Buffalo Bills: Chris Hairston

We're reaching that time of the year, again. Roster cuts are on the horizon.

Teams must reduce their rosters to 75 players by Aug. 26 and select their final 53 players by Aug. 30. That gives general manager Doug Whaley and coach Doug Marrone less than two weeks to make decisions on the roster for the Buffalo Bills.

There are two ways to approach the moves: start from the bottom of the roster and trim players to get to the limit, or start from the top of the roster and pick players until you run out of space.

We posted our 53-man roster projection earlier Monday, and as a follow-up, we'll take the first approach in analyzing potential cuts. Let's break down the 35 moves -- not including Kiko Alonso's likely placement on the non-football injury list -- into four categories:

LONG-SHOTS AND FIRST CUTS (17): These are mostly younger players who competed in training camp but saw less playing time than their peers in the preseason. They could return to the practice squad, find another team, or possibly never play in the league again. Although coaches stress that no cuts are ever "easy," these are the relatively easier cuts to make on the roster:

Quarterbacks (1): Dennis Dixon
Running backs (1): Ronnie Wingo
Wide receivers (4): Chris Summers, Caleb Holley, Tori Gurley, Naaman Roosevelt
Offensive linemen (2): J.J. Unga, Jared Wheeler
Defensive ends (2): Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
Defensive tackles (1): Damien Jacobs
Linebackers (2): Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd
Cornerbacks (3): Mario Butler, Kamaal McIlwain, Sam Miller
Safeties (1): Derek Brim

TOUGHER CUTS (10): These are players who have played more than their peers in the preseason and have made a stronger push to make the roster. They might be better candidates to return to the practice squad:

Wide receivers (1): Kevin Elliott
Tight ends (1): Dominique Jones
Offensive linemen (3): Macky MacPherson, Antoine McClain, Edawn Coughman
Cornerbacks (1): Bobby Felder
Safeties (3): JaJuan Harley, Kenny Ladler, Deon Broomfield
Punters (1): Jake Dombrowski

ON THE BUBBLE (6): These players might draw the most debate in the room when the final 53-man roster is selected. In some cases, they are more established players and might draw interest on the waiver wire or hook on with other teams:

Fullbacks (1): Evan Rodriguez
Wide receivers (1): T.J. Graham
Offensive linemen (1): Chris Hairston
Defensive ends (1): Jacquies Smith
Defensive tackles (1): Landon Cohen
Kickers (1): Dustin Hopkins

RUSTED LOCKS (2): These are players who were considered roster locks in the offseason but have suffered from poor performance in training camp and/or the preseason. Like the bubble players, they may draw interest on the open market if released or waived:

Quarterbacks (1): Thad Lewis
Defensive tackles (1): Alan Branch
Earlier Monday, we released our latest 53-man roster projection for the Buffalo Bills.

For a second consecutive week, there were no changes among the 53 players making the cut. While some players are making a push, we'll need to see more before swapping out any of the current players on the projection.

However, our list of the "last five" cuts has changed since our first projection. Here's our take on the five toughest cuts of our latest projection:
  1. DL Landon Cohen -- Coach Doug Marrone pointed out last week that Cohen had two of the Bills' seven tackles for a loss in their preseason opener in Canton, Ohio. That earned him some reps with the first team last week in practice and he was among the first defensive subs in Friday's win in Carolina. Cohen, 28, is on his ninth team since being drafted in 2008, so he's no stranger to the NFL. He's undersized but has shown a burst in getting through the line. Our latest projection has the Bills keeping Stefan Charles and Alan Branch as reserves, and despite Branch's dwindling role in the defense, it's hard to envision the Bills cutting ties before the first year of his three-year extension. Cohen would probably have to make it as a fifth defensive tackle, a spot that may not exist on the roster.
  2. TE Chris Gragg -- The youngest and most athletic of the Bills' tight ends, it makes sense to keep Gragg on the 53-man roster for a second season. However, there's a numbers game at play here. If the Bills have all six of their receivers active on game days, and they keep Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, and Tony Moeaki as their top tight end trio, then Gragg is most likely a game-day inactive every week. He's flashed some ability in training camp but hasn't made enough of a push to pass any of those three veterans on the depth chart -- if they all stay healthy. Another injury to Moeaki could hurt his chances of making the squad and open a spot for Gragg. Otherwise, Gragg would be a top candidate to return to the practice squad.
  3. WR T.J. Graham -- We didn't have Graham among our last five cuts in our first projection, but he's worth a mention here. Graham has shown up more in practice than he did in the early part of camp, although it's probably not enough to earn him a spot in a crowded receiver picture. Chris Hogan is essentially a lock to make the roster at this point, while Marquise Goodwin -- despite his hamstring injury -- rounds out the top five. We can't see Graham beating out Marcus Easley, who blocked a punt in the preseason opener. The effort is there from Graham, but it's probably not going to make the difference, barring an injury to another receiver.
  4. DT Corbin Bryant -- The story with Bryant is very similar to Cohen. He's a player with some NFL experience and positional versatility, and is also slightly undersized for his position. If Bryant makes the team, it would likely be as a fifth defensive tackle. There can sometimes be a see-saw effect between the offensive and defensive lines' roster spots. We have the Bills keeping nine offensive linemen because of some uncertainty across the line. If that gets shaved to eight in our next projection, then that would give room for an extra defensive lineman -- such as Bryant or Cohen.
  5. OL Chris Hairston -- He's fallen a bit off the radar after running with the third team in the preseason opener, but Hairston is still part of the battle along the offensive line. His positional versatility -- he can play tackle or guard -- is his best asset. While all three of the Bills' draft picks appear to be locks to make the team, there could be a surprise spot for Hairston if the Bills cut ties with Doug Legursky, Kraig Urbik, or Erik Pears. For right now, that remains only as an outside possibility.

