Without question, the most difficult task the Buffalo Bills face this offseason is whittling their loaded roster down to 53 players by the start of the regular season.
So many excruciating choices will have to be made, particularly on the offensive line, where perhaps a trade or two will help them in other areas.
There will be injuries, surprises and disappointments. But in the end, there will have to be decisions after rookie camp, organized team activities, mandatory minicamp and training camp. So without further ado, we present Bills Central's Roster Projection 1.0:
Josh Allen, Case Keenum and Matt Barkley.
If the Bills need to go lighter here to compensate for a shortage somewhere else, Barkley is expendable or perhaps a practice-squad candidate.
Sorry, Bills Mafia members. We know Barkley's a great guy and really popular. But Keenum is flat-out better, and having three QBs on the active roster can be considered a luxury these days.
Running back (4)
Devin Singletary, Duke Johnson, James Cook and Raheem Blackshear.
Singletary asserted himself last year and is a lock along with newcomer Johnson and rookie second-round pick Cook.
The wildcard here is undrafted rookie Blackshear. If he can prove himself to be as valuable on special teams as 33-year-old Taiwan Jones has been over the years, he will win the final spot over Jones and Zack Moss.
We're projecting that he will.
After nearly doubling his offensive snaps from the year before and playing 77% of the special-teams snaps in 2021, Gilliam doesn't appear to be going anywhere.
Wide receiver (6)
Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir and Jake Kumerow.
There should be some good competition here for the sixth spot, where special teams likely will determine it.
On the bubble: Marquez Stevenson and Isaiah Hodgins.
Tight end (2)
Dawson Knox and O.J. Howard.
Tommy Sweeney was a great comeback story last year, but the Bills clearly wanted to upgrade the backup spot by signing Howard, who is looking to resurrect his career. If he can stay healthy, he will have a great chance
Offensive line (9)
Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, Rodger Saffold, Spencer Brown, Dion Dawkins, Tommy Doyle, Greg Mancz, David Quessenberry and Ike Boettger.
With so much versatility across the board here, the Bills should be in excellent shape and likely as deep as any team in the league at this position.
Defensive line (10)
Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle, Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Shaq Lawson, A.J. Epenesa, Eli Ankou.
Lots of reconstruction here as Miller, Jones, Phillips, Settle and Lawson are newcomers, though Lawson and Phillips are back for second stints.
Just a note on Miller. He's listed as a linebacker but likely will play with his hand on the ground as a 4-2 defensive end in the Bills' system. That is, unless they show some new wrinkles to the defense they've been used to running since 2017.
That very well could be.
But until then, we're listing Miller as a defensive end.
Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Tyrel Dodson, Tyler Matakevich, Andre Smith and Terrell Bernard.
Beyond starters Edmunds and Milano, which player will best fill that third linebacker role so expertly played by the departed A.J. Klein? And who performs best on special teams?
Lots of great competition expected here.
Tre'Davious White, Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal and Kaiir Elam.
The Bills could well keep six corners and go lighter somewhere else.
For now, they're hoping White will be able to come back from his knee injury and play the whole season, while rookie first-round pick Elam and third-year man Dane Jackson make it difficult to pick the other starter on the outside.
Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, Damar Hamlin.
For now, we're not seeing any changes from last year. When healthy, Hyde and Poyer play every defensive snap at a level that's widely considered the finest in the league.
The rookie draft pick beats out Matt Haack because of his strong left leg and ability to serve as placekicker too.
Weather the San Diego State product can perform in Buffalo-type weather remains to be seen, though.
Young. Dependable. Strong. Unflappable. If Bass keeps going the way he has his first two seasons, he will make many Pro Bowls in a long career.
Long snapper (1)
He's so good that the Bills likely won't bring anyone into training camp to challenge him.
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