Bills Rumors

Largest 2024 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap ceiling was expected to see a large increase this offseason, but estimates proved to be on the low side. A record-setting jump resulted in a cap of $255.4MM for teams to work with.

That has resulted in new waves of spending at a few positions, with quarterbacks and receivers seeing continued growth at the top of the market. Last offseason offered a strong chance of the league seeing at least one $40MM-plus cap charge, but the Browns avoided such a scenario with a Deshaun Watson restructure. Owing to that move – and the lack of further adjustments this spring – however, Watson’s financial impact is set to grow considerably this season.

Here are the league’s top cap charges on offense leading up to training camp:

  1. Deshaun WatsonQB (Browns): $63.77MM
  2. Dak PrescottQB (Cowboys): $55.13MM
  3. Matthew StaffordQB (Rams): $49.5MM
  4. Kyler MurrayQB (Cardinals): $49.12MM
  5. Daniel JonesQB (Giants): $47.86MM
  6. Patrick MahomesQB (Chiefs): 37.01MM
  7. Lamar JacksonQB (Ravens): $32.4MM
  8. Trent WilliamsLT (49ers): $31.57MM
  9. Tyreek HillWR (Dolphins): $31.32MM
  10. Josh AllenQB (Bills): $30.36MM
  11. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $29.78MM
  12. Taylor MotonRT (Panthers): $29.75MM
  13. Joe BurrowQB (Bengals): $29.55MM
  14. Deebo SamuelWR (49ers): $28.63MM
  15. Chris GodwinWR (Buccaneers): $27.53MM
  16. Jared GoffQB (Lions): $27.21MM
  17. Joe ThuneyLG (Chiefs): $26.97MM
  18. Geno SmithQB (Seahawks): $26.4MM
  19. Laremy TunsilLT (Texans): $25.86MM
  20. Davante AdamsWR (Raiders): $25.35MM
  21. Quenton NelsonLG (Colts): $25.2MM
  22. Kirk CousinsQB (Falcons): $25MM
  23. Jawaan TaylorRT (Chiefs): $24.73MM
  24. D.K. Metcalf, WR (Seahawks): $24.5MM
  25. Christian KirkWR (Jaguars): $24.24MM

Watson’s figure will shatter the NFL record for the largest single-season cap charge if no adjustments are made in the coming weeks. The hits for Prescott, Murray, Stafford and Jones also would have set a new benchmark if not for the Browns passer, a sign of the QB market’s continued upward trajectory. Cleveland is set to remain in a similar situation for the next three years as Watson plays out his fully guaranteed $230MM deal.

Prescott’s future is one of several important questions the Cowboys need to answer relatively soon. With CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons due for second contracts, an extension for the three-time Pro Bowler will need to take into account future commitments. While Prescott has considerable leverage (via no-tag and no-trade clauses), he joins Jones in facing an uncertain post-2024 future in the NFC East.

The latter saw the Giants make an effort to trade up for a quarterback in April and he reacted in an understandable manner. Jones’ $40MM-per-year 2023 extension remains the dominant storyline surrounding the team, and a decision on retaining him or moving on will need to be made prior to a potential out early next offseason. Murray’s performance this fall will likewise be worth watching; he has received consistent praise from head coach Jonathan Gannon, but he will aim to put together a fully healthy season following 2023’s truncated campaign.

Stafford and the Rams have a mutual desire to continue their relationship, but he is seeking guarantees beyond the 2024 campaign. The 36-year-old’s representatives have been in discussion on a resolution during the offseason, although even in the absence of one a training camp holdout is not expected. The likes of Mahomes, Jackson and Allen retain a place in the top 25, and the same will no doubt be true of Burrow for years to come.

Of the receivers listed, only Hill is known to be actively pursuing a new deal. The 30-year-old once led the receiver market with a $30MM AAV, a figure inflated by non-guaranteed money at the end of the pact. With the bar having been raised to new heights this offseason, Hill could join teammate Jaylen Waddle in securing a new payday. Since the team has a Tua Tagovailoa extension on the horizon, however, Miami could hesitate on the Hill front.

It come as little surprise that Williams tops the list for offensive linemen. The 11-time Pro Bowler has been mentioned in retirement rumors before, but playing to age 40 is now a goal. Meeting it could require future contract adjustments. Samuel’s future in the Bay Area was a talking point this offseason as the team attempts to keep Brandon Aiyuk in the fold. One of the high-profile wideouts may be playing for a new team for the first time in their career in 2025.