Bills Camp Report: Day 13

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • The Bills got a pair of offensive linemen back at practice, with both Chris Williams (toe) and Chris Hairston (back) returning to action. Hairston stepped in with the second team at left tackle. He wasn't part of the mix at right guard, where Kraig Urbik and Cyril Richardson split first-team reps. Meanwhile, tight end Lee Smith returned to practice after missing Thursday's session with a lower body injury. The Bills were still without top tight ends Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Scott Chandler (groin).
  • The Bills said after practice that wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was dealing with a hamstring injury. We saw Goodwin pull up after a 1-on-1 route in Thursday's practice, grabbing his hamstring. He participated in the rest of that session but didn't get many reps Friday night. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bills held him out Sunday.
  • After a second long week of practice, the offense was a bit sluggish as it closed out Friday's session. The Bills held a 1:28 drill (instead of a two-minute drill) and EJ Manuel's first three passes fell incomplete against the second-team defense. He recovered on fourth-and-10, hitting Mike Williams for a 20-yard gain. But as the offense crossed midfield, it stalled again, with a delay-of-game penalty preceding a Jacquies Smith sack as time expired. The second-team offense didn't fare much better, with Thad Lewis intercepted on the fourth play by cornerback Nickell Robey.
  • Following the two-minute drill, the Bills closed out their practice with a 7-on-7 drill in the red zone, as they've done for most of camp. Manuel overthrew Sammy Watkins on a fade pattern, then had Evan Rodriguez drop a pass across the middle. Manuel scrambled on his third play, and Watkins dropped a would-be touchdown on the final play. Not the best series. In an 11-on-11 red zone drill earlier in practice, Manuel overthrew Watkins on one play and was picked off by safety Jajuan Harley in the end zone on another before finding Robert Woods (twice) and Chris Gragg on touchdowns.
  • The Bills will travel to Canton, Ohio, on Saturday in advance of Sunday's Hall of Fame game against the New York Giants. The team isn't expected to be present for Andre Reed's induction ceremony but will take part in some other private events. We'll have coverage from Canton all weekend.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills guard Chris Williams left Thursday's practice early with a toe injury.

Williams, who signed a four-year deal with the Bills as a free agent this offseason, did not return to practice.

In his place, the Bills used a rotation of Cyril Richardson , Antoine McClain and J.J. Unga at left guard. Richardson saw time at right guard early in the practice, before Williams' injury.

The Bills were also without Chris Hairston , who left Wednesday's practice with a back injury. Hairston had been competing with Kraig Urbik for the starting right guard spot.

Tight end Lee Smith also missed Thursday's practice with a "lower body" injury. He joined top tight ends Scott Chandler (groin) and Tony Moeaki (hamstring) as those out of action, leaving only Chris Gragg and Dominique Jones healthy at the position.

