The second-year special teams contributor has some competition to retain his roster spot this year
Last season, the Buffalo Bills had some question marks surrounding their tight end position coming into the season. While there was clarity at the top of the depth chart, the back end of the group left Bills fans wondering what the team would do at final cut-downs.
The tight end position has been one where the coaching staff has kept more players rather than less. Since 2018, Buffalo has entered the regular season with at least four tight ends on the roster each year. Granted, one of those years (2019) saw the Bills keep five tight ends initially thanks to injuries, and another (2020) saw the Bills keep three and a player whose professional position had yet to be defined, but the coaches in Buffalo always seem to keep one more tight end than I’d like to see them keep.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile that 2020 undefined player—an undrafted free agent who made the most of his limited opportunities.
Name: Reggie Gilliam
Height/Weight: 6’ 244 lbs
Age: 23 (24 on 8/20/2021)
Experience/Draft: 2; signed as UDFA with Bills following the 2021 NFL Draft
Acquired: UDFA signing
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Gilliam enters the second year of his three-year rookie contract, a pact worth a total of $2.305 million. For the 2021 season, Gilliam is set to count $786,666 against the salary cap. The Bills are on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $13,334 if he is released.
2020 Recap: Gilliam made the team out of training camp in part due to a foot injury that Tommy Sweeney suffered. While Gilliam was a hybrid FB/TE coming into camp, the team listed him as a tight end as they transitioned to the regular season, and when he did see time on offense, that’s where he lined up for the most part. Gilliam only appeared on 81 offensive snaps, but he appeared on 189 special teams snaps—good for ninth on the roster in that phase of the game. Gilliam caught two passes for 16 yards, hauling in one touchdown pass among his two total targets. He made two tackles on special teams, forcing one fumble. Gilliam appeared in 14 games as a rookie, missing two games late in the year due to what was listed as a knee/hamstring injury.
Positional outlook: Gilliam finds himself in the middle of a positional battle that includes some familiar faces (Tommy Sweeney, Dawson Knox, and Nate Becker) alongside some newcomers (Jacob Hollister and Quintin Morris). Given his experience as a fullback, it’s also possible that he could be asked to convert back to the offensive backfield at some point this summer. There are no true fullbacks on Buffalo’s current roster.
2021 Offseason: Gilliam is healthy and he participated in OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: Gilliam’s status is interesting. I believe he’s going to make the team, as his special teams role is one that he thrived in while at Toledo (he blocked six kicks in college). His versatility gives the Bills a “heavy” backfield option if they so choose on offense, and now that he’s spent a year with the tight ends, he can line up there and hold his own when necessary. The Bills love to use three tight end sets around the goal line, and that’s where we saw Gilliam most often last year. In my head, I’ve been viewing Gilliam’s greatest competition for a roster spot as Sweeney, who is working his way back from the aforementioned foot injury and myocarditis suffered last year, but Gilliam may also be competing with Taiwan Jones for a role as the special teams running back spot. “Sledge” is one of my favorite back-end-of-the-roster types but, realistically, he’s somewhere on that bubble between the last four on the roster and the last four off of it.