Buffalo Bills: 4 defensive players on the roster bubble
By Avery Duncan
After an off-season full of impactful defensive additions, the Buffalo Bills have a few returning players on the roster bubble.
As most expected, the Buffalo Bills didn’t make the defense an area of need during the off-season. Brandon Beane targeted offensive starters throughout the March to May span of NFL-madness, leaving last year’s No. 1 pass defense largely untouched — upset for the massive, monstrous, undeniably intriguing addition of Ed Oliver, of course.
Beane didn’t attempt to fix what’s working on defense, but he did add some substantial depth players. In free agency, he signed on both Kevin Johnson and E.J. Gaines; two players with starter potential. The result of their off-season relating to defense was a new starter and a slew of new bench players. Unfortunately, this leads us to four of the defenders from the 2018 squad potentially on the roster bubble.
Rafael Bush – S
The Bills brought in Rafael Bush during the 2018 off-season to be their versatile plug-in-play third safety behind Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. In his first year with Buffalo, he did just that. The 32-year-old cycled through positions on a week to week basis and eventually solidified into a starting job at slot cornerback when Taron Johnson got hurt. Still, he’s no lock to make the roster.
Bush was solid with Buffalo last year — he tallied 42 tackles and 1.5 sacks –, but he’s got some talented safeties breathing down his back. Behind Bush is Siran Neal and Jaquan Johnson. The former, 24, was turning heads during spring practice, even taking snaps from Bush and Taron Johnson for first-team slot reps. The latter, 23, is a promising rookie out of Miami that most figure as excellent value for the Bills in the fifth round.
Bush is on the last year of his contract, worth $1.8 million ($300K guaranteed), per Over The Cap. He very well could play it out, but the opportunities to do so are waning. The veteran likely won’t see the snaps he got in 2018 during 2019; Neal and Johnson will challenge him for them. If either of his younger peers, specifically Neal, turn heads at training camp, Bush may be out of Buffalo.
Neal and Johnson should be locks to make the roster, due to their draft status. Many figure Bush goes on the same boat; but do the Bills want to enter 2019 with three safeties behind a pair of starters that are the backbone of the defense? Maybe, and Bush does bring a veteran presence, but the Bills could be more intrigued by the cheap young talent on the roster.