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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: DT Tim Settle

A roster lock for the defensive line rotation or a cut-day trade candidate?

Tim Settle Jr. at Buffalo Bills training camp, St. John Fisher Photo by Matthew Byham

The Buffalo Bills have a deep, talented defensive line. Whether we’re talking about the defensive tackles or the edge rushers, the Bills roll five-deep at each spot. With that in mind, there are going to be some difficult decisions to make regarding who stays on the final roster.

In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss a defensive tackle whose contract suggests that he’s a roster lock. But given his play and the depth around him, he may be in for a bigger fight for his roster spot than it appears.

Name: Tim Settle

Number: 99

Position: DT

Height/Weight: 6’3”, 313 pounds

Age: 26 (27 on 7/11/2024)

Experience/Draft: 6; selected by the Washington Commanders in the fifth round (No. 163 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft

College: Virginia Tech

Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/17/2022

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Settle and the Bills agreed to a renegotiated deal this offseason. While that contract didn’t add length to his original two-year, $9 million deal, it did save the Bills cap space — around $600,000 — and add a void year next year. For the 2023 season, Settle carries a cap hit of $4.324 million, which is third on the team among DTs and 15th among all players overall. His dead-cap number differs depending on if he’s released or traded, but Buffalo would be on the hook for $3.808 million this year if he’s released, and $1.7 million if he’s traded.

2022 Recap: Settle was really excited — I mean, really excited — to sign with Buffalo last offseason. He suffered a calf injury early in the year, one that caused him to miss Buffalo’s Week 2 blowout win over the Tennessee Titans. While he returned to the field rather quickly, the injury impacted him for the rest of the season. Even though he missed a game, he still set career-highs in snaps played and in tackles, appearing on 373 snaps (38% of the Bills’ defensive total) and notching 19 total tackles. He also added a sack, a pass breakup, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. In Buffalo’s two playoff contests, Settle totaled 64 defensive snaps and added a start against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had two tackles in Buffalo’s 27-10 playoff loss to Cincinnati.

Positional outlook: Settle is one of nine defensive tackles on the current roster, joining Eli Ankou, Jordan Phillips, Ed Oliver, Poona Ford, DaQuan Jones, Cortez Broughton, Kendal Vickers, and DJ Dale.

2023 Offseason: Settle is healthy and participating in offseason activities to date. While he told Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News that he plans to play this season at 305 pounds, down from 320 last year, the team still lists him officially at 313 pounds. Settle started Buffalo’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts and appeared on 19 defensive snaps, or 28% of the team’s defensive total.

2023 Season outlook: Settle is an interesting case, as the money he’s owed suggests that he’s a guarantee for the roster, but his production suggests that he should find himself squarely in a battle for his spot. If we view Jones and Ford as the top options at one-tech, and Oliver as the top option at three-tech, that leaves us with Phillips and Settle battling for the fourth DT spot. Both players are solid options in the sense that they can play at both the one-tech and the three-tech.

Phillips has a lower cap number ($2.86 million) and a lower dead-cap number ($1.22 million), but he also has an extensive injury history. It’s possible that the Bills could choose to keep five defensive tackles, but with six defensive end/edge rushers making a legitimate case for the roster (Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, and Shaq Lawson), it isn’t a good idea to keep 11 defensive linemen.

The coaching staff may hold Settle in higher regard than I do, and as evidenced by providing more guaranteed money for him this year as part of his renegotiated deal, that might suggest that they plan to keep him around this year. Given the ability of some of Buffalo’s edge players to kick inside on 3rd & Long situations, I think I’d rather keep an extra defensive end than I would a defensive tackle.

If the last roster spot comes down to Phillips vs. Settle, I’d go Phillips in an ideal world where I could guarantee everyone’s health. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the team release Phillips in favor of the more-often available Settle, who isn’t as dynamic a player, but he’s better than one who can’t play on Sundays. A rotational defensive tackle battle isn’t the sexiest one to discuss for the headlines, but it’s going to be a tight one to watch for the next few weeks with the Bills.