Elsewhere along the O-line, Moton and Taylor demonstrate the value seen at the right tackle spot in recent years. Given the developments of the guard market this offseason, though, the likes of Thuney and Nelson will have competition for spots on the list in future years. Similarly, the non-Hill wideouts could easily be surpassed in the future with a further additions set to be made (particularly by Lamb, Aiyuk and Ja’Marr Chase) at the top of the ever-increasing market.

Goff joined the $50MM-per-year club on his third NFL deal, whereas Cousins continued to add to his impressive NFL earnings by joining the Falcons. If healthy, the latter could prove to be an effective pickup for a team aiming to return to the postseason (while quieting questions about a transition to Michael Penix Jr. under center). Smith also has plenty riding on this season with a new Seahawks coaching staff in place which incrementally arrived at the decision he will serve as the starter in 2024.

2024 Offseason In Review Series

As training camps near, the NFL offseason is winding down. Many unresolved matters remain — much of them pertaining to quarterbacks and wide receivers — but teams’ rosters are mostly set. Leading up to Week 1, PFR will continue to add to its annual Offseason In Review series. Here is where our latest offseason examinations stand so far:

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South

  • Houston Texans
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

Former Bucs DC Monte Kiffin Dies At 84

Monte Kiffin, who served as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator for 13 seasons in the 1990s and 2000s, died Thursday. He was 84. An NFL assistant for nearly 30 years, Kiffin served as the driving force behind the Bucs’ dominant Super Bowl XXXVII-winning defense.

Tony Dungy brought Kiffin to Tampa upon being hired in 1996; the two had worked together in Minnesota previously. Kiffin stayed on beyond Dungy’s 2002 firing, remaining with the team under Jon Gruden and architecting one of the best defenses in NFL history. Featuring four Hall of Fame-bound defenders, the ’02 Bucs led the NFL in scoring and total defense and intercepted five passes in a Super Bowl rout of the Raiders.

Prior to unleashing the Tampa-2 defense he helped create, Kiffin had previously served as Vikings DC in 1991 and Saints DC four years later. Those were one-offs, however, with Dungy’s offer cutting the New Orleans stay short. Kiffin certainly played a significant role in Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and John Lynch establishing Canton candidacies.

Monte Kiffin was a beloved and iconic member of the Buccaneers family, and our entire organization mourns his loss today,” the Bucs said in a statement. “As a coach, Monte was a true innovator who got the best out of his players and helped create one of the signature defenses of the early 2000s. His passionate and energetic leadership style resonated with all his players, and he was instrumental in our first Super Bowl win and the success of Hall of Famers such as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.”

Also an assistant with the Packers, Bills and Jets, Kiffin later served as the defensive coordinator for son Lane during the latter’s one-season stay as the Tennessee Volunteers’ head coach. Monte Kiffin followed his son to USC, a stint that helped reestablish the former Raiders HC in the college game, before returning to the NFL as Cowboys DC.

The Dallas 2013 stint also stopped after one season, with Dallas hiring Rod Marinelli as DC in 2014. Monte Kiffin stayed on for one more season as a Cowboys assistant, however, before a Jaguars stop. Kiffin’s final two coaching roles came under Lane at Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss. The Kiffin patriarch was a Rebels analyst as recently as last season.

The Bucs gig earned Kiffin a place in the franchise’s ring of honor. While the Bucs peaked in 2002, Dungy and Kiffin led the way in rebooting a moribund franchise in the late 1990s. The Bucs voyaged to the Super Bowl XXXIV precipice, intercepting Kurt Warner three times in an 11-6 defensive tussle. After two playoff losses in Philadelphia doomed top-10 defenses, the Bucs outscored their 2002 playoff opposition 116-37. Four of Tampa Bay’s postseason TDs came on pick-sixes, with three of those taking place in the team’s Super Bowl romp.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The NFL’s general manager ranks featured some key shakeups this offseason. One of the longest-tenured pure GMs in the game, Tom Telesco, lost his Chargers seat 11 years in. The Raiders, however, gave Telesco a second chance. He now controls the Las Vegas roster. Only Telesco and the Jaguars’ Trent Baalke reside as second-chance GMs currently.

