The Buffalo Bills’ final roster cuts won’t be coming until the end of August, but that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out who’s already on the hot seat. Buffalo has added a lot of talent to their roster this off-season via free agency and the draft. This influx of talent is one reason we may see certain veterans getting released come August. Defensively, there may be a few surprise cuts as the team has changed their scheme and some players may not fit Jim Schwartz’s defense. Here are 4 veterans at risk of being cut by the Bills.
Erik Pears was a cap casualty candidate in 2013 and that hasn’t changed in 2014. In 2013, Pears was a 16 game starter, but his overall play left much to be desired. Pro Football Focus gave Pears a -5.0 grade in 2013 (Subcription Required), with run blocking being his Achilles’ heel (-15.2). Only three other OTs performed worse in run blocking in 2013.
Blocking woes aside, Pears is likely to face more competition in 2014. Chris Hairston is back and healthy after missing the entire 2013 season and Buffalo also went out and drafted Cyrus Kouandjio in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. Seantrel Henderson, a 7th round pick, could also play a part in the team parting ways with Pears. Pears is entering the final year of his contract and has a cap hit of $3.45 million. The team could keep Pears around for depth, but the Bills would be wise to start Hairston or Kouandjio on the right side.
In 2013, Kraig Urbik played good football. That didn’t stop the Bills from trying to create competition at right guard between Urbik and J.J. Unga.
Despite being injured, Urbik played well enough down the stretch that Unga only saw 10 offensive snaps with the Bills. This didn’t stop Doug Marrone from continuing to mention Unga as competition for Urbik.
Unga won’t be the only competition for Urbik this season. Fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson has the size and skill-set to be a terrific guard in the NFL. All he is needs is an opportunity to play. That opportunity could present itself if the Bills cut Urbik.
That being said, Urbik may be the safest player on his list. PFF gave Urbik a +7.6 rating in 2013, good for 21st in the NFL among all guards and 12th among right guards. Urbik’s strong play and manageable cap hit ($3.375 million) may keep him safe from “The Turk.”
T.J. Graham isn’t likely to win any popularity contests among Bills fans, and he may not win a roster spot in 2014. Graham is only entering his third season, but he really hasn’t shown any reason for the Bills to keep him on the roster. In 31 games with the Bills (17 starts), Graham has 54 receptions for 683 yards and three touchdowns. This definitely wasn’t the production the Bills were hoping to get from Graham after trading up for him in the third round of the 2012 draft.
Graham’s greatest asset is his speed, but the Bills drafted Marquise Goodwin, someone even faster than Graham, in the 2013 NFL draft. Goodwin finished his rookie season with 17 receptions for 283 yards and three touchdowns. The stat-line itself may not be overly impressive, but Goodwin showed off serious speed at times in 2013.
Besides the team having a WR with a similar skill-set, Buffalo is simply deep at wide receiver. Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams are all ahead of Graham in terms of talent and Goodwin is also safe in 2014. Besides these four wide receivers, Graham will also have to compete with guys like Kevin Elliott, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley among others. Buffalo’s WR group is very talented, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Graham go.
Manny Lawson played well in 2013. He was a solid run defender and was strong in pass coverage. That said, Lawson was a terrific fit in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defense. When Pettine left for Cleveland, he was replaced by Jim Schwartz. The former Lions head coach runs a defense with a 4-3 base. The defensive scheme change meant that Lawson could be playing a different position in 2014.
Jim Monos, the Director of Player Personnel for the Bills, confirmed this when he said that Lawson would be moving to defensive end in May. Lawson has some experience in a 4-3 defense from his Cincinnati days, but not as a defensive end in the NFL.
Lawson is expected to have a smaller role with the Bills in 2014 if he makes the roster. Since Lawson doesn’t fit Buffalo’s defense, cutting ties with him and replacing him with a 4-3 defensive end cap casualty would not surprise me.
The veterans above aren’t the only players fighting for a roster spot, but these four may have the hardest time keeping their respective spots on the 53-man roster.