Could the Bills Potentially Cut EJ Manuel, Fred Jackson?

By Vincent Frank

Under first-year head coach Rex Ryan, the Buffalo Bills are a deeper squad than they have been since Marv Levy was roaming the sidelines at Orchard Park. With this comes some hard decisions for Ryan and company as the summer moves forward and training camp approaches.

While EJ Manuel’s situation with the team has been on the front burner in recent weeks, there’s another player that might very well find himself moving on from Western New York prior to the start of the 2015 campaign.

As Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News suggests in a recent mailbag column, running back Fred Jackson may very well fall victim to the numbers game:

“At 34, he is beyond the age when most running backs stop playing in the NFL,” Carucci wrote. “With LeSean McCoy and other younger reserve options – including fifth-round draft choice Karlos Williams – does it make sense to keep Jackson around as a third-down specialist, which figures to be the only place he’d make a significant contribution?”

Coming off a 2014 campaign that saw him post a career low 3.7 yards per carry, it’s quite possible that Jackson could find himself without a job. He’s also set to make $2.7 million without a penny of guaranteed money, which complicates things a bit further.

Carucci noted the addition of Karlos Williams in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft. Williams, a down hill runner, could act as a nice third-down alternative to the newly acquired LeSean McCoy. That would take away Jackson’s primary role with the team.

Another player to look at here when drawing an opinion on Jackson is veteran running back Anthony Dixon, who impressed a great deal last season after both Jackson and former Bills ball carrier C.J. Spiller went down with injury. Dixon averaged 4.1 yards on 105 attempts. He’s also an ace special teams player—an area of the game Jackson doesn’t impact.

Looking at Manuel for a second, the situation is interesting. Carucci points to the possibility that Buffalo could outright waive the former first-round pick should he not earn the starting gig. While outlandish on the surface, it makes some sense. Is Manuel suited for a backup job? How would he handle that role? And in reality, could he beat out either Matt Cassel or Tyrod Taylor—whoever doesn’t win the starting job—for the primary backup gig? There would be little reason for Buffalo to keep Manuel on the roster as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, especially considering he wouldn’t even be suiting up on Sundays.

The expectation here has to be that Buffalo would look for a trade partner before exposing Manuel to waivers. This is also a likelier scenario than parting ways with him completely. After all, the likes of Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert are currently primary backups in today’s NFL. There could be a market for Manuel’s services.

Either way you spin it, this is probably good news for the Bills. Instead of scraping the waiver wire for another team’s castoffs, the Bills seem to have a surplus of talent at certain positions. That bodes well for their chances of success this year.

Photo: USA Today Sports