Two long-serving personnel bosses also exited this offseason. The Patriots’ decision to move on from 24-year HC Bill Belichick gave Jerod Mayo a head coaching opportunity but also resulted in Eliot Wolf belatedly rising to the top of the team’s front office hierarchy. A former Packers and Browns exec, Wolf held decision-making power through the draft and kept it on an official basis soon after. While John Schneider arrived in Seattle with Pete Carroll in 2010, the latter held final say. Following Carroll’s ouster after 14 seasons, Schneider has full control.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

The Commanders changed GMs this offseason, hiring ex-San Francisco staffer Adam Peters, but Martin Mayhew received merely a demotion. The three-year Washington GM, who worked alongside Peters with the 49ers, is now in place as a senior personnel exec advising Peters. Rather than look outside the organization, Panthers owner David Tepper replaced Scott Fitterer with Dan Morgan, who had previously worked as the team’s assistant GM.

Going into his 23rd season running the Saints, Mickey Loomis remains the NFL’s longest-serving pure GM. This will mark the veteran exec’s third season without Sean Payton. An eight-year gap now exists between Loomis and the NFL’s second-longest-tenured pure GM.

As the offseason winds down, here is how the league’s 32 GM jobs look:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  4. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  5. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010[3]; signed extension in 2022
  6. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  7. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  8. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  9. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  10. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  11. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  12. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2024
  13. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  14. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  15. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  16. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020: signed extension in 2024
  17. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  18. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  19. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021: agreed to extension in 2024
  20. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  21. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  22. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  23. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  24. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  25. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  26. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  27. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023
  28. Adam Peters (Washington Commanders): January 12, 2024
  29. Dan Morgan (Carolina Panthers): January 22, 2024
  30. Tom Telesco (Las Vegas Raiders): January 23, 2024
  31. Joe Hortiz (Los Angeles Chargers): January 29, 2024
  32. Eliot Wolf (New England Patriots): May 11, 2024

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. The Eagles bumped Roseman from the top decision-making post in 2015, giving Chip Kelly personnel power. Roseman was reinstated upon Kelly’s December 2015 firing.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Bills To Shift Connor McGovern To C

While the Jets have not re-signed four-year starter Connor McGovern, the AFC East will not be without a Connor McGovern at center this season. A Bills change will ensure this.

After Buffalo signed the younger of the NFL’s Connor McGoverns last year, they slotted the ex-Cowboys draftee at left guard. Rather than moving the re-signed David Edwards to center to fill Mitch Morse‘s old post, the Bills are signing off on a more natural transition. McGovern confirmed he will be the one replacing Morse this season.

I would say center is my natural position,” McGovern said, via the Buffalo News’ Mark Gaughan. “So it’s just going back home. I missed it a lot. I was drafted as a center originally. Then a new coaching staff came in and I got moved to guard. I always kind of sought my way back to center. Every time something happened, I’d play a little bit (at center) and I’d get moved back to guard. Now officially I can move back to center, so I’m very happy.

The Jets’ Joe Tippmann plan will deny the world a division of two Connor McGoverns at center, but the Bills will give a player with 100 career snaps at center that role in 2024. Morse started at center in Buffalo for five seasons, but a cost-cutting spree led him off the roster. The Jaguars signed Morse soon after. While McGovern has a center past, he played 12 snaps there in 2021 and 88 at the pivot in 2022. Otherwise, his center work came in Cowboys practices or prior to the NFL.

Saquon Barkley‘s final Penn State season featured 13 McGovern starts at center. The Nittany Lions moved McGovern to guard in 2018, however, and the Cowboys slotted him there for the most part. Last season, all 1,135 McGovern snaps came at left guard. This will be a transition for the Bills’ second-highest-paid O-lineman, though his 2017 role points to an easier transition. McGovern, 26, is tied to a three-year, $22.35MM deal.

Edwards, who re-signed on a two-year deal worth $6MM, appears poised to take over at left guard. The former Rams starter has never played an NFL snap at center and primarily played right tackle at Wisconsin. His background makes a McGovern move more logical for the four-time reigning AFC East champs. Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown and O’Cyrus Torrence are primed to reprise their 2023 roles up front, with Edwards — a 45-game Rams starter from 2019-22 — likely to re-emerge as a starter after a concussion-marred 2022 season and a 2023 campaign spent as a Bills backup.

