Bills Sign Jim Leonhard, Fill Practice Squad — Who Fills The Final Roster Spot?

Jim Leonhard, who spent last season with the Denver Broncos, is returning to Buffalo. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

Unless the Bills plan to cut any more players or add any to reserve lists, they are down to their final roster opening as of late Monday afternoon. The Bills announced the signing of veteran safety Jim Leonhard on Monday, along with additions to fill the final three spots on their practice squad.

Jim Leonhard

Leonhard started his career with the Bills from 2005-07, and is back after stints with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets and Denver Broncos. He has 61 career starts, can play both free and strong safety, good ball skills and can be an asset on special teams both in coverage and as a punt returner.

That said, Leonhard had both his 2010 and 2011 seasons cut short by significant leg injuries (fractured tibia in 2010, torn patellar tendon in 2011), and between injuries and age (30), he has not looked to be the same player he once was. Cut by the New Orleans Saints this preseason, Leonhard is no longer a starting-caliber safety, but he could provide additional depth at the position and contribute on special teams.

The decision to use one of the final roster spots on Leonhard comes a bit surprisingly, as the Bills already had five safeties on their roster. They could view Leonhard as a temporary addition, however, to provide insurance with star free safety Jairus Byrd battling plantar fasciitis. It seems unlikely that the Bills would keep six safeties on their roster throughout the season, so chances are good that either Leonhard or one of the other safeties will be off the roster at some point.

Practice Squad Additions

CB Johnny Adams:Adams could become an immediate candidate for roster elevation at a position that is arguably the team’s weakest while No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore is sidelined with a fractured wrist.

Adams does not have great measurables, but he is a physical, instinctive cornerback who was one of the Big Ten’s best cornerbacks over the past three years. For a team relying the likes of Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey and Brandon Burton to step up and play significant playing time at cornerback, Adams could make an immediate push for a roster spot if he can impress in practice and show special teams value.

OT Edawn Coughman: The Bills lack offensive line depth, but Coughman is unlikely to be the answer to their problems. He struggled badly for the Dallas Cowboys in pass protection this preseason, and would not even be an upgrade over Thomas Welch as a backup tackle on the active roster.

The Bills being desperate enough to bring Coughman into their roster is a telling sign of just how disappointing Zebrie Sanders was, as Sanders has yet to be added to any practice squad. The same could be said for interior linemen Zach Chibane and David Snow.

RB Ronnie Wingo: Wingo never became anything more than a situational back at Arkansas, but he is a big back with good speed for his size. He is a relatively similar prospect to Kendall Gaskins, who was among the Bills’ final cuts, and Drew Smith, who was placed on injured reserve. He could project to fullback in addition to running back, but he does not have much blocking ability. Wingo should only see the roster if the Bills are struck by injuries in the backfield.

Who Should The Bills Look at For Their Final Roster Spot?

The Bills still have one open roster spot. Positions where another addition could be beneficial are at quarterback, offensive line, inside linebacker and cornerback.

Quarterback: The Bills are most likely done making moves at the quarterback position, choosing to keep Thad Lewis on their practice squad rather than using a roster spot on a No. 3 quarterback. If they do add a third quarterback, the most likely candidate would be to elevate Lewis.

Offensive Line: The Bills should certainly still be looking for offensive line depth, and their practice squad additions (Mark Asper and Edawn Coughman) are uninspiring. A few cuts from other teams still on the open market who could make sense to provide depth include former Syracuse/New Orleans Saints guard Andrew Tiller, former Philadelphia Eagles guards Dallas Reynolds and Danny Watkins and former Washington Redskins center Kevin Matthews.

Inside Linebacker: After cutting Bryan Scott and trading Chris White, the Bills have limited depth at the inside linebacker position. Cleveland Browns cut L.J. Fort and San Diego Chargers cut D.J. Smith could be potential waiver claims.

Cornerback: The Bills already added Brandon Burton and could view practice squad addition Johnny Adams as a potential practice squad candidate, but continuing to look for cornerback help would be a good idea. There are not many great options on the market at the position of demand, but players such as former New England Patriot Ras-I Dowling, Detroit Lions cut Ron Bartell or Carolina Panthers cut Drayton Florence could draw some interest.

Tags: Edawn Coughman, Jim Leonhard, Johnny Adams, Practice Squad, Ronnie Wingo, Roster Moves

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