Lee Smith version 2.0?
The Buffalo Bills have built their tight end group very particularly since general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott arrived. They tend to prefer to keep an athletic player who is an adept route-runner as the top tight end, but they like to employ a blocking specialist, as well. Over the last few years, that blocking tight end was veteran Lee Smith.
In March, the Bills traded Smith to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round draft choice. Does that signal a change in philosophy in the tight end room, or will the Bills look to find a new blocking specialist to keep on the active roster?
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile a potential replacement for Smith as the blocking tight end.
Name: Nate Becker
Height/Weight: 6’5” 264 lbs.
Age: 25 (26 on 3/24/2022)
College: Miami (OH)
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 6/5/2019
Financial situation (per Spotrac): First year of two-year deal ($660,000 cap hit; $0 dead-cap charge if cut)
2020 Recap: Becker spent the offseason working towards a roster spot, but he was cut at the end of the preseason. Buffalo signed him to their practice squad the following day, which is where he remained for the duration of the season. Becker was elevated to the gameday roster for Buffalo’s Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins, and he played 30 offensive snaps in that game. He was not targeted in the passing game, as he helped clear the way for Antonio Williams to rush for 65 yards and two touchdowns. The game was Becker’s professional debut. He reverted to the practice squad right after the contest.
Positional outlook: Becker finds himself in the midst of a tight end group that looks shockingly similar to last year’s tight end group. Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, and Reggie Gilliam all return, and the team added veteran free agent Jacob Hollister and rookie free agent Quintin Morris to the group.
2021 Offseason: Becker is healthy and ready to roll for training camp.
2021 Season outlook: In all likelihood, Becker is on the outside looking in once again at this group if everyone is healthy. Buffalo won’t keep more than four tight ends, and there’s almost no way that Becker is ahead of Hollister, Knox, Sweeney, or Gilliam. It’s possible that one of that trio doesn’t make the roster, which makes it even less likely that Becker is left standing after final cuts. Another year on the practice squad is the most likely way that Becker remains with Buffalo in 2021.