The Buffalo Bills added an intriguing player at wide receiver Monday afternoon.
The team claimed Leonard Hankerson off waivers from the New England Patriots, making room for him on the 53-man roster by placing wide receiver Marcus Easley on injured reserve because of a knee injury suffered Sunday against Dallas.
Hankerson, 26, is a former third-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2011. He spent the first four seasons of his NFL career in Washington before joining the Atlanta Falcons prior to the start of this year. He played in eight games with the Falcons and put up decent numbers – 26 catches, 327 yards and three touchdowns – before a hamstring injury eventually landed him on injured reserve.
Hankerson reached an injury settlement with the Falcons earlier this month and was picked up by the Patriots. He played 10 snaps in a Week 15 game against Tennessee, but did not make any catches. According to a report from the NFL Network, the Patriots hoped to re-sign Hankerson if he cleared waivers. The Bills made sure that didn’t happen.
Hankerson, a 6-foot-2, 211-pounder, has 107 catches for 1,408 yards and nine touchdowns in his career. He tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee during the 2013 season, and never fully recovered from the injury, playing just one game in 2014. The Bills will have to find out whether the promising start to this season was what Hankerson can be, or was just a brief stretch of good play.
They won’t have much time to do it, though. Hankerson is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in March. That could mean his Bills career lasts all of one game unless the team wants to re-sign him.
Easley’s injury, meanwhile, is so gruesome that even typing the words makes you wince.
He dislocated his left kneecap, causing the knee to break in three different places, while covering a punt in the second quarter against the Cowboys.
“He should be back for next season, but guys, this is a major, major injury,” coach Rex Ryan said on Monday. “They say he’ll be able to come back from it. It’s going to take time, but he should be fine.”
Easley’s left leg was immobilized as he was carted off the field, with a towel covering his head and face.
“Man, he is tough,” Ryan said.
Ryan is hopeful defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will be available when the Bills close out the regular season in Week 17 against the New York Jets, who can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. Dareus suffered a pinched nerve against the Cowboys, causing him to lose feeling in his fingers. Ryan said in the usual case of “stingers,” a player may experience numbness for a short amount of time, but it lasted longer with Dareus, which was “scary.” Dareus was able to regain feeling, though, and told the coach he wants to play against New York.
“We’re hoping to get him back,” Ryan said. “He’s been here” at the team facility.
Here’s the rundown on where things stand with the rest of the Bills’ injured players:
• Ryan said he does not expect Charles Clay to face the Jets because of a back injury. Clay has missed the last two games.
• Running back LeSean McCoy’s status is still up in the air.
“We’ll see how that goes during the week, but if it’s going to be one of these things that’s going to limit him, then obviously we’ll err on the side of caution there,” Ryan said.
• Rookie right guard John Miller (high-ankle sprain), safety Bacarri Rambo (shoulder/knee) and cornerback Ron Brooks (neck) all played through their injuries against the Cowboys.
Jonathan Meeks is expected to get the bulk of playing time at safety against the Jets in place of Rambo, whose tackling was affected by his shoulder injury.
“If you’re leading with one shoulder, you’re probably not going to tackle really well,” Ryan said. “For some reason, it never jumped out to me at the time, but I think you can see Jonathan Meeks get a lot more opportunity this week. Bacarri, I love him. He’s fighting his tail off, but there comes a thing where … if he’s going to be hampered as much as what it looked like, then I’ve got to go with” someone else.
If Miller can’t play, veteran Kraig Urbik would start in his place.
Brooks’ injury, meanwhile, leaves the Bills thin at cornerback, especially if rookie Ronald Darby is unable to play against the Jets. Darby missed Sunday’s game because of a groin injury.
“Obviously this team, their main formation is four wides,” Ryan said of the Jets. “So you’d like to have at least four corners. That would be nice to have, so hope like heck Darby can play for us.”
The Bills currently hold the 16th overall selection in the NFL Draft order, dead smack in the middle of the first round. According to the website playoffstatus.com, there is a 94 percent chance the Bills will draft somewhere between the 14th and 18th picks when the final order is set upon the conclusion of next week’s games.