After making two dozen mostly nondescript roster cuts Saturday, the Bills flipped the script Sunday with big surprises, cutting second-year running back Jonathan Williams and linebacker Gerald Hodges, as well as receiver Philly Brown.
Williams was a fifth-round pick out of Arkansas who was expected to be LeSean McCoy's primary backup. His presence on the roster was thought to be one of the mitigating factors in letting restricted free agent Mike Gillieslee get away to New England in the offseason.
Hodges was a good find late in free agency and was thought to be a decent, versatile veteran to have on the roster. GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott brought Brown over from Carolina.
Why? The cuts were made in order to bring in three players the Bills claimed on waivers: Offensive tackle Conor McDermott (reportedly no relation to the Bills' coach), linebacker Deon Lacey and tight end Khari Lee.
The big winner from these moves is: Well, we're not sure yet, but it might be fullback Mike Tolbert, who could see an expanded role behind McCoy. The other backs on the roster are RBs Joe Banyard and Taiwan Jones and FB Patrick DiMarco.
Hodges was a backup, but his departure leaves only six linebackers on the team: The three starters, Preston Brown, Lorenzo Alexander and Ramon Humber; rookies Matt Milano (fifth round) and Tanner Vallejo (sixth round); and Lacey.
QB reportedly works out: ESPN's Field Yates reported that the Bills worked out quarterback Joe Webb this weekend. Webb was with Carolina last season, so Beane and McDermott are familiar with him. Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates remained in concussion protocol Thursday the last time McDermott updated the media.
There are some situational reasons why it makes sense for the Bills to bring in two not-very-good quarterbacks with whom they are familiar, but their avoidance of Kaepernick is not coincidental. Beane, in an interview with the Toronto Sun, responded to a question about Kaepernick by saying he's "not looking to ever bring in any distractions for this locker room."
“First and foremost, you like to eliminate all distractions," Beane told the Sun's John Kryk. "And part of my job is, whether a player is being a distraction, or a coach, or anything, is to eliminate distractions. Whether internal or external. Now that being said, every situation is unique. So I’m not going to sit up here and say I would never have a player who has something going on that would be a minor distraction, or whatever. But I’m not looking to ever bring in any distractions for this locker room."
The purge continues II: Something Beane doesn't consider a distraction is purging players off the roster who were drafted by the previous regime. Sunday's newsletter noted that the Bills had only 10 players – 10! – on the 53-man roster who were drafted by the team before this year. After cutting Williams, that number is down to nine.
Only five of those nine players were selected while Doug Whaley was running the team's drafts: LB Preston Brown, G John Miller, TE Nick O'Leary, DE Shaq Lawson and DT Adolphus Washington (the team still has OT Seantrel Henderson, too, but he's currently suspended and therefore not on the 53-man roster). The other players rounding out the nine are DT Kyle Williams, C Eric Wood, LT Cordy Glenn and DT Marcell Dareus.
Since arriving in May, Beane has ridded the team of seven Whaley draft picks: OL Cyrus Kouandjio, WR Kolby Listenbee, WR Sammy Watkins, CB Ronald Darby, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Kevon Seymour and now Williams.
Jerry Sullivan similarly noted in a column that the Bills only have eight players who were with the team when Rex Ryan was hired. Players seemed to pick up on the trend, he wrote.
Seven named to practice squad: The Bills signed seven players to their practice squad Sunday, including fan-favorite receiver Brandon Reilly. The others are WR Daikiel Shorts, OL Jordan Mudge, DE Ian Seau, DL Marquavius Lewis, CB Marcus Sayles and S BT Sanders. They have three slots remaining.
Players on the practice squad will make $7,200 per week this season, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. Over a 17-week season, that comes to $122,400.
Chad Kelly placed on NFI list: The Broncos placed St. Joe's grad Chad Kelly on the reserve/non-football injury list this weekend, keeping him out for at least the first six weeks of the season. Kelly, their seventh-round draft pick, injured his right, throwing wrist at his pro day and has been limited since having surgery. Because the injury happened before the NFL, the Broncos are allowed to classify it as a "non-football" injury.
Labor Day reading: Read Tim Graham's story, "Self-made men," from our NFL preview section. He detailed how McDermott and Beane took unusual paths in the rise to power in the NFL.