Can the veteran come over from a divisional rival and make the team?
The Buffalo Bills and general manager Brandon Beane consistently have extra offensive line depth. Beane stockpiles a mixture of younger players and veterans, most of whom have plenty of versatility and/or starting experience, to ensure that the team has a strong group even beyond its starting five.
Beane often pulls off some wizardry at the end of the preseason, flipping some of those linemen for late-round draft choices. While that might not seem like great strategy (and might not always work, as seen by the Wyatt Teller trade), it does give the team the necessary ammo to move up in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one such depth addition—a former starter who could be a valuable reserve or a solid trade chip for Buffalo this year.
Name: Greg Van Roten
Height/Weight: 6’3” 305 lbs
Age: 32 (33 on 2/26/2023)
Experience/Draft: 8; signed with Green Bay Packers following the 2012 NFL Draft
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 6/13/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Van Roten signed a one-year deal with Buffalo worth a total of $1,272,500. That contract included a signing bonus of $152,500, which represents the dead-cap figure should he not make the team. He carries a cap hit of $1,047,500 if he makes the team this year.
2021 Recap: Van Roten spent last season with the New York Jets, his second season with the club. He started ten games at guard and played in all 17 contests for the year. Van Roten appeared on 64% of New York’s offensive snaps and 12% of their special teams snaps. He committed two penalties on the season and was credited with having allowed three sacks. The Jets had originally signed him to a three-year contract, but they released him in May rather than allow him to see the final year of the deal.
Positional outlook: Van Roten joins a guard group that has plenty of potential, but isn’t exactly long on established results. Rodger Saffold and Ryan Bates project as the starters, and while the former has copious starting experience, the latter has only started four games. Ike Boettger will probably begin the year on the PUP list after tearing his Achilles tendon in December. Cody Ford has been a tremendous disappointment. The team signed David Quessenberry, who doubles as a tackle, in the offseason, as well as Greg Mancz, who doubles as a center. Jacob Capra rounds out the group.
2022 Offseason: Van Roten is healthy, and he’s participated in OTAs since signing with Buffalo.
2022 Season outlook: Van Roten is a true bubble piece along the line for the Bills. Assuming a starting group of Dion Dawkins, Saffold, Mitch Morse, Bates, and Spencer Brown, that leaves upwards of five spots to fill along the line. The next two are probably Tommy Doyle and Quessenberry, with Mancz, Van Roten, and Ford in the group right with or after those two. That’s even discounting Boettger, who I think would absolutely be a roster lock if he were healthy.
If Buffalo keeps ten offensive linemen, those are your ten, with one bumping off the roster upon Boettger’s return. I think they’ll keep nine, which means that someone has to be the odd man out. In terms of ability, that person is probably Ford, but it’s not as if Quessenberry (who allowed 11 sacks last season according to Pro Football Focus) is a stud. Mancz probably makes the roster thanks to his being a center that the team can plug into the lineup mid-game without forcing Bates to shift over in a pinch (for the record, I think Bates is the long-term backup at center if something happens to Morse, but the team would be wise to have someone like Mancz who practices exclusively at center who can step up in an emergency).
I don’t think that both Van Roten and Quessenberry make the team. If everyone remains healthy, I think one is traded and the other stays. Given Quessenberry’s versatility, I’ll wager that Van Roten is traded somewhere in August for a late-round draft choice. If not, then he’ll be a strong depth piece in the event of an injury moving forward.