TE Blake Annen, FB Jerome Felton, LBs Manny Lawson, Kroy Biermann and Randell Johnson, CBs Mario Butler, Sterling Moore and Sammy Seamster, DTs Brandron Deaderick and Casey Walker, T Marquis Lucas and Chris Martin. G Cyril Richardson, DEs Lavar Edwards and Max Valles, C Fernando Velasco, RBs Boom Herron and James Wilder Jr, as well as WRs Jarrett Boykin, Dez Lewis and Kain Colter were all released on Friday.
Highlighting a mostly predictable group of cuts were two major surprises in Lawson and Felton, two veterans who seemed to have pretty solid footing on this team entering training camp.
Lawson was viewed by many as the likely candidate to hold down the right edge rusher position for rookie Shaq Lawson, as he rehabbed from off-season shoulder surgery. When training camp commenced though, back on July 30th, Lawson was listed on the Active/Non-Football injury list, after what was later reported as a partially torn pectoral muscle. Upon returning to the field for the first time with a week to go in camp, reports began surfacing that the 32-year-old linebacker was being investigated by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. That report was later confirmed by the Bills and the process remains ongoing at this point.
In the final year of his contract Lawson was due to make $3.4 million this season, and Buffalo will save $2.4 million in cap space and absorb a $1 million dead cap hit by releasing him. It’s possible that with a suspension pending for the 10-year veteran, Buffalo didn’t think the aging linebacker was worth the trouble.
When asked if that situation had anything to do with Lawson’s release, Rex Ryan wouldn’t go anywhere near it. “I’m not going to get into any of that stuff,” he said.
With Lawson now out of the picture another veteran Lorenzo Alexander will step in as the team’s starting outside backer opposite Jerry Hughes at least until Shaq Lawson is able to return to action.
Felton, the other big surprise cut, perhaps fell victim to a younger player seizing an opportunity to shine. Undrafted rookie Glenn Gronkowski has dazzled Rex Ryan over the last few weeks and left him with a tough decision when it came to the FB position. At the conclusion of training camp Ryan suggested that keeping both full backs was a realistic possibility. Then after Thursday night’s 31-0 loss to the Lions, he singled out Gronkowski as one of several players he was “impressed with.” Felton was getting phased out of the offense and became expendable once the Kansas State product started performing this preseason. Now, Ryan has his very own Gronk to incorporate into the offense.
Releasing Felton means the Bills will be forced to eat the $1.95 million dead cap number he carries, but because of what’s know as the post June 1 designation they are only on the books for his $650 K signing bonus figure he possess in 2016, and the addition $1.3 million can be pushed off to 2017.
The waiving of Lawson, Biermann and Johnson means that another undrafted rookie, LB Bryson Albright, has made the 53-man roster as well. Albright has made a strong case for himself throughout training camp and the preseason, and will now likely be the No. 2 linebacker behind Alexander.
Another somewhat surprising move was Ryan retaining all six of his safeties, at least for now. Corey Graham and Aaron Williams are of course your starters, with Duke Williams and Jonthan Meeks likely you’re go to backups behind them. Robert Blanton provides some nice depth and Colt Anderson made this team strictly for his special teams presence. On Tuesday Ryan noted that he has never kept six safeties on the roster – I guess there is a first time for everything.
At running back the Bills – unsurprisingly – cut ties with the low men on the totem pole James Wilder Jr. and Boom Herron, establishing a solid core of backs that includes LeSean McCoy, Reggie Bush, Mike Gillislee and rookie Jonathan Williams.
As for the wideouts, Walter Powell’s impressive camp and preseason paid off as he beat out Dez Lewis, Jarrett Boykin and Cain Kolter for the fifth and final wide receiver spot behind Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Greg Salas.
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