Bills Camp Report: Day 11

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Thunderstorms in the area caused a rain delay about in hour into practice. That lasted about an hour before players came back onto the field to complete the full-length session. Players were in full pads for the seventh consecutive practice, highlighting what has been a physical training camp for the Bills. It will be interesting to see if coach Doug Marrone dials it back at all in the final two practices before the preseason opener in Canton, Ohio.
  • The offensive line carousel continued to spin Wednesday with Chris Hairston leaving practice with a back injury. Hairston had been in the mix at right guard, where there is an open competition that includes incumbent Kraig Urbik. That battle added another participant Wednesday when fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson received some reps with the first team. Urbik continues to get the majority of reps in team drills, but for a player whom the Bills signed to a four-year extension in 2012, he can't feel comfortable lining up alongside younger players on the second team, as he did at one point Wednesday.
  • The Bills have picked up the pace in the red zone. Marrone has implemented a 7-on-7 period at the end of practice dedicated to red-zone work, and results were impressive Wednesday. Although it was against the second-team defense, EJ Manuel completed four touchdowns in his five reps. Two went to Robert Woods, and tight ends Chris Gragg (returning from a week-long absence) and Lee Smith snagged the others. Jeff Tuel then stepped in and completed his first two passes for touchdowns. With some success in the 7-on-7 look, it might be time for Marrone to switch to an 11-on-11 drill and add a pass-rush element for Manuel to face in the red zone.
  • Tight end Scott Chandler (groin) remained out of practice for a second straight day, as did tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring). Their injuries don't appear to be serious, but it has thinned the position for practices. The key for both players -- Moeaki especially, given his injury history -- will be to stay healthy once the regular season begins.
  • Chris Hogan continues to get significant playing time with the first-team offense and has become a reliable player in the slot. The Bills got in some 11-on-11 third-down work Wednesday and Hogan cut across the middle of the field for Manuel's biggest gain of the drill. Secondary coach Donnie Henderson, always vocal from behind the play, made it a point for his safeties to keep an eye out for No. 15.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Remember training camp last summer, when there was a true quarterback competition between EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb?

Those were the days. With Manuel virtually entrenched as the starter entering his second season, the Buffalo Bills have surprisingly few position battles brewing as they progress through their second week of training camp.

[+] EnlargeDa'Norris Searcy
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Da'Norris Searcy seems to have the upper hand in the race for the Bills' open safety spot.
How many starting spots are up for grabs? Here's our rundown:

Right guard: Coach Doug Marrone confirmed last week that there was a competition at this position. Kraig Urbik started 16 games last season, but with an influx of depth players along the offensive line this offseason his job isn't safe. His main competition is Chris Hairston, who began to see some reps with the first-team late in spring practices. Through the first eight practices of training camp, we'll peg Urbik's reps with the first team at around 70 or 80 percent. Hairston is getting some time, but it's not an even split. We'd expect Urbik to be the starter in preseason games.

Right tackle: This was our top competition of the spring but it's barely been a contest. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio hasn't received any time with the first team and looks to be coming along slower than the Bills would have hoped. Marrone had praise last week for Erik Pears' play through the early part of camp, noting that Pears was healthy after apparently being banged up last season. The real competition for Pears might be seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, who has held up fairly well at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn. If Glenn returns soon then Henderson could get a crack at the right tackle spot.

Third receiver: There might not be a clear-cut winner of this battle. The Bills have used a variety of receiver groupings through the first eight practices. Mike Williams, Chris Hogan, and Marquise Goodwin have all seen time alongside Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. How each of those players are used in the regular season could be determined by the situation. T.J. Graham, who we considered part of this mix in the spring, has barely seen any time with the first-team offense. He's fighting for his job.

Weakside linebacker: This spot opened up when Kiko Alonso suffered a season-ending knee injury. Nigel Bradham has seen the most reps with the first-team defense, but we've also seen the Bills mix-and-match their personnel here. Preston Brown, Jimmy Gaines, Stevenson Sylvester, and Randell Johnson have all rotated through in different groupings. We'd still put our money on Bradham but like the third receiver spot, this could depend on the situation and the offensive style of the opponent.

Safety: This has been Da'Norris Searcy's job to lose since the spring. The Bills have almost exclusively used Aaron Williams and Searcy as their top pairing at safety, which is a notable step down from the Williams-Jairus Byrd combo from last season. The key for the Bills is not putting Searcy in a spot where offenses can expose a weakness in the defense. He's not a rangy ball-hawker like Byrd. Ideally, the Bills would like for Duke Williams to grow into a larger role, but he hasn't shown it yet in training camp. Williams and fellow second-year safety Jonathan Meeks should see plenty of time in the preseason, and they will need it.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Earlier Monday, we released our latest 53-man roster projection for the Buffalo Bills.

