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Bills Notebook: Dozen undrafted free agents sign before rookie minicamp

Sean McDermott hopes the Buffalo Bills can find the next Quintin Mikell in the 12 undrafted free agents who officially signed with the team Friday.

An undrafted free agent out of Boise State, Mikell turned himself into an All-Pro safety with the Philadelphia Eagles during the time McDermott was on their coaching staff.

“Really a credit to the way he approached his job,” McDermott said. “You noticed early on what traits he had from a football standpoint.”

The Bills’ coaching staff will be looking for players with similar traits during the team’s rookie minicamp, which got started Friday. In addition to the eight draft picks and 12 undrafted free agents, the team had 30 players in for tryouts and another five first-year professionals on the roster of 54.

“That's what we're looking for this weekend, is 'who slipped through the cracks, and maybe for what reason, in terms of whether it's athletic ability, or intelligence,’ ” McDermott said. “That's an overlooked area as well. It's important to have athletes, but we also look for the football IQ that goes along with the athleticism and what not. … You find those guys from time to time. Our scouting staff, I believe, does a great job, so we've got a number of guys that we're going to take a hard look at this weekend with that in mind.”

The dozen undrafted free agents who signed are:

  • Robert Foster, WR, Alabama. He had 35 receptions for 389 yards and three touchdowns in his four seasons with the Crimson Tide and also has been a punt returner. He played last season under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the St. Francis High School product who is now in the same position with the Buffalo Bills.
  • Levi Wallace, CB, Alabama. He went from being a walk-on to starting for the Crimson Tide. Weight is reportedly a concern for some teams, as he was listed at 6-foot-0, 167 pounds at the national championship game in January. He had gained 9 pounds to be listed at 176 pounds at the Senior Bowl later that month. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Wallace did not allow a catch of more than 30 yards all season.
  • Mat Boesen, DE, Texas Christian. A 6-4 pass rusher, he had 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks in 2017. His 5.5 sacks against Baylor set a single-game record for the Horned Frogs.
  • Gerhard de Beer, OT, Arizona. A 6-7, 315-pounder, de Beer had never played the game when he arrived from South Africa and walked on to the football team at Arizona. A rugby player at home, he came to America to throw the discus for the track team and was the 2015 Pac-12 champion. He has also expressed interest in punting, with Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez saying de Beer had hit 70-yarders in practice.
  • Ryan Carter, CB, Clemson. He had 83 tackles, four interceptions and 19 passes defensed last season for the Tigers. The 5-9 defender is tied for third in Clemson history in games played.
  • Ike Boettger, OL, Iowa. A torn Achilles tendon in the second game last fall ended his season, but Boettger impressed at the Hawkeyes' Pro Day. He ran a 5.3-second 40-yard dash and had a vertical leap of 29.5 inches. He is listed at 6-5 1/2 and 313 pounds. A former high school quarterback, he was projected as a college tight end but moved to the offensive line and was a regular starter by his sophomore year. He is likely a candidate to play guard.
  • Tyler Davis, K, Penn State. The former soccer player transitioned to football and was the Nittany Lions' primary kicker over the last three years. He made 144 consecutive extra points and is seventh in school history in field goals made with 39.
  • Mo Porter, OT, Baylor. The Bears didn't have a player drafted for the first time since 2008. Porter, however, will sign, according to the Waco Tribune. Porter played for the Bears for two seasons and started as a senior after transferring from Navarro College.
  • Mike Love, DE, South Florida. He impressed scouts at workouts and some projected him as high as a fifth-round pick. He had 28 tackles with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season. Love came to college at 210 pounds, but is listed as 260.
  • Corey Thompson, ILB, LSU: Thompson was reported by some outlets as being among the Bills' pre-draft visitors when he was spotted on an Instagram story posted by his former college teammate, Tre'Davious White. His signing with Buffalo was reported by The Advocate in Baton Rouge. He has also played safety and was primarily a reserve during his college career that was derailed by injuries. He had 43 tackles and six sacks last season.
  • Cameron Phillips, WR, Virginia Tech: The 6-footer was a four-year starter and was named first-team All-ACC in 2017. He led the team with 71 catches, 964 yards and seven touchdowns.
  • Keith Ford, RB, Texas A&M: Averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 24 rushing touchdowns in his four college seasons, including two at Oklahoma. His senior year was his most productive in terms of scoring with 12 touchdowns. He ran for 669 yards on 126 carries (5.3 average) as a junior.

It had been previously reported that Ford was going to attend on a tryout basis, but he signed. Auburn offensive lineman Wilson Bell, who was thought to be signing with the Bills, did not but is among the players at the minicamp on a tryout basis. The Bills are now at the offseason 90-player roster maximum.

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The team signed cornerback Taron Johnson to his four-year rookie contract Friday, making him the fifth member of the eight-man 2018 draft class to sign. Johnson, a cornerback from Weber State, figures to get an opportunity to win the Bills' nickel cornerback job. He won the 2017 Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year and became the first member of the program to receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl in 18 years.

Quarterback Josh Allen (first round), linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (first round) and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (third round) are the only remaining members of the draft class who are still unsigned.

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Rochester-area Bills fans received assurance Friday from Sen. Charles Schumer that the team will continue to hold training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.

“I’ve spoken to the Bills and they have assured me that they love hosting training camp at St. John Fisher and with four more years left on the current agreement they have no plans to make a change,” Schumer said.

The Bills have tried to put an end to speculation that they may not be long for Rochester following last week’s resignation of team president Russ Brandon, a St. John Fisher alum. President and co-owner Kim Pegula issued a statement last week saying training camp would not move.

“We really enjoy our summers at training camp at St. John Fisher and the relationship we continue to have with the school," Pegula said. "We have four years remaining on our current agreement with them and preparations are already underway for camp this summer. Rochester is an important market for the Bills, our entire company, and for me personally, being that it’s my hometown.”

The Bills have not released dates for this year's training camp.

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