Buffalo’s nickel corner was a great value last year
The Buffalo Bills found themselves playing with a lead for much of the 2020 season. As a result, the team’s raw numbers against the pass looked worse than they had been in the two years prior. Buffalo ranked just 13th in passing yards allowed this year after ranking fourth and first in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
The individual parts of Buffalo’s secondary, though, still thrived in a pandemic-altered year, and they proved that they’re among the better groupings in the league. When they worked together as a healthy unit, the Bills still found ways to play great defense against solid teams.
Coming in at six on our list of the best salary cap values for the 2020 Buffalo Bills is the team’s nickel corner, a player who was on the field often enough that he was one of the team’s “base” defenders.
CB Taron Johnson
2020 Salary Cap Figure: $911,517 (.41 percent of Buffalo’s salary cap)
2020 Stats: 94 tackles, five tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble, one interception, 51 interception return yards, one interception return touchdown
Johnson excelled in his first full 16-game season of his professional career. After missing time in 2018 and 2019 due to injury, Johnson played on 77 percent of Buffalo’s defensive snaps, the fifth-highest amount of all of the team’s defenders. Johnson was third in tackles and third in pass breakups on the team, and he also swung the momentum of a prime-time win over the Pittsburgh Steelers by returning an interception 51 yards for a touchdown. In the playoffs, Johnson had 17 tackles, three pass breakups, and another game-changing interception that he returned for a touchdown—he intercepted Lamar Jackson in the end zone and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown, giving Buffalo a 17-3 lead that they would not relinquish in the AFC Divisional Round.
Coming into the 2020 season, many of us expected that Johnson would battle Siran Neal for snaps as the nickel corner. Instead, Johnson played so well that he relegated Neal to a near-exclusive role on special teams. It’s not often that you can have a player fill such a huge role on defense for less than a percentage point of the team’s overall salary cap commitment, but Johnson did that in his third full season. If he has another year like that, he’ll be in line for a pretty huge payday once his contract expires at the end of this season. For now, though, Johnson remains one of the better values on Buffalo’s roster.