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(Ben Green/Buffalo Bills)

Could the Buffalo Bills' Safety Tandem Be Coming to an End?

Over the past seven NFL seasons, Buffalo Bills’ safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have arguably been one of, if not the best safety tandem in the league. Both joining Buffalo’s defense in the 2017-18 season, they have been a reliable back end to head coach Sean McDermott’s squad. Poyer has been selected First-Team All Pro and to the Pro Bowl once in his time in Western New York. Hyde was selected to the Pro Bowl once in the red, white, and blue. 

After another heart-breaking loss coming to the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Playoffs, signs are leaning towards Hyde retiring from professional football. The 33-year-old has suffered serious neck injuries over the past two seasons. Missing basically the entire season in 2022-23 due to a neck injury, Hyde had surgery to replace a herniated disk in his neck. Coming back this season, Hyde missed three games later in the regular season with stingers in his neck. On Instagram days after the loss in the AFC Divisional Round, his wife Amanda Hyde posted what seems to be a goodbye post to Bills Mafia. While Hyde said in the Bills’ exit interviews “he has no idea what the future holds” the nagging neck injury and the post from his wife point toward retirement. A former Iowa Hawkeye, he is a father to two young children which could also impact his decision. 

What does the Bills’ safety core look like without Hyde? Safeties that saw action this year along with Hyde and Poyer were Damar Hamlin and Taylor Rapp. Hamlin, who recovered from suffering cardiac arrest against the Cincinnati Bengals in January 2023, was a sixth-round selection in 2021 by Buffalo and has some experience but isn’t starter-level material. Rapp, a free agent signing this past offseason, spent the past five seasons with the L.A. Rams and has proven to be reliable racking up 10 interceptions in his career. Rapp played in 44.42% of defensive snaps this year according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and was trusted to play safety when McDermott dropped Poyer into the box to bring a physical presence. He also recorded the game-sealing interception off quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the Bills matchup against the Miami Dolphins in Week 18, helping the Bills win their fifth straight AFC East Title. Rapp can be an option for Buffalo to replace Hyde but other options are out there.

A player that has come up in discussion lately is Carolina Panthers’ safety Jeremy Chinn. The 25-year-old had a stellar rookie season but has failed to play up to the same level over the past two seasons due to injuries. The Bills are also no strangers to bringing in Panther’s organization members and players. Current general manager Brendon Beane, offensive coordinator Joe Brady, and head coach Sean McDermott all spent time in Carolina before coming to Buffalo. Beane has brought in players from the Panthers in the past too. Those include wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, edge Mario Addison, and guard Daryl Williams to name a few. While Chinn has struggled in performance and with injuries, he has shown the potential to play at a star-like level. In his rookie season he racked up 117 tackles, two touchdowns and forced fumbles, and one interception. This season was the last year of Chinn’s four-year deal with Carolina, making him a free agent this off season. If the Bills can figure out their cap hole they’re in, he would be a great replacement from Hyde. 

The Bills have the 28th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They could select a safety to develop with that selection or trade up in the draft to do so. While it’s too early to tell what the Bills will do with their first-round selection, safety is a definite position they should try to target in the upcoming draft. 

With defensive starters like Von Miller, Tre'davious White, Jordan Poyer, Daquan Jones, and Matt Milano not getting any younger, the high-ranking and reliable Bills defense its fans have seen in the past could be coming to an end sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what Brandon Beane does this off season to help the team attempt to finally get over the hump and hoist a Lombardi Trophy in the near future before it’s too late. 

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