During the offseason the Buffalo Bills subtracted one of their best, if not the best, player on defense by allowing him to test free agency. Jairus Byrd left the team for a humongous contract in New Orleans, causing the Bills to make other arrangements at safety and re-signing Aaron Williams to a lucrative contract as well.
There are many questions heading into training camp regarding the safeties on the roster. Who will be the second starter? How short of a leash will it be for the second starter? How many will they keep? While those answers can’t be discovered until training camp concludes, one can certainly handicap the position heading into their time at St. John Fisher College.
The (Guaranteed) Starter (1) Aaron Williams
- Of course, there will be two starting safeties on the roster once training camp concludes. However, due to the open competition for strong safety that must play out in Pittsford, NY, only Williams can be looked to as the definitive leader of the group. After converting to safety last season, Williams enjoyed his most productive season and it appeared as though he really came into his own. Even though he was playing strong safety mostly, the position switch highlighted his skill-set much more effectively than when he was playing cornerback. He shifts over to free safety, which is likely his more natural position on the back end, and can focus on his playmaking ability to cause some turnovers for the defense.
The Depth (2) Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams
- It’s a completely wide open competition to be the starting strong safety. Searcy and Williams are the two main competitors, with Williams perhaps getting the benefit of the doubt because the current regime drafted him. However, Searcy has loads of experience in games on defense throughout his past three seasons in the NFL which would qualify him for the position as well. Searcy’s weakness is in coverage, but has a definite strength in run support. If Williams can show he’s more adept in coverage than Searcy and provides a comparable amount of ability in run support, he’ll likely land the job.
The Bubble (3) Jonathan Meeks, Deon Broomfield, Kenny Ladler
- Meeks is an intriguing player to track during the upcoming training camp. He’s likely better suited to be a strong safety in the defense, and could even push Searcy and D. Williams if he has a good enough camp. His safety (no pun intended) is not guaranteed, however. He could face some stiff competition from both Broomfield and Ladler for the fourth safety spot on the roster. Broomfield made a fair amount of positive plays during OTAs and minicamps to warrant bubble status heading into camp. Ladler is a highly decorated player coming to the Bills as an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt. It’s most likely that Meeks is the fourth safety on the 53-man roster. Don’t rule out the idea of the Bills keeping five safeties again this year if one of Broomfield or Ladler have an outstanding camp, though.
The Longshots (2) Derek Brim, Jajuan Harley
- Harley made some plays in the offseason workouts, but he’ll have to work his way up past both Broomfield and Ladler to have a shot at cracking the top five — if there is even a top five to be cracked (they could keep only four players). Brim is a great local story, being a native to Buffalo, a Canisius High School graduate and also a graduate of the University at Buffalo, but that’s likely where the story will end. Brim is perhaps the biggest longshot of all the safeties to crack the 53-man roster.