For over 60 years, the Buffalo Bills have largely undervalued the tight end position. Aside from a brief time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the team has relied less on players who would be threats in the passing game and instead relied more on players who could block. While the game has changed to include more receiver-first tight ends, the Bills have largely stayed in the past.
That, however, seems to be changing. The Bills invested a first-round pick in the position for the first time in 40 years. While that may have signaled the end of an era for the player atop the previous depth chart in years past, it instead seems to signal a change in offensive philosophy. The Bills appear poised to use both of their tight ends to provide matchup wins in the passing game moving forward.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one half of the Bills’ two-headed tight end monster. He’s the incumbent TE1 coming off a trying season, but he seems as if he’s ready to take yet another step forward in his NFL career.
Name: Dawson Knox
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 254 pounds
Age: 26 (27 on 11/14/2023)
Experience/Draft: 5; selected by Buffalo in the third round (No. 96 overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft
College: Ole Miss
Acquired: Third-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Knox enters the first year of the four-year, $52 million extension he signed in September of last year. That deal contains a total of $31.2 million in guarantees. For the 2023 season, Knox carries a cap hit of $6.425 million. Buffalo would be on the hook for a dead-cap number of $26.135 million if he were to be traded or released.
2022 Recap: Before the Bills even played a real game, Knox dealt with tragedy, as his younger brother, Luke, passed away suddenly at the age of 22 last August. Given the circumstances Knox dealt with during the year, it’s incredible that he was able to remain focused and suit up for the Bills, let alone play at a high level for the entirety of the season. But, he did just that, hauling in 48 passes for 517 yards and six touchdowns — numbers that were quite similar to his 2021 numbers (49/587/9). In the playoffs, Knox caught eight of his 12 targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. It was the third consecutive postseason where he caught at least one touchdown. Knox played in and started 15 regular-season games for the Bills, appearing on a total of 825 offensive snaps. Of quarterback Josh Allen’s pass catchers, only Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis were on the field more often than Knox. The fourth-year tight end earned his first Pro Bowl nod for his efforts last year.
Positional outlook: Knox is joined by first-round pick Dalton Kincaid, free-agent signing Jace Sternberger, last year’s TE2 Quintin Morris, and undrafted rookie Joel Wilson on the team’s current roster. Fullback Reggie Gilliam also has professional experience at tight end.
2023 Offseason: Knox is healthy and participating in offseason activities.
2023 Season outlook: Even with the addition of Kincaid, I don’t expect that it will impact Knox’s snap counts this year. Rather, it will impact the way that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey uses his personnel — as most of us expect the Bills to run with Knox in-line and Kincaid lined up in the slot quite often. Knox saw 65 targets last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed that total this year even with Kincaid in the fold. If anything, adding Kincaid might make it even easier for Knox to find space in the flats, as teams will have to deal with the big rookie in the middle of the field as a much more effective player than Buffalo had there last year. Knox has done everything right as a pro, developing from an inconsistent catcher and blocker to a reliable outlet in the pass game and a solid blocker in the run game. He’s still TE1 on the depth chart for a reason, and he’s still going to be a big part of what the Bills do moving forward.