What about the players who didn't make the cut?

Here are some thoughts on the "last five" cuts for the Bills:
  1. OL Chris Hairston -- We'll call him the 54th man. Hairston is currently battling for the starting right guard spot, although he saw less reps with the first team in Sunday's practice. If he can't beat Kraig Urbik for that job, Hairston could still be a valuable piece as a backup guard and swing tackle. Much will depend on the health of Cordy Glenn. If Glenn is placed on the reserve/non-football illness list, which would knock him out for at least the first six weeks, then Hairston could have a much better shot at cracking the squad. If Glenn returns, then Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandjio become the top two options at tackle beyond Glenn and Erik Pears. Inside, Doug Legursky is undersized but brings value as a backup center and guard. Fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson would be a developmental player. Teams usually carry seven active linemen on their 46-man game day roster and 8-10 on their 53-man roster. I pegged the Bills with nine, with Richardson and Kouandjio as game-day inactives. That doesn't leave room for Hairston.
  2. TE Chris Gragg -- His roster spot could depend on the health of the tight end position. Tony Moeaki could miss a large chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury. Since Moeaki already practiced, he's not eligible for the PUP list, so that's not an option. Scott Chandler suffered a groin injury in Sunday's practice and we don't yet know when he will return. Gragg is out of the hospital and likely to return to practice this week. If Chandler and/or Moeaki have long-term absences, then Gragg's chances of making the 53-man roster are increased. But if the Bills go into the regular season healthy at tight end, it's unlikely they carry four at the position.
  3. FB Evan Rodriguez -- Despite bringing value last season on special teams, I don't think Rodriguez can carve out enough of a role this summer to stick. This is a pure numbers game. It will be tough to carry both four running backs and two fullbacks. Frank Summers should have a roster spot as a short-yardage and goal-line blocker, leaving Rodriguez out of the mix.
  4. LBs Jimmy Gaines and Stevenson Sylvester -- We'll consider these two as a group right now. Both are challenging for playing time on defense following the loss of Kiko Alonso. They'll face more competition now that rookie Randell Johnson has returned from the PUP list, and ultimately the Bills are unlikely to carry more than six linebackers. If one of these players sticks, it will probably mean they leapfrogged Johnson or Ty Powell on the depth chart.
  5. DT Corbin Bryant -- It never hurts to have an extra big body on the defensive line, and Bryant filled that role last season. Teams that run a 4-3 defense typically carry around eight or nine defensive linemen, and Bryant would likely be the ninth. If the Bills go with nine offensive linemen, as we have them carrying in our latest projection, then that could shave one player off the defensive line. Bryant would be the most likely casualty.

Bills Camp Report: Day 4

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus worked with strength coaches for the duration of practice. Coach Doug Marrone had no indication of when Dareus may re-take his conditioning test -- that's up to the strength coaches, he said -- but the Bills have a large gap between practices this week. They aren't back on the field until 6 p.m. Friday, which could give Dareus time to pass the running test. Another player who didn't pass the test? Defensive tackle Alan Branch, who is on the active/non-football illness list. We're told that Branch needed to be put on that list because of a technicality. Branch and Dareus worked out together on the sideline Wednesday.
  • Is the Bills' starting right guard spot up for grabs? Asked that question Wednesday, Marrone simply said, "Yes it is." Incumbent Kraig Urbik struggled in Tuesday's practice, leading Chris Hairston to get more reps with the first team Wednesday. Hairston has been plugged in along the line -- including both at left tackle and right tackle -- since returning this spring from a year-long absence. Urbik has cap numbers of $3.375 million, $3.675 million and $4 million in the remaining three years of his deal, which the Bills extended in 2012. While former general manager Buddy Nix inked the deal with Urbik, it would be a disappointment for the team if he lost his starting job.
  • How about right tackle? At the beginning of OTAs, Marrone said he wanted to throw second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio into the mix with the first team, leading to reps with the top unit. Those dwindled by the end of spring practices and we've seen Erik Pears exclusively with the first team so far in camp. Asked if that was a reflection more on Pears or Kouandjio, Marrone said it was a "little bit of both," adding that "Cyrus is coming along. Again, the closer you are to the ball, the tougher it is to play in this league." Pears started 16 games last season but dealt with an injury. At 32, his job appeared to be in jeopardy this summer but he's been holding off Kouandjio to this point.
  • Safety Aaron Williams stepped away from an early portion of practice and met with the team's medical staff on the sideline. Williams, who is coming off shoulder surgery and was eased back into action during spring practices, had his shoulder/arm area examined by a team doctor. He returned to the rest of practice and didn't appear to have any issues with that arm, but it's something that bears watching as the Bills progress through several more padded practices and preseason games. The team gave Williams a large extension this offseason and if he misses time, they have a drop-off on their safety depth chart. Besides starter Da'Norris Searcy, none of the other six safeties have playing experience on defense at the NFL level.
  • Sammy Watkins continues to show off his eye-opening talent and Wednesday was no exception. He made an impressive catch in a routes-versus-air drill that was captured by WGR 550's Sal Capaccio. You should check it out.
(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2014.)

