ORCHARD PARK – Josh Allen said he doesn’t envy the job Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have next week as they whittle down the Buffalo Bills’ roster to 53 major league players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“I know Brandon Beane has a tough job ahead of him,” Allen said after learning he and most of the starters won’t play in Friday night’s preseason finale in Carolina. “I’m sure he wants to see some guys out there that maybe haven’t been out there enough or need to be out there more.”
The game against the Panthers will be dedicated to getting one last live look at the players who walk the fine line between making the team that is the early favorite to win the Super Bowl or becoming one of the many hundreds of names. on the NFL waiver wire.
“I mean, it’s tough,” said Taron Johnson, a 2018 fourth-round pick who had to overcome the bottom line five summers ago. “That’s just the business side of it. I feel like we have so much competition on this team everywhere, so I feel like that’s a sign of a really good team, just to have guys out here competing every day to get that job.”
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As the Bills improve year after year in the Beane/McDermott era, there are fewer and fewer big decisions to be made on the final day of the trade because the roster is so well constructed. Beane admitted Tuesday that about 50 of the positions have already been decided, and the majority of them were likely decided before the start of training camp.
But the other side of that coin is that picking those few players is getting harder and harder because the competition is so intense. And taking the next step, trying to get waivers back on the practice squad is a chore because unlike those drought years when nobody paid attention to Buffalo’s castaways, now, the Bills are unleashing talent into the wild.
When the Bills announce their final roster Tuesday, I would expect several of the players who have been waived to be signed by other teams. Here are five who could end up elsewhere in the NFL:
Tight end Quintin Morris
OJ Howard’s contract, and the dead cap the Bills would have to absorb (about $3.2 million), makes cutting him a no-brainer. That’s why I think he’ll make the team, as well as locker room favorite Tommy Sweeney behind starter Dawson Knox, though I think Beane could try to find a trade partner that would at least save the Bills his base salary $1.9.
Why would Beane do this? Because Morris has flashed enough in practice and the first two preseason games — he started last week against Denver — and he might be a low-cost player the Bills would like to keep and develop.
If he is cut, he will warrant attention from outside the organization, and you can almost be sure Giants GM Joe Schoen will sign him immediately. In fact, the Giants could sign several former Bills given the knowledge they have of the Buffalo roster between Schoen, coach Brian Daboll and several assistants.
Morris has improved as a blocker, which is impressive because at 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, he’s undersized for the position. But his main strength is that he was a former receiver in college at Bowling Green who converted to tight end for the second half of his career.
So there are two things that are interesting: He has the speed and receiving skills that tight ends teams love right now, and he also has room to grow. Because of that, nothing would surprise me regarding Howard, either a trade or a release.
Defensive tackle Brandin Bryant
He finds himself caught in a numbers game after the Bills’ offseason free agent additions DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips joined owner Ed Oliver. Additionally, Eli Ankou is an established veteran who will not be placed on waivers, so he will almost certainly be cut and then return to the practice squad.
Bryant is the sixth man in line to clear waivers. Given the way he’s played, the Bills would love to get him back on the practice squad, but there will be teams willing to give him a chance because he’s a mature 28-year-old with some upside.
He’s had a circuitous journey through the NFL since entering the league with Seattle as a free agent in 2016. He didn’t get into his first game until 2019 when he was with the Browns, and then after being released by the Dolphins in 2020, he stuck with the Bills and played in five games over the past two years.
Defensive end Mike Love
If it seems like Love lasts forever, it kind of does. He originally came to the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but spent most of the first year on the practice squad before getting into the final three games.
He spent 2019 on injured reserve and was back on the practice squad for most of 2020 and 2021, appearing in just one game. But in every training camp, Love seems to flash because he has speed that breaks the bounds.
With Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, AJ Epenesa and Shaq Lawson in front of him, there’s no way he’ll make the 53-man roster. If he’s available, he has a good chance to sign elsewhere because teams are always looking for pass rushers.
Safety Josh Thomas
The Bills have experimented at the safety position by giving reps to a pair of cornerbacks, Cam Lewis and Nick McCloud. That seems to be an ominous sign for Thomas who was on the practice squad for nearly all of his first two seasons with Buffalo.
The depth chart is set with Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin, so Thomas isn’t outshining anyone there. Lewis and McCloud make themselves more valuable as they can play cornerback and safety in a pinch, so one of them could make the 53-man roster and the other could end up on the practice squad.
I assume Lewis will make the team, Thomas and McCloud will both be cut and therefore could be claimed by another team.
Running back Duke Johnson
It was the consolation prize back in free agency when the Bills’ deal to sign J.J. Beane, trying to add a pass catching back, turned to Johnson, but when he also selected James Cook in the second round of the draft a month later, it effectively doomed Johnson.
Cook, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss will be the three starting backs, and Taiwan Jones will likely be retained because he is a key special teams player. The only way Johnson makes the team is if the Bills decide to keep five backs or move on from the 34-year-old Jones, but we all know how much McDermott loves the special teams guys, especially Jones.
Johnson is an eighth-year veteran who, at 28, still has a lot to offer. He has 311 career receptions for 2,870 yards and 12 TDs and can certainly help a team in need.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. To subscribe to Sal’s new bi-weekly newsletter, Bills Blast, follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast
This article originally appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills roster cuts: 5 players to sign with other teams