According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Buffalo Bills are releasing tight end OJ Howard, a player who was supposed to be the primary backup to Dawson Knox, but who ultimately disappointed almost from the moment he joined the team.
There are several players not at practice Tuesday morning and while the team has not formally announced that anyone has been released − they likely won’t do that until after 4 pm today − it’s clear that the absentees are among the cuts.
Among the other players not at practice are wide receivers Isaiah Hodgins, Marquez Stevenson and Tanner Gentry; running backs Raheem Blackshear and Duke Johnson; defensive linemen Mike Love, Brandon Bryant, Kingsley Jonathan, Prince Emily, CJ Brewerand Eli Ankou; offensive linemen Greg Mancz, Luke Tenuta and Alec Anderson; defensive back Ja’Marcus Ingram; and linebacker Joe Giles-Harris.
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OJ Howard’s struggle to make Buffalo Bills roster
Howard, though, is the biggest name given that the Bills signed him to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
It was clear in the preseason that Howard’s time in Buffalo was tenuous because he was playing late in all three of the games. He never really flashed in practice or in the games, although he did catch a touchdown pass against Denver.
Just Monday, Howard told the Buffalo News that he was struggling to learn the Bills’ offense, particularly the terminology, and it was forcing him to play slower than he would have liked.
“It was a lot of learning experiences for me,” Howard said. “Being in a new offense, just being able to be put in a lot of different situations, a lot of positions, just learning different calls and picking up on alerts – that was good for me. I think as training camp went on, I got a chance to play faster and kind of learn the terminology a lot better. So, it was a lot of growing pains for me, but I’d rather them happen right now than later on during the season.”
Well, there probably won’t be a “later on” for Howard, at least with the Bills.
The 2019 first-round draft pick of the Buccaneers was a contributor for his first three seasons, but he suffered an Achilles injury early in 2020 which cost him the rest of that season, one where the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl with Rob Gronkowski playing tight end.
Last year, Howard was behind both Gronkowski and Cameron Braite most of the season and caught only 14 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown.
When the Bills signed him, they thought his superior size – 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds – and athleticism would play well in two-tight end formations because he has been a good blocker in the past. Plus, he could be a legitimate red zone option.
And there was even talk that he could be the lone tight end in certain situations so that the Bills could take some of the workload off Knox who played more than 75% of the offensive snaps last season.
It appears the Bills will go with Tommy Sweeney and Quintin Morris as the backups, although Morris suffered some type of leg or ankle injury in practice Monday and was not working out on Tuesday.
“It’s kind of stressful, you know,” Sweeney said of waiting out the final roster decisions as a player firmly on the bubble. “Everybody around the league, a lot of jobs being won and lost. It’s completely out of your hands. You just hope that the last couple weeks, you’ve put your best stuff out there, and hopefully that lets you sleep at night, regardless of win or lose, figuratively.”
Asked if he thought he was being pushed aside when the Bills signed Howard in the offseason, Sweeney said he just tried to take care of his own business and let the chips fall where they may.
“Yeah, that’s all you can do,” he said. “There is always going to be competition in this league. It’s the best of the best, so whoever they bring in, it’s going to be a good player, whether it’s somebody you know or you don’t. Just kind of can’t really put that much into it; just put it in the back of the mind and whether somebody is there or not, you’ve just got to go push forward.”
Undoubtedly, the Bills will try to re-sign some of the players they released Tuesday to their practice squad, but not all of them. They will also scour the waiver wire for interesting players cut by other teams, so several of the players who will be on the initial 53-man roster announced later on Tuesday may not be safe.
Buffalo Bills 53-man roster analysis
Again, nothing has been made official on the cuts, but if all the players who were not on the field Tuesday are indeed gone, at least for now, here’s what the roster looks like at mid-afternoon Tuesday.
- Quarterback (3): Josh Allen, Case Keenum, Matt Barkley.
- Running backs (4): Devin Singletary, James Cook, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones.
- Wide receiver (6): Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, Jake Kumerow.
- Tight ends (4): Dawson Knox, Quintin Morris, Tommy Sweeney, Reggie Gilliam.
- Offensive tackle (4): Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, Tommy Doyle, David Quessenberry.
- Interior offensive line (5): Mitch Morse, Rodger Saffold, Ryan Bates, Greg Van Roten, Bobby Hart.
- Edge rusher (5): Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, Boogie Basham, Shaq Lawson.
- Defensive tackle (4): Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips.
- Linebacker (7): Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Tyrel Dodson, Tyler Matakevich, Terrel Bernard, Baylon Spector, Andre Smith.
- Cornerback (7): Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, Christian Benford, Cam Lewis, Nick McCloud.
- Security (4): Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, Damar Hamlin.
- Kicking specialists (2): Tyler Bass, Reid Ferguson.
That adds up to 55 players, but when the deadline arrives at 4 pm, Smith will be placed on the suspended list for his PED violation (six games), and Barkley will be cut (he will surely be re-signed to the practice squad Wednesday). That brings it down to 53.
Also, cornerback Tre’Davious White and offensive lineman Ike Boettger are almost certainly headed to the physically unable to perform list, meaning they’ll miss at least the first four games. PUP players do not count on the 53-man roster.
Once the roster is announced, there are several moves the Bills could be making to manipulate it.
In order to make room for a punter who will probably be signed Wednesday after the 24-hour waiver period is over, the Bills could place an injured player on injured reserve. Candidates include Doyle, offensive lineman Greg Mancz, and wide receiver Marquez Stevenson.
The reason they wouldn’t be placed on IR Tuesday is because if they aren’t included on the initial roster, they would be forced to miss the entire season. If the Bills wait to do it Wednesday, they would be eligible to return when healthy.
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