Latest On Bills’ RB Situation

The Bills’ midseason switch to Joe Brady as offensive coordinator brought about a new emphasis on the running game. Considering the changes which have taken place in the teams’ receiving corps, Buffalo’s backfield is a group carrying considerable importance ahead of 2024.

Just like the receiver position, though, the Bills’ running back spot has seen notable turnover in recent months. Nyheim Hines – who missed the entire 2023 campaign with a torn ACL – departed in free agency. Veteran Latavius Murray is unsigned, while Damien Harris elected to retire. Buffalo’s top two backfield options (James Cook, Ty Johnson) are still in place, however.

To little surprise, both members of that pair are in line for a notable workload in 2024. Cook logged 237 carries last year, good for 10th in the NFL and a dramatic uptick in usage from his rookie campaign. Johnson, meanwhile, spent time on Buffalo’s practice squad before emerging as a depth contributor late in the year and in the postseason. The former sixth-rounder enters training camp as the favorite for the backup role, Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News writes.

Johnson, 26, began his career with the Lions but most of his time prior to his Bills tenure came with the Jets. His most productive season came in 2021 with 610 scrimmage yards, though for the most part he has served in a complementary role. That will likely continue this season with Cook positioned to once again shoulder a heavy workload. Brady is aware, however, that the former second-rounder was not a workhorse back in college. As a result, consideration will be given to his usage rate in 2024.

“I think a lot of this is, ‘We’ll see,’” Brady said (via O’Halloran) when speaking about the Georgia product. “We feel confident in the room that we have and whoever is playing running back and carrying the football, they’re going to do a good job. With regard to a certain target number [for Cook], that is seeing how his body holds up and what he can do.”

The Bills’ other backfield options entering camp include fourth-round selection Ray Davis and undrafted rookie Frank Gore Jr. Their performances during the summer will be important in determining the running back pecking order behind Cook as well as – to an extent – the share of carries he will handle. Johnson will need a strong showing to lock down the RB2 role, but his experience and familiarity in Brady’s system should give him the edge to start the summer.

Latest On Bills’ Special Teams

The Bills had to make a lot of tough decisions this offseason for the sake of the salary cap and their future. Buffalo has lost a number of big names like wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, pass rusher Leonard Floyd, and center Mitch Morse, but it’s also parted ways with a number of under-the-radar contributors, particularly on special teams, per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News.

Special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley is going to need to come up with some ideas for both returner jobs. The team let last year’s leading punt returner, Deonte Harty, depart for Baltimore in free agency, and while last season’s leading kick returners, Ty Johnson and Khalil Shakir, both return in 2024, Shakir may be needed more on offense with the departures of Diggs and Davis.

Shakir was a contributor on punt returns last year, as well. Now that he’s competing with rookie second-round pick Keon Coleman for the WR1 job, though, the Bills may want to do what they can to keep him fresh for the offense. One possible replacement is rookie sixth-round cornerback Daequan Hardy. The Penn State-product returned 17 punts for 248 yards and two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions last year. While moving from Harty to Hardy sounds easy enough, Hardy likely won’t make the roster for his return abilities alone. He’ll need to show that he can contribute on defense, as well to win the job.

Johnson should continue to work as the team’s main kickoff return man, but Smiley has iterated that both return jobs are wide open for competition. Smiley may also decide to continue utilizing Shakir if he’s truly the best option. The team also rosters veteran Andy Isabella. While Isabella has never caught on as an NFL receiver, he has experience returning kickoffs and punts from his time with the Cardinals.

The Bills also will need to replace the production of linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who remains a current free agent. In four years with the Bills, the veteran played almost exclusively as a special teamer, even earning a role as team captain for his special teams contributions in Buffalo. Similarly, former safety Siran Neal, now with the division-rival Dolphins, served as the team’s main gunner on punt coverage. Both players’ special teams efforts will need to be replaced.

Lastly, the team seems to be encouraging competition at the punter position, as well. Veteran Sam Martin has held the position for two seasons and is under contract for two more, but at one point this offseason, the Bills had three punters on the roster. Matt Haack was released before spring practices concluded, but undrafted free agent punter Jack Browning out of San Diego State is still on the roster and could push Martin through camp. It will take a lot for Browning to beat out Martin, though, as the veteran placed a career-best 47.1 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line last year.

