Buffalo Bills training camp preview, 2022: interior offensive linemen
The Buffalo Bills had protection issues in the 2021 season. After an offseason where general manager Brandon Beane was able to re-sign the entire starting unit for the 2020 season, it wasn’t something that was planned. However, the nature of the NFL is to expect the unexpected, and Beane prepared accordingly.
Just because he locked up all of his starters in 2020 doesn’t mean Beane would rest on his laurels. He continued to do what he did best, maintaining a depth stability along the front line that ultimately provided some relief for the Bills towards the end of the year.
Now, he’s done the same this offseason, adding and re-signing multiple players to enter the fray and compete for jobs. In our final look at the offensive side of the ball for our State of the Bills roster series heading into training camp, we take a look at interior offensive linemen.
Contract status: Signed a two-year extension this offseason through 2024; ($8 million cap reached)
Age: Turned 30 on 04/21/2022
Playtime 2021: 17 games (17 starts), 1,167 offensive snaps (97.41% of team total)
2021 key statistics: 2 sacks allowed, 25 pressings allowed, 2 tackles for loss allowed, 5 penalties against, 28 yards penalty against
Morse has always been a quietly consistent stallion on the front line for the Bills, as his athleticism and ability to help quarterback Josh Allen put up protections has helped the Bills develop into an offensive juggernaut. In 2021, however, it has become apparent that Morse is not just a solidifying force up front, but is arguably Buffalo’s best offensive lineman. Last year, at least, Morse was the most consistent as he went healthy for a full season for only the third time in his seven-year career. Last year, many assumed Morse wouldn’t complete the four-year, $44 million deal he signed before the 2019 season, but he signed another two-year extension this offseason.
Contract status: Signed a one-year, fully guaranteed, $6.25 million contract in the offseason
Age: Turned 34 on 06/06/2022
Playtime 2021: 15 games (15 starts), 852 offensive snaps (71.96%), 46 special teams snaps (10.04%) for Tennessee Titans
2021 key statistics: Pro-Bowl2 sacks allowed, 4 penalties against, 30 penalty yards against
Saffold earned the first Pro Bowl nod of his career in 2021 after a strong season for the Titans. He was a priority signing for the Bills, despite his age, and he immediately slots into the starting left guard position. If the best capacity is availability, Saffold is enabled. He played 15 or more games in six consecutive seasons for the Rams and Titans, including two seasons with new Buffalo offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
Contract status: Start of final year of four-year rookie contract ($2,388,741 cap hit; $869,994 dead cap if cut or traded)
Age: 25 (26 on 12/28/2022)
Playtime 2021: 15 games (7 starts), 485 offensive snaps (40.48% of team total), 73 special teams snaps (16.82% of team total)
2021 key statistics: 2 sacks allowed, 26 pressings allowed, 0 tackles for loss allowed, 3 penalties against, 23 yards penalty against
The jury seems to have reached a verdict on Ford, and it’s not pretty. Buffalo’s 2019 second-round pick NFL Draft started the year as the team’s starting right guard, but was benched after just three games where he was a constant source of frustration for the offense and Bills fans. He made four more starts on the spot – the ugly 9-6 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguarsthe horrible home defeat against the Indianapolis Coltsand win the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers– but it was clear that these departures were more the result of a lack of healthy options than some kind of positive performance report from Ford. That said, there have been some positives from the last two games. The Bills realize that Ford can’t be counted on to be the starter at any position up front, and even if they would receive marginal cap savings by releasing him, it’s more likely that the Bills will. team keeps him for the last year of his rookie contract before allowing him to leave the next offseason.
Contract status: Signed a 4-year, $17 million RFA deal with the Bears, which was matched by Bills ($2.375 million cap reached in 2022)
Age: Turned 25 on 02/14/2022
Playtime 2021: 17 games (4 starts), 294 offensive snaps (29.54% of team total), 83 special teams snaps (19.12% of team total)
2021 key statistics: 0 sacks allowed, 3 pressings allowed, 1 tackle for loss allowed, 1 penalty against, 15 yards penalty against
just like everything of us predicted, Buffalo’s all-around reserve lineman proved to be the missing piece up front, as Buffalo’s late-season resurgence on offense coincided with the Bates enters the starting lineup at left guard. All sarcasm aside, Bates has been wonderful in his six starts (two playoff games as well), and the Bills responded by adding a fantastic rushing offense to an already phenomenal passing game. The Bills are counting on him to build on that 2021 success going forward, but he’ll likely have to do it on the right rather than the left after signing Saffold. Bates could also be the main center back-up.
Contract status: Reserves/futures agreement signed on 01/24/2022 (cap reached of $705,000; dead cap of $0)
Age: 23 (24 on 02/11/2022)
Playtime: N / A
Key statistics: N / A
Capra was born in Folsom, California, which reminds me of Johnny Cash. PFR listed him as Joey, his middle name, which reminds me of Albert Belle. His last name reminds me of It’s a wonderful life director Franck Capra. He was a high school teammate of Tommy Doyle. He was brought up for one game, Buffalo’s 31-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers, but he did not appear in the game. Capra played college football at San Diego State, where he started games at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle during his career.
Contract status: Signed a minimum one-year veteran contract this offseason
Age: 27 (28 on 05/10/2022)
Playtime 2021: 15 games (10 starts), 636 offensive snaps (53.09% of team total), 71 special teams snaps (16.36% of team total)
2021 key statistics: 1 sack allowed, 17 pressings allowed, 4 tackles for loss allowed, 2 penalties against, 10 yards penalty against
The undrafted former free agent had worked his way into a full-time starting role, locking down the left guard position midway through the season when disaster struck. Boettger tore his left Achilles tendon on December 26. While it’s possible he’ll be ready to play in September, the Bills can’t bet on it. Kyle Trimble wrote that it’s “reasonable” to expect him to be ready for week 1, so I’ll trust the expert! As long as he’s close to health, he might be the best interior reserve. If he doesn’t bounce back, he could be a cut candidate, which would be a real shame.
Contract status: Signed a minimum one-year veteran contract this offseason
Age: Turned 30 on 04/23/22
Playtime 2021: 5 games (1 start), 185 offensive snaps (16.03 of team total), 13 special teams snaps (2.80% of team total)
2021 key statistics: None
Mancz was one of those signings that made sense at the time, because Buffalo didn’t have a backup center. Now that they’ve re-signed Bates and added several players who can contribute to multiple positions should Bates have to move inside with a Morse injury, Mancz is going to have to excel to make the roster.
The team has started five different combinations along the inside line in 2021 and two of those starters — Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams — are gone. Four players return (Morse, Ford, Boettger and Bates) but a new starter also appears to be locked in from outside the squad.
In addition to those guys, Derek Kerstetter has NFL experience as a guard and could slip into the tackle if needed. This reduces the need to keep multiple reserves inside and could push another player on today’s roster to the wrong side of the roster bubble. (Kerstetter was featured in our attacking tackles article.)
With Saffold, Morse and Bates penciled in as starters and a hopefully healthy Boettger and Ford or Mancz, the Bills will be complete inside their offensive line with at least one legitimate squad contender. coaching.
As former Bills guard Ross Tucker recently said on Twitter, Buffalo’s reserves could be better than some starters. They’re a pretty solid group with some fun camp battles to watch out for.