Name: Chris Hairston

Position: Offensive lineman

Age: 25

2013 stats: None; spent entire season on Non-Football Illness list.

Chance of making 53-man roster: 50 percent

Why he should make it: Hairston is one of the more intriguing names on the roster. He missed all of last season, so we never got a feel for how he was viewed by Doug Marrone, who has a keen eye for offensive linemen. After starting out on the second team early in organized team activities, Hairston received more time with the top unit by minicamp this week. At the moment, he should be in the discussion to start at right guard or right tackle. If he can take over one of those roles, then his roster spot is secure. Hairston could also be valuable as a backup swing guard or tackle.

Why he shouldn't make it: While Hairston has shown upside this spring, he faces competition from younger players on the roster. The Bills drafted three lineman in May -- Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson, and Seantrel Henderson -- and if they keep all three on their 53-man roster, there may not be room for Hairston. If the Bills don't want to expose Richardson or Henderson to waivers then Hairston could be cut. It will be a numbers game.

Closest competition: Henderson, Erik Pears, J.J. Unga
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills continued to shift their offensive line Wednesday, moving rookie Seantrel Henderson from the third-team to the first-team at left tackle.

Henderson stepped in for Cordy Glenn, who did not participate in team drills Wednesday. Glenn missed Tuesday's practice with an illness, but was replaced by Chris Hairston with first-team. On Wednesday, Hairston split reps at right guard with Kraig Urbik.

Henderson, a seventh-round pick, did not practice Tuesday because of travel-related issues, but was thrown into the fray Wednesday.

Tight end Scott Chandler (excused for family matter) remained out of practice, the only player on the Bills' 90-man roster not spotted Wednesday. Cornerback Darius Robinson, wide receivers Cordell Roberson, Marcus Easley, and Ramses Barden, and defensive end Bryan Johnson were all limited in practice.

The highlight of Wednesday's practice was the two-minute drill that ended the session. EJ Manuel looked sharp, completing consecutive passes for first downs to Robert Woods and Chris Hogan, pushing the first-team offense to the 20-yard line with 30 seconds left.

However, the offense struggled from there with two sacks setting up a third-and-11, and Hogan couldn't get a hold of a pass across the middle. On fourth down, Manuel fired a well-thrown pass into the corner of the end zone, intended for Woods, but cornerback Nickell Robey leaped in front of it for an interception.

Robey briefly remained on the ground before walking off the field with trainers. He appears to have dodged a serious injury on the play.

The Bills stayed in a three-receiver look with Sammy Watkins, Woods, and Hogan for that two-minute drill. With Chandler out, they turned to Tony Moeaki at tight end for the drill.
As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Offensive tackle

Current personnel: Cordy Glenn (signed through 2015), Erik Pears (2014), Chris Hairston (2014), Edawn Coughman (2015)

Draft need: High

State of the position: There is little doubt the Bills will target this position in the draft. Pears is 32, entering the final year of his deal, and showed at points last season that the Bills could use an upgrade at right tackle. Hairston probably isn't the answer. While he started 15 games for the Bills between 2011 and 2012, Hairston spent all of last season on the reserve/non-football illness list. The last update from coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley was that Hairston still had medical hurdles to clear before returning, and even then, it's not known how Marrone -- who has a keen eye for offensive linemen -- views the former fourth-round pick. That's not to say Hairston couldn't contribute if healthy, but it shouldn't preclude the Bills from drafting an offensive tackle.