Smiley has a lot of decisions to make over the next two months, but he seems really excited to see the guys he has on the roster compete this summer.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

Following 2023’s five-team coaching carousel, this offseason featured a quarter of the jobs becoming available. One HC-needy team (New England) did not put its position on the market, promoting Jerod Mayo, but the rest did. The Patriots’ decision also produced the first shakeup among the league’s longest-tenured head coach list since 2013.

Since the Eagles fired Andy Reid, Bill Belichick‘s Patriots HC stint had run the longest. After a 4-13 season, the six-time Super Bowl-winning leader was moved out of the picture. No team hired Belichick, generating a wave of rumors, and only one (Atlanta) brought him in for an official interview. While Belichick should be expected to take at least one more run at a third-chance HC gig, Mike Tomlin rises into the top spot on this list.

Tomlin is going into his 18th season with the Steelers, and while he has surpassed Bill Cowher for longevity, the steady leader still has a ways to go to reach Chuck Noll‘s 23-season Pittsburgh benchmark. Tomlin, 52, enters the 2024 season 17-for-17 in non-losing seasons, separating himself from his predecessors in that regard.

Belichick’s ouster brought far more attention, but his Patriots predecessor also slid out of the HC ranks after a 14-year Seattle stay. Pete Carroll‘s third HC shot elevated the Seahawks to their franchise peak. No Hawks HC comes close to Carroll’s duration, and while the Super Bowl winner was interested in remaining a head coach, no team interviewed the 72-year-old sideline staple.

Belichick and Carroll’s exits leave only Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Reid as coaches who have been in place at least 10 years. With Mike Vrabel also booted this offseason, only eight HCs have held their current jobs since the 2010s. A few 2017 hires, however, stand out; Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Sean McDermott have now each signed multiple extensions. Now riding back-to-back Super Bowl wins, Reid joined Tomlin in signing an offseason extension.

Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2024 season:

  1. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2027
  2. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  3. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2029
  4. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2027
  5. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2027
  6. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2027
  7. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019: signed extension in July 2022
  8. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  9. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  10. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020; signed offseason extension
  11. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  12. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021; extended through 2027
  13. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  14. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  15. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  16. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  17. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  18. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  19. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  20. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022
  21. Sean Payton (Denver Broncos): January 31, 2023
  22. DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans): January 31, 2023
  23. Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts): February 14, 2023
  24. Jonathan Gannon (Arizona Cardinals): February 14, 2023
  25. Jerod Mayo (New England Patriots): January 12, 2024
  26. Antonio Pierce (Las Vegas Raiders): January 19, 2024
  27. Brian Callahan (Tennessee Titans): January 22, 2024
  28. Jim Harbaugh (Los Angeles Chargers): January 24, 2024
  29. Dave Canales (Carolina Panthers): January 25, 2024
  30. Raheem Morris (Atlanta Falcons): January 25, 2024
  31. Mike Macdonald (Seattle Seahawks): January 31, 2024
  32. Dan Quinn (Washington Commanders): February 1, 2024

La’el Collins, Deion Jones Facing Uphill Battles To Make Bills’ 53-Man Roster?

The Bills’ wide receiver situation brings considerable uncertainty, and a host of veterans will vie for roster spots in training camp. Buffalo added several low-cost vets at other positions as well, setting up interesting competitions.

Two of these are present at linebacker, where Nicholas Morrow joins Deion Jones to supply depth for a team that was down to third-stringers by the time it ran into the Chiefs in the divisional round. Buffalo enjoyed better health along its offensive line, but the team still signed La’el Collinsafter his year off — to compete for a swing role. Despite the profiles Collins and Jones carry, they are not locks to make the four-time reigning AFC East champions’ roster.

[RELATED: Bills S Damar Hamlin On Roster Bubble]

Collins, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.75MM, met with Bills brass late last season but eventually circled back to the Cowboys for what turned out to be a non-playing role. Most recently in place as the Bengals’ starting right tackle, Collins’ career turned when he suffered ACL and MCL tears in Week 16 of the 2022 season. The Bengals released him from their reserve/PUP list last September.

