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Bills bring back veteran cornerback EJ Gaines for third time

EJ Gaines is back yet again.

The Buffalo Bills agreed to terms Thursday on a one-year contract with the veteran cornerback. It’s the third stint with the Bills for Gaines, who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his NFL career.

Gaines originally came to the Bills in 2017 as part of the trade that sent receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. Gaines had a solid season in Buffalo, but was limited to 11 games because of a groin injury. He started all 11 of those games, finishing with 59 tackles, nine passes defensed and one interception.

Gaines signed a one-year contract with the Cleveland Browns in 2018, but was placed on injured reserve in November because of multiple concussions.

Gaines started 15 games with the Rams as a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Missouri in 2014, but has had trouble staying healthy ever since. He missed all of the 2015 season with a Lisfranc injury, then was limited to 11 games in both 2016 (because of a thigh injury) and 2017. He has played just 43 games since entering the league in 2014.

The Bills signed Gaines to a one-year contract last offseason, but his second stint with the team ended before the start of the regular season. He was placed on injured reserve because of a groin injury and was later released with an injury settlement.

After being released, Gaines had workouts with the Texans, Jets and Colts, but didn’t sign with any of those teams and ultimately spent 2019 out of the NFL.

If Gaines can stay healthy – a big if, of course – he figures to compete for a reserve job at cornerback. Even after signing veteran Josh Norman this offseason, that’s an area the Bills could use some more depth. Before getting hurt last year, Gaines saw time at both outside cornerback and in the slot. The Bills have All-Pro Tre'Davious White at one outside cornerback job. Norman and Levi Wallace are expected to be the main two competitors for the opposite starting job, with Gaines now entering that mix.

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