The Buffalo Bills must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, although coach Rex Ryan said after Thursday's preseason finale that the Bills could make cuts Friday. Here is a final projection:
It's possible that the Bills could listen to trade offers this weekend for Manuel, but unless they're blown away by a return, Manuel is their No. 2 quarterback. Jones isn't ready for that role.
The Bills did not use any of these four players in the preseason finale. In Gillislee's case, he was in the concussion protocol, and in Williams' case, he was dealing with a rib injury. But they all appear safe to make the final roster.
"Goose" Gronkowski, the youngest brother of Rob Gronkowski, has become a hot name after two strong games to finish the preseason. Ryan raved about the undrafted rookie during halftime of the team's television broadcast Thursday, saying, "It might be hard to keep him off our team now." The Bills might be the only team to carry two fullbacks, but if Gronkowski can contribute on special teams and play tight end in a pinch, he'd be a useful player on their roster. You can bet Ryan would send him out to the coin toss as a captain in Week 4 against his older brother in New England.
Ryan was looking for Dezmin Lewis or Jarrett Boykin to make a late push for a roster spot, but they didn't make such a move in the preseason finale. Powell appears to be the favorite to earn the No. 5 job, especially because of his ability to return kicks and punts.
I kept O'Leary off my previous projection but he could earn the 53rd roster spot after a strong performance (six catches, 63 yards) in the finale.
The Bills' decision to claim Lewis off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks this week shook up the outlook, as he likely replaces veteran Fernando Velasco on the 53-man roster. I also have the team parting ways with guard Ryan Groy in this projection, although I could see the team trying to find another guard on the waiver wire.
The Bills seemed to dodge a bullet with Worthy, who left with trainers during the finale but was later cleared to return. Buffalo probably is a player short at this position because of Marcell Dareus' suspension.
The Bills traded for McCray, an experienced special-teams player, which pushes undrafted free agent Bryson Albright off this projection. He's a strong candidate for the practice squad, and he could earn a call-up if Lawson is suspended following the NFL's investigation into his potential violation of the personal conduct policy.
The Bills signed Humber this week, who has an extensive background on special teams and in assistant head coach Rob Ryan's defense. Five players would be deeper than the norm at this spot, but Johnson adds a special-teams presence and Spikes' status is uncertain after he left Tuesday's practice with a trainer.
With Seymour dealing with a hamstring injury, Moore gets tacked onto this projection.
The Bills' biggest surprise cut might be veteran Robert Blanton. He played into the fourth quarter of the preseason finale, which is often an ominous sign for a player's chances of making the club. Blanton, an offseason free-agent signing, began training camp as the No. 3 safety but slipped down the depth chart.
KICKER (1): Dan Carpenter
PUNTER (1): Colton Schmidt
LONG-SNAPPER (1): Garrison Sanborn