With several starters vying for a few jobs, there is a lot of intrigue on the inside
The Buffalo Bills had a banner year offensively in 2020. Obviously, that means their skill position players performed well, but it typically means that the guys up front on the offensive line did their job, as well. The best offensive linemen are the ones who you don’t notice during a game because, if they play their cards right, they’ll just keep everyone else moving efficiently.
Unless you’re a die-hard Bills fan—and if you’re here reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re just that—you might assume that everything was picture-perfect with the offensive line last year. The group was excellent in pass protection, allowing only 27 sacks on the season; however, the Bills ranked just 20th in yards per rush.
With potentially big changes this past offseason, they re-signed everyone and are running it back on the interior, but who will come out on top in the competitions during training camp?
Contract status for 2021: Signed; third year of four-year deal ($10,343,750 cap hit; $5.5 million dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: Turned 29 on 4/21/2021
2020 Playing time: 14 games (14 starts), 878 offensive snaps (80.55 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Six penalties, one sack allowed
With a high cap hit, some speculated the Bills would be best moving on from Morse and signing another center—perhaps even teammate Jon Feliciano—for less money this offseason. That didn’t happen, but Buffalo did restructure his contract and Morse agreed to a pay cut to stick around in 2021. After another concussion in 2021, the Bills sat Morse even after he had cleared concussion protocol in a very strange situation that was never fully explained. Regardless of what you think about his salary, one thing is clear: Morse ranks among the league’s top centers, and the Bills’ offensive line is better with him.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a three-year, $14.4 million deal this offseason ($3.265 cap hit in 2021, $4.4 million dead cap if cut)
Age: Turned 29 on 2/10/2021
2020 Playing time: Nine games (nine starts), 571 offensive snaps (52.39 percent), 19 ST snaps (4.28 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Two penalties, zero sacks allowed
Feliciano is a big, nasty tone-setter whose versatility is incredibly valuable. Buffalo re-signed him before he hit the open market this offseason and he’s written in as the starter at one guard spot. He’s a vocal leader on the team and the offensive line.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; third year of rookie contract ($2,047,492 cap hit; $1,739,988 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: 24 (25 on 12/28/2021)
2020 Playing time: Seven games (seven starts), 383 offensive snaps (35.14 percent), 27 ST snaps (6.08 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Three penalties, zero sacks allowed
Ford’s inconsistent play throughout his two years in the NFL has been about as troublesome as his inability to stay healthy. He is versatile enough to play both guard spots and the right tackle position, though the right guard spot seems to be his best position. Ford played through shoulder issues as a rookie, and he had surgery to repair that injury in the offseason. He missed time in 2020 due to an ankle injury before landing on injured reserve thanks to a meniscus tear. The Bills aren’t going to move on just yet—nasty maulers who can play multiple positions don’t grow on trees, and they’re especially valuable when on their rookie deals—but penciling Ford in to any particular offensive position might be a bit premature. He’ll most likely compete with Ike Boettger for one of the two guard spots.
Contract status for 2021: Signed his one-year Restricted Free Agent tender this offseason ($2.133 million cap hit, $0 guaranteed)
Age: 26 (27 on 10/5/2021)
2020 Playing time: 12 games (seven starts), 622 offensive snaps (57.06 percent), 68 ST snaps (15.32 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Three penalties, zero sacks allowed
The former undrafted free agent stepped into a starting role in 2020 for the first time in his career over an extended period, and he performed admirably, especially in pass protection. He was clearly overwhelmed by Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that’s nothing to be upset about, as Heyward is one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen and a two-time All-Pro selection. The Bills went the route of the RFA tender instead of trying to re-sign him on the opening market, showing that he’s considered a valuable piece. He will likely compete with Cody Ford to be one of the team’s starting guards.
Contract status for 2021: Signed four-year, $3.6 million deal this offseason ($685,936 cap hit, $103,744 dead cap if cut)
Age: 22 (Turns 23 on 10/12/21)
2020 Playing time: 10 games for Texas Tech, played in Senior Bowl
Key 2020 statistics: First-team All-Big 12, named captain of Red Raiders
Anderson was the team’s seventh-round pick and while he’s not guaranteed a roster spot, it’s likely he will find a place on the practice squad at minimum. He’s a nasty mauler type who was a highly sought after recruit coming out of high school but still has a ton of room to develop.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year, $1.058 million deal this offseason ($350,000 dead cap if cut)
Age: Turned 27 on 2/20/21
2020 Playing time: 16 starts for Los Angeles Chargers, 1175 offensive snaps (100 percent) and 74 special teams snaps (16.12 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: 1 penalty for 5 yards, 1.5 sacks allowed
Lamp had the best season of his short career in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers but wasn’t able to translate that into a meaningful payday. Instead, he’s going to compete for the Bills’ open guard spot and depth. Ultimately how he plays this training camp and preseason might be enough for the Bills to move him for a pick at the end of camp if he’s still on the outside looking in for a roster spot.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year, $995,000 deal this offseason ($75,000 dead cap if cut)
Age: Turned 29 on 2/28/21
2020 Playing time: 14 games for Tennessee Titans, 95 offensive snaps (8.85 percent) and 70 special teams snaps (15.66 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: 0 penalties, 0 sacks allowed, 1 bad shotgun snap counted as a fumble
Douglas is a player with a lot of NFL experience but isn’t likely to crack Buffalo’s stacked roster. They won’t likely be able to trade him so he’s an insurance policy until roster cutdowns.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year, $660,000 contract this offseason ($0 guaranteed)
Age: Turned 24 on 5/11/21
2020 Playing time: N/A
Key 2020 statistics: N/A
An undrafted free agent signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2020, he was cut in August and not on a roster or practice squad during the season.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a three-year UDFA deal this offseason ($668,333 cap hit, $25,000 dead-cap hit if cut)
Age: Turned 22 on 2/6/21
2020 Playing time: six games, six starts for Fresno State, Senior Bowl
Key 2020 statistics: Twice named offensive player of the game, All-Mountain West second-team
His cousin is Bills DE A.J. Epenesa. Tackle in college. Former wrestler. Art major.
Players who left this offseason
- Brian Winters (Free agent signed with Arizona Cardinals)
- Jonotthan Harrison (Free agent signed with New York Giants)
For a position that could have been dramatically overhauled this offseason, it’s likely to look pretty close to the same as last year. Morse at the center flanked by Feliciano and a combination of Ford and Boettger with Lamp and maybe Anderson making the roster seems like the most likely scenario. Ford vs Boettger is going to be one of the only training camp battles to watch as far as starting positions go. Beyond that, the depth options are very interesting and it’s likely going to come down to preference in playing style rather than “who is better”