Bills Make Surprise Move, Trade ‘Favorite’ DE to Panthers: Report

Darryl Johnson trade

Getty Defensive end Darryl Johnson #92 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on November 15, 2020.

The Buffalo Bills need to whittle down their team to a 53-member roster by August 31 at 4 p.m., which means a lot of tough decisions will be made in the next 24 hours. While it’s expected for numerous players to get cut or traded, the Bills giving up Darryl Johnson, their diamond-in-the-rough defensive lineman, came as a shock.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was first to break the news on Monday that Buffalo was trading Johnson to the Carolina Panthers. “Source: The #Bills are trading DE Darryl Johnson to the #Panthers,” Rapoport tweeted.

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It appears as if the 24-year-old defensive end fell victim to a numbers game in Buffalo. Head coach Sean McDermott has incredible depth on his defensive line, and picked up two defensive ends in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL draft.

Little over a month ago, Bills defensive line coach Eric Washington spoke very highly of Johnson, as reported by The Buffalo News:

Who wouldn’t like to work with a young man who’s 6-foot-6 with 35-inch arms and still growing, from what I understand? He’s a versatile player. We’ve gotten him some snaps inside and outside. There’s some things Darryl was kind of learning on the fly. There’s some things he did extremely well last year. He realizes he’s going to use those experiences to get better.

In exchange for Johnson, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweeted that the Bills would receive a “sixth-round pick in 2022.”

The Athletic Predicted That Bills Would Keep Johnson, ‘Their Favorite Special-Teams Player’

Darryl Johnson

GettyDerek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders loses the ball as he is sacked by Darryl Johnson #92 of the Buffalo Bills with help from defensive tackle Vernon Butler #94 during the second half of the NFL game on October 4, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Johnson, who’s 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, was picked up by the Bills in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL draft, and proved himself to be a worthy backup during the 2020 season. While Johnson never started any games in his two years with the Bills, he played in a combined 31 games, tallying 29 tackles, 2.0 sacks and five quarterback hits.

Johnson was a factor on “at least 60% of the Bills special team snaps in 2019 and 2020,” per The Charlotte Observer‘s Alaina Getzenberg.

On August 29, one day before he was traded, The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia broke down the players expected to make the team’s final 53-man roster, predicting that the team could either keep seven defensive linemen or trade one of them.

“Jerry Hughes, Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham are all 100 percent locks,” Buscaglia wrote. “Darryl Johnson is one of their favorite special-teams players and has made progress as a pass rusher this summer. I think they need to keep him around, especially since he’s signed to a cheap rookie deal through 2022 and likely won’t pass through waivers.”

Johnson was ‘Frustrated’ by His Lack of Minutes: Report

While the trade comes as an unexpected move, it should be noted that Dan Morgan, the Panthers’ new assistant general manager, previously worked for the Bills as director of player personnel.

According to Getzenberg, “Morgan was familiar with Johnson and was a advocate to bring him to the Panthers, per a league source with knowledge of the situation.”

While Johnson was expected to make the Bills’ final roster, Getzenberg reported that “he had grown frustrated with his lack of playing time, a league source said.”

As for Johnson’s 2021 goals, “I’m a kickoff guy,” he told The Buffalo News in July. “They like to double team me. I love the contact, the physicality and just going down there and trying to hit somebody. I love that. I love every special team. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m down to do it.”

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