he’s finished with at least 90 tackles in all of them. Last year, he also added two interceptions, six pass breakups, one fumble recovery, and 2.5 tackles for loss, as well. Pro Football Reference (PFR) does show that he had issues in coverage, as their advanced metrics show that he allowed 38 of the 53 passes where he was the closest man in coverage to be completed. Those completions went for a total of 344 yards and four touchdowns. Last year was the third consecutive season where PFR had him allowing at least 70% of the passes thrown his way to be completed.
Positional outlook: Rapp is one of six true safeties on the roster, although there are a few corners on the roster who either have played safety or have been rumored to be moving there at some point. Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Damar Hamlin, Jared Mayden, and Dean Marlowe are the safeties on the roster, while cornerbacks Cam Lewis and Siran Neal have each played there at some point. Christian Benford is also listed at corner, but the question of moving him to safety at some point has lingered since he was drafted last year.
2023 Offseason: Rapp is healthy and he has participated in offseason activities to date.
2023 Season outlook: Barring injury, Rapp is pretty much a lock to make the 53-man roster. While the cost of cutting him doesn’t prohibit the Bills from doing so, it’s pretty unlikely that they’d sign a guy to an almost fully guaranteed contract just to release him a few months later. This is more likely a one-year audition for the young veteran, giving him a chance to learn the defense while Hyde and Poyer are both still under contract and can take the majority of the snaps. With Hyde’s contract set to expire at the conclusion of this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rapp re-sign next March and slide into the starting lineup in 2024.
For this year, Rapp will have chances on special teams, but hopefully the team is much healthier in the secondary this coming season than they were in 2022, which would limit Rapp’s time on the field in anything other than a sub-package role on defense. He’s a better tackler than he is cover guy, so using him as a slot defender or an extra linebacker in dime situations, or a “robber” in short zone coverage from the safety position, could help him to perform at his best while he learns the defense.