The Bills have a good shot at plucking one of the top three tackles off the board when they select at ninth overall. If they do so, will he play left tackle or right tackle? Glenn performed well at left tackle last season and moving him to right tackle to accommodate a rookie at left tackle seems like a risky move. The safer option would be to start the first-round pick at right tackle and keep Glenn at left tackle until performance dictates otherwise. Of course, that raises a debate over whether right tackle is a position worthy of selecting early in the first round. A case can be made either way, but it's important to note that even a second-round or third-round tackle should be able to compete with Pears and Hairston for the starting job.

Sweet spot: Any round, especially first round.

Possible targets: Greg Robinson (Auburn), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

Examining potential Bills cap cuts

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
With Super Bowl XLVIII in the books, Monday is the first official day of the 2014 NFL offseason.

It's also the first day teams can release players who are under contract for next season. In some cases, teams might release players to free up salary-cap room. In other cases, the team might determine the player isn't valued as highly in a new scheme.

Both scenarios could come into play with the Buffalo Bills. The NFL hasn't announced an exact salary cap for next season, but the Bills are currently projected to be in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space.

While the Bills will have sufficient cap space to make free-agent moves this offseason, it's typical for some players to be released for financial purposes. Here's our best guess which players could be on the outs in Buffalo:

QB Kevin Kolb: What's not clear is how Kolb has recovered from an August concussion that ended his season. What is clear is that the Bills view EJ Manuel as their starting quarterback entering next season, so Kolb -- even if healthy -- would enter the offseason as a backup. With a $3.6 million cap number, including a $1 million roster bonus, it's hard to see that happening. It would be a surprise if Kolb remains on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year in March.

WR Stevie Johnson: Johnson could be one of the toughest calls the Bills make this offseason. He's under contract through 2016, so by releasing him now, the Bills would have to absorb significant "dead money" this season. The true savings in releasing Johnson would come in 2015 and 2016. If the Bills feel like Johnson isn't a fit within their offense, they could make the decision to cut ties with him now. He's due a $1.75 million roster bonus in March that essentially sets a deadline for that decision to happen. Unless they want to take a larger "dead money" hit, they can't wait until May to see if Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, is still on the board at ninth overall.

TE Tony Moeaki: Once Moeaki recovered from a preseason injury last season, he signed a two-year contract with the Bills. He's due a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 roster bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus this offseason, which suggests the Bills had competition in signing him. Still, Moeaki did not play an offensive snap after being signed in early December. If the Bills feel like things will come together with Moeaki by next season, perhaps he'll stay in the fold under his current deal. If not, it's possible they cut ties with him.

OT Erik Pears: Pears started 16 games this season for the Bills, but there have been indications that the Bills want to upgrade along their offensive line. The journeyman right tackle turns 32 in June and has a $3.75 million cap number. The Bills could deem that too rich for a position they could target in May's draft. This could be a case where the Bills could ask Pears to restructure in order to remain in Buffalo.

OT Chris Hairston: Hairston, who spent all of last season on the non-football illness list, has a cap hit of about $750,000. That's not significant on its own, but it's also not clear where Hairston stands health-wise. If he can't pass a physical or can't participate in the offseason program, he could be released. Hairston started 15 games between 2011 and 2012, but it's not known how the current coaching staff views the former fourth-round pick.

OLB Manny Lawson: The potential for Lawson to be released moves onto the radar under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Lawson is considered to better fit in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme, where the 'Sam' linebacker plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is used more as a blitzer. In Schwartz's system, both outside linebackers typically play off the line of scrimmage and are used 'in space,' requiring better athleticism. Lawson will turn 30 this summer and doesn't have excellent range as an off-the-line player. Even though Lawson brought a veteran presence to the locker room, it's possible the Bills look to restructure his contract or release him. He has a $3.1 million cap number this season, but is signed through 2016, so like Johnson, the cap savings would come down the road.

Steve Johnson to make debut for Bills

August, 24, 2013
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson will make his preseason debut on Saturday against the Washington Redskins.

Johnson had missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, but was not among those players the Bills announced as inactive for Saturday's game.

The following players will not be in uniform for Buffalo:
Safety Jairus Byrd is not expected to play, but was not included in the Bills' announcement of inactives. If Byrd plays on Saturday, the team will lose its roster exemption for him, which is set to begin Tuesday and run through next Friday.

Other Bills expected expected to play for the first time this preseason are cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers.