With over a month to judge their roster during every practice and preseason game, the Buffalo Bills have made their decisions on cutdown day. The team officially announced their initial 53-man roster on Tuesday.
Headlining all of their decisions were two distinct moves at defensive end. The Bills elected to keep star pass rusher Von Miller on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning that he’ll be out at least the first four games of the season. The team also traded rotational defensive end Boogie Basham, their 2021 second-round pick, to the New York Giants for a late-round pick swap in the 2025 NFL Draft.
What stood out from those decisions and all their other cuts on a busy Tuesday? Here is a complete roster analysis of each position and where the Bills go from here.
Josh Allen, Kyle Allen
Injured Reserve: Matt Barkley
The elbow injury and disappointing showing against the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately did Matt Barkley in, as the team sent him to Injured Reserve to become roster compliant. The Bills head into Wednesday with Kyle Allen as Josh Allen’s primary backup, though it’s worth monitoring over the next several days before the season arrives. That begins with waivers, where the Bills could attempt to claim another backup option who was let go by another team. They also could look to trade for a player on another roster. But for now, Kyle Allen is the Bills’ backup quarterback. Despite inconsistent results, the Bills remain complimentary of him to this point, and his good relationship with Josh Allen was likely a strong consideration in the Bills’ ultimate decision. Allen squared remains through final cuts.
Running back (4)
James Cook, Latavius Murray, Damien Harris, Reggie Gilliam (FB)
Cut: Jordan Mims, Darrynton Evans, Ty Johnson
There was a clear separation between the top three running backs and the rest of the room, making this cutdown pretty obvious. All that’s left to determine is the gameday role for Cook, Murray and Harris. Gilliam is again the lead fullback and key special teams player. Jordan Mims may wind up as the Bills’ practice squad runner after some good moments during practice this summer.
Wide receiver (6)
Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty, Khalil Shakir, Justin Shorter
Cut: Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Marcell Ateman, Tyrell Shavers, Bryan Thompson, Dezmon Patmon, Isaiah Coulter
With Diggs, Davis, Sherfield, Harty and Shakir all locks for the roster, it really came down to two questions. Would the Bills keep seven receivers, and if not, who would win the sixth spot? After the first preseason game, the door slightly opened to Andy Isabella as rookie Justin Shorter didn’t stand out despite a lot of playing time. After their second preseason game against the Steelers, Shorter shut the door with a thud on the battle for the sixth spot. The team’s fifth-round pick showed excellent progress as a receiver from when he first arrived to the end of the preseason and combined that with the special teams prowess they believed in when they selected him in April. And with a four-year cost-controlled contract, Shorter’s place on the team was no longer in doubt. But in an interesting twist, a hamstring injury to Shorter will land him on in-season Injured Reserve, according to a league source.
Isabella was the story of the summer, though, and the Bills would love to get him back on the practice squad. As an in-camp addition, he quickly earned the favor of coaches and quarterbacks alike and saw his opportunities increase. But two things worked against Isabella initially. First, there was a duplication of skill-set. Isabella was a slot receiver only in the Bills’ scheme, already pushing a strike against him in their desire for versatility. The quartet of Diggs, Sherfield, Harty and Shakir all can play inside at slot receiver, while also playing other roles within the offense. Second, Isabella didn’t provide any special teams function with Harty as the clear kickoff and punt returner. But now with Shorter heading to IR, Isabella is certainly in the conversation to return to the 53-man roster with that open spot.
Tight end (3)
Dawson Knox, Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris
Cut: Joel Wilson, Jace Sternberger
There wasn’t much mystery surrounding the tight end room. Knox, Kincaid and Morris were always the trio earmarked for the 53-man roster. It was also crucial for the Bills to keep all three, as they likely have designs on playing a healthy amount of 12 personnel in their games this season. Kincaid likely will factor into a significant workload in his first season playing alongside Knox, while Morris will reprise a key special teams role. Keep an eye on Joel Wilson for the practice squad, as he came along nicely through the spring and summer.
Offensive line (9)
Dion Dawkins, Connor McGovern, Mitch Morse, O’Cyrus Torrence, Spencer Brown, Ryan Bates, David Edwards, Ryan Van Demark, Alec Anderson
Cut: David Quessenberry, Ike Boettger, Nick Broeker, Greg Mancz, Richard Gouraige, Kevin Jarvis, Garrett McGhin
After taking the approach in 2022 of stacking their offensive line depth with veteran experience, the Bills took a different approach this year. They elected to keep both Van Demark and Anderson, two players who spent the entire 2022 season on their practice squad, over veteran players David Quessenberry and Ike Boettger. Van Demark and Anderson each outplayed the two veteran players, so it’s not as though it only came down to age. Van Demark hits the initial 53-man roster as the team’s swing tackle, having shown progress and upside at both left and right tackle during the preseason. Anderson played four different positions throughout the summer, including center, left guard, right guard and right tackle. And for both players, the Bills hold four years of roster control. They have matching two-year contracts, they would be an exclusive rights free agent in 2025, and a restricted free agent in 2026. Their versatility, youth and contract all were extremely desirable, which meant if the Bills put either on waivers, another team likely would have claimed them.
Meet Ryan Van Demark — former baby model turned potential Bills swing tackle
It would not be a surprise to see one or both of Quessenberry and Boettger back on the practice squad. Neither player is subject to waivers, and if they don’t attract an offer on another team’s 53-man roster, the Bills could attempt to bring each player back into the fold as insurance. On top of those two, the Bills are likely keeping their fingers crossed that rookie guard Nick Broeker will pass through waivers. The team’s seventh-round pick played well against the Steelers, and interestingly, the team did not give him a single snap in the preseason finale. The Bills may have been attempting to hide Broeker on film to sneak him through waivers. We’ll see later this week if it worked.
Defensive end (5)
Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa, Shaq Lawson, Kingsley Jonathan
Reserve/PUP: Von Miller
Traded: Boogie Basham
Cut: Kameron Cline
The Bills’ choice to begin the year with Miller on PUP is pragmatic and logical. Miller is a 34-year-old player coming off the second torn ACL of his career, and although he has pushed to get back on the field, the Bills felt it best to allow Miller to keep progressing forward without the pressure to skip steps. The Bills have good enough starters in Rousseau and Floyd and depth to get them by in the interim. Following a strong summer and a spot opening up by way of the Basham trade, Jonathan sticks to the initial 53-man roster. It remains to be seen if he’ll have a role on game days initially, but the Bills didn’t want to chance subjecting him to waivers like last year. The Bears claimed Jonathan after final cuts in 2022 before making his way back to the Bills’ practice squad in season. If everyone remains healthy on the roster, he could be a cut candidate to make room for Miller, but that’s way down the road and several things can change until Miller is ready to return.
Defensive tackle (5)
Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips, Poona Ford, Tim Settle
Cut: Eli Ankou, Kendal Vickers, D.J. Dale, Cortez Broughton
This group of five has been a lock since the beginning of camp, as soon as Tim Settle asserted himself with several excellent practices that caught the eye of his coaches. The Bills will go into the season with a deep and talented defensive tackle room, which may be the best Sean McDermott has had since he arrived in 2017. Eli Ankou has been a mainstay on the Bills practice squad for years now, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he continued that streak in 2023. Ankou would count as one of their six veteran spots on the practice squad.
Matt Milano, Tyrel Dodson, Terrel Bernard, Dorian Williams, Baylon Spector, Tyler Matakevich
Cut: A.J. Klein, Travin Howard, DaShaun White
Linebacker wound up being the Bills’ most complex decision because of how many things were up in the air. All three of Bernard, Williams and Spector are dealing with injuries. Spector’s looked like the worst of the bunch, with the team describing him as “week-to-week” with a hamstring injury. According to a league source, the Bills plan to put Spector on in-season IR, opening up another roster spot and giving Spector a chance to return this season. Bernard (hamstring) and Williams (calf) were ramping up last week, though their exact timetable remains unclear. With both of their statuses slightly up in the air, that left veteran A.J. Klein a bit more up in the air as he can serve as a backup at both middle and outside linebacker. However, Klein is behind the pair of middle linebackers in Bernard and Dodson, and also behind the outside linebackers in Milano and Williams. Ultimately, the Bills likely felt good either about the health of Bernard and/or Williams, that they could get Klein to the practice squad or both. Should the Bills create another roster spot through in-season IR through linebacker, Klein would be a candidate to return to the 53-man roster. He could even be a candidate with the Shorter news.
Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, Siran Neal
Cut: Ja’Marcus Ingram, Alex Austin, Kyron Brown
The group the Bills would keep at cornerback was never much of a question. They have their defined starter on the boundary in White. Johnson is the nickel cornerback. Neal is the special teams ace. Meanwhile, the Bills would just need to decide who would be the other boundary starter between Benford, Jackson and Elam. Although they may not have that answer at the time of cutdown day, or at least not willing to declare so publicly, the Bills will have their best depth at cornerback in several seasons. As for the practice squad, Ja’Marcus Ingram and Alex Austin are worth monitoring. Both had their moments during practice and in the preseason.
Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Taylor Rapp, Damar Hamlin, Cam Lewis
Cut: Dean Marlowe, Zayne Anderson, Jared Mayden
The first four of the safety group, Hyde, Poyer, Rapp and Hamlin, were all roster locks heading into cutdown day. And those closely monitoring the usage of Lewis throughout the summer showed him to be a pretty safe bet to make the team as well. Lewis was a multi-use player who can play safety, nickel corner and is a likely gameday core special teams player.
Damar Hamlin makes Bills’ 53-man roster
Tyler Bass (K), Sam Martin (P)
Cut: Reid Ferguson (LS)
With Spector heading to in-season injured reserve, Ferguson is expected to re-sign with the Bills on Wednesday afternoon. The Bills didn’t owe any dead money on Ferguson’s contract by releasing him, so this is a free move to keep their options open with Spector in-season.
(Top photo of Von Miller: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)