While Jones and Morrow bring similar experience, Collins will battle an unseasoned pro for Buffalo’s swing tackle job. As of now, the Buffalo News’ Ryan O’Halloran notes Ryan Van Demark is the early frontrunner to land that gig. Van Demark, who beat out David Quessenberry for the OT3 role last year, entered the league as a Colts UDFA in 2022 before spending that season on the Bills’ practice squad. Van Demark played 47 offensive snaps as a backup last season, as the Bills kept their starters on the field.

Collins’ roster spot may come down to how starting right tackle Spencer Brown looks following offseason shoulder surgery. Van Demark took the first-string RT reps during Buffalo’s offseason program. Labeling The Bills are likely to carry only one pure backup tackle. Collins, 30, brings guard experience but that occurred during his first two NFL seasons (2015-16). The Bengals did not consider sliding Collins to guard after the Orlando Brown Jr. signing.

A practice squad spot could await Collins in the event he cannot unseat Van Demark when the pads come on, though that would probably depend on another team’s willingness to dangle a roster spot. It would cost the Bills $1.5MM in dead money to release Collins, whereas dropping Jones would not bring any cap penalties due to the veteran linebacker not receiving any guaranteed money.

The Bills plan to use the recovering Matt Milano and third-year cog Terrel Bernard as their three-down linebackers, per O’Halloran, with 2023 third-rounder Dorian Williams assured of a spot as well. Tyrel Dodson signed with the Seahawks this offseason. Buffalo, which needed to use old friend A.J. Klein in an emergency circumstance in the playoffs, added Morrow and Jones this offseason. Morrow, who signed for $1.5MM ($750K guaranteed) in March, started 12 Eagles games last season but once again did not command a notable market. Nevertheless, O’Halloran expects the ex-Raiders and Bears starter to have an early leg up on Jones to be the team’s veteran backup presence at linebacker.

Jones, 29, made three starts for the Panthers last season but has seen his playing time reduced significantly since his Falcons days. Atlanta traded the former Pro Bowler to Cleveland during the 2022 season, and although he landed a 2024 gig in May after not joining the Panthers until August last year, the presences of Morrow (29 starts since 2022), fifth-round pick Edefuan Ulofoshio and third-year backup Baylon Spector complicate the former Falcons extension recipient’s path to the Bills’ final 53.

With the NFL loosening restrictions on vested veterans’ practice squad eligibility, it is not difficult to envision Collins and Jones sticking around as experienced options in the event more injury trouble occurs. Both have work to do to avoid the P-squad coming into play.

S Damar Hamlin On Bills’ Roster Bubble

The 2023 season saw Damar Hamlin win the PFWA’s Comeback Player of the Year award as he succeeded in resuming his NFL career. The Bills safety did not see notable playing time, however, and as such his roster spot is uncertain entering training camp.

Hamlin managed to return to full health from his cardiac arrest in time to be available for the entire 2023 campaign. Both Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde remained atop the depth chart, and as a result Hamlin only logged 17 defensive snaps during the season. That came as no surprise, although he did see a 65% snap share on special teams. Continuing to be a third phase producer would likely be Hamlin’s strongest path to a spot on Buffalo’s 53-man roster.

Poyer was released this offseason, and Hyde’s playing future remains in doubt. Several names are still ahead of Hamlin in the safety pecking order, however, including Taylor Rapp (who was re-signed), free agent addition Mike Edwards and second-round rookie Cole Bishop. For that reason, Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News writes Hamlin will need a strong training camp performance to avoid being cut.

The presence of Cameron Lewis – who has experience both at safety and slot corner – is another factor which could leave Hamlin on the outside looking in. The latter has made 38 combined regular season and playoff appearances, with all of his 13 starts coming in 2022 while filling in for an injured Hyde. One year remains on Hamlin’s rookie contract, and he is set to carry a cap hit of $1.1MM in 2024. Almost all of that figure would translate to cap savings with a release or trade during roster cutdowns.

Hamlin’s cap hit is certainly not prohibitive, but finances have been a central component of each of the Bills’ decisions this offseason. Buffalo currently sits 24th in the NFL in cap space with just over $10MM available. A portion of that would be needed if Hyde elected to play a 12th season in the league and he returned to the Bills. Such a scenario would push Hamlin further down the depth chart this summer, one in which his short-term future will be determined.