Starters: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes 3. Manny Lawson 4. Jarius Wynn 5. Jacquies Smith
Projected Cuts: Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
Williams and Hughes give the Bills a terrific tandem of pass-rushers off the edge. Lawson, a starter at linebacker last season, has looked good this summer as a rotational defensive end. Wynn is a solid veteran backup with some pass-rushing and edge-setting ability.
There’s only been four defensive ends on my previous roster projections, but it’s highly unlikely the Bills would still have seven on the roster at this point if they weren’t planning to at least keep five. The beneficiary of that extra spot should be Smith, who flashed enough pass-rushing ability throughout the preseason to earn a place on the roster.
Starters: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus 3. Corbin Bryant 4. Stefan Charles
Friday’s release of Cohen came as a surprise, but the Bills have a very strong two-deep at defensive tackle. Williams and Dareus are both among the NFL’s best interior defensive lineman. Bryant is a good penetrator who will be the primary backup to Williams, while Charles can back up Dareus at nose tackle. Bryant and Charles should both see rotational playing time coming off strong preseasons.
MLB: Brandon Spikes WLB: Nigel Bradham (Suspended for Week 1) SLB: Keith Rivers 4. Preston Brown 5. Ty Powell 6. Randell Johnson
Projected Cuts: Jimmy Gaines
Brown, who started at weakside linebacker Thursday night, is challenging for a starting spot and is clearly in line to start in place of Bradham in Week 1. That said, the team’s three best linebackers right now are Spikes, Bradham and Rivers, who should be the starting trio come Week 2. Spikes and Bradham have had very strong preseasons—if Brown displaces anyone from the lineup, it could be Rivers, with either Bradham or Brown moving to strongside linebacker.
Powell didn’t get any opportunities to work with the first-team defense this preseason, but he should remain on the roster as a versatile backup and special teams playmaker. Johnson is a raw talent, but the seventh-round pick made plays with his athleticism nonetheless and showed enough intriguing promise to secure a roster spot.
Gaines is a candidate for the Bills’ final 53-man roster spot because of Bradham’s Week 1 suspension, but he’s more likely to end up on the practice squad.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin 3. Nickell Robey 4. Corey Graham 5. Ron Brooks 6. Ross Cockrell
Gilmore and McKelvin are a strong starting cornerback duo while Robey is excellent as the slot cornerback in subpackages. Graham and Brooks have each filled in as starters on the outside for Gilmore and McKelvin at times this preseason; it’s unclear which one is the primary backup on the outside, as Robey should stay in the slot at all times, but both Graham and Brooks should safely make the roster.
Cockrell played only with backups this preseason and struggled when he was on the field, but the fourth-round pick should have a safe spot on the team’s roster. He’s unlikely to see any significant playing time on defense but should be a core special teams player as a rookie, much like 2013 Day 3 picks Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks were last year.
Starters: Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy 3. Duke Williams 4. Jonathan Meeks
Projected Cuts: Deon Broomfield, Kenny Ladler
Searcy started alongside Aaron Williams in each of Buffalo’s last two preseason games, so it appears he won the battle for a starting job over Duke Williams. Aaron Williams and Searcy give the Bills an experienced tandem of starting safeties, but Duke Williams should see an increase in playing time as well.
Meeks is expected to be the Bills’ fourth safety, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock if either Broomfield or Ladler was kept instead. Both undrafted rookies have shown enough this preseason to potentially steal a roster spot or, at the least, earn a job on Buffalo’s practice squad.
Marrone has been insistent that the Bills would like to have another kicker on the roster as their kickoff specialist, but Dan Carpenter has won the job as the team’s field goal kicker. He had a great 2013 season, in which he made 33 of 36 field goal attempts, and the Bills will expect him to be just as reliable this year.
Projected Cuts: Jordan Gay
Gay is the only punter on the Bills’ roster following the release of Brian Moorman, but he has been wildly inconsistent in stints with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo this preseason. Ideally, it seems the Bills would like their punter to also be able to double as a kickoff specialist, but that in itself shouldn’t be reason to keep Gay on the roster.
Expect Buffalo to bring in a number of punters cut by other teams for tryouts. They have already planned one with Drew Butler, who punted for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012 and was cut by the Detroit Lions earlier this week, according to WIVB’s Lauren Brill.
If there was any doubt about Garrison Sanborn being the Bills’ long snapper for this year and beyond, the team squashed that Friday by signing him to a contract extension. According to WGR’s Joe Buscaglia, the extension is for three years and worth $3.3 million.
T.J. Graham, Evan Rodriguez
Deon Broomfield, Jimmy Gaines, Kenny Ladler, Caleb Holley, Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson, Antoine McClain, Outside Addition
If you’re wondering why the Bills haven’t completed their cutdown to 53 players yet, it’s because every player still on the roster—even the projected cuts—is there for a reason. The Bills might still be trying to find a trade partner for a few veterans like Graham and Urbik. A few players, like Gay and possibly Tuel, might end up only being placeholders for players yet to be added to the roster. The other players still on the roster are likely there because the Bills desire to bring them back on the practice squad.
Broomfield, Gaines, Ladler, Holley, Igbinosun, Johnson and McClain all have full practice squad eligibility and are prime candidates to be brought back in that capacity. Broomfield, Gaines, Ladler, Holley and Johnson are all undrafted rookies who have shown enough to warrant continued to development, while McClain and Igbinosun are versatile players who can provide emergency on the depth on the offensive and defensive lines respectively.
Gay is also eligible for the practice squad and Tuel would likely get a spot on the practice squad if he is released. That said, it’s likely the Bills will also bring in at least one player from another team’s cuts for their practice squad.
While at least eight players on the practice squad must be players who have been active for no more than eight NFL regular season games, the recently-announced expansion of the practice squad to 10 players leaves two spots open to anyone with less than two accrued NFL seasons.
One of those spots should go to Graham if he is not traded or picked up by another team. The other could go to Rodriguez, if he is not signed elsewhere after his Friday release, as he remains a decent option at fullback and/or tight end if needed.
Among the players projected to be cut Saturday, Urbik is the only one with no practice squad eligibility.