Bills Raise Eyebrows With Major Roster Move Ahead of Week 18

Sean McDermott

Getty Amid the uncertainty surrounding Week 18, the Buffalo Bills signed safety Jared Mayden and cut cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

The world seemed to stop after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed due to cardiac arrest during the first quarter of the team’s Week 17 primetime game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. While the Bills’ No. 1 concern remains Hamlin’s health, they are still scheduled to host the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on Sunday, January 8.

The NFL has yet to decide on how to proceed with rescheduling Buffalo’s Week 17 matchup against the Bengals and with Hamlin still in critical condition, everything seems to be in limbo. However, the Bills made a roster move that for all intents and purposes, shows they are preparing to push through and play in Week 18.

On Wednesday, January 4, the Bills held meetings and a team walk-through before announcing that they were signing former New York Jets practice squad safety Jared Mayden. The 24-year-old safety will wear the No. 36 jersey in Buffalo.

Fans had strongly mixed reactions to the roster shuffle, and not just because it feels uncomfortable finding Hamlin’s replacement while he’s in the ICU. Bills Mafia was confused due to the fact that they already have a safety, Dean Marlowe, on their practice squad, a player they brought to Buffalo via a trade with the Atlanta Falcons just before the NFL’s November 1 deadline. The Bills also have safety Jaquan Johnson on the practice squad.

One person tweeted, “Why did we bother to trade for Marlowe” while another person wrote, “Don’t understand the move. We traded for Marlowe and were struggling badly at CB.”

In order to make room for Mayden, Buffalo released veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a three-time Pro Bowler, which also didn’t sit well with fans. “Wait why Rhodes? He was actually good,” one fan tweeted. However, Rhodes’ release could mean cornerback Christian Benford, who’s been on IR due to an oblique injury, is close to returning.

Rhodes, who signed with the Bills just before Week 4, shouldn’t remain jobless for long, although it may be difficult to find a new team at such a critical point in the season. While playing with Indianapolis Colts in 2021, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound cornerback started all 13 games he appeared in, recording 39 tackles, 32 solo stops, and one interception, per Pro Football Reference. Over the past two seasons, Rhodes tallied 81 tackles (67 solo) three interceptions, 19 passes defended, and a fumble recovery, as reported by Stampede Blue.

During his tenure in Buffalo, Rhodes recorded statistics in two games. He tallied two solo tackles against the Cleveland Browns on November 20, and another two tackles against the New England Patriots on December 12.

Mayden Spent a Few Weeks on Buffalo’s Practice Squad Earlier in 2022

Mayden is not a complete stranger to the Bills’ game plan, as The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia pointed out on Twitter, “Mayden spent Week 6 through Week 8 on the Bills practice squad this season, so there is some familiarity there.”

The undrafted safety out of Alabama started his NFL career on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad in 2020 before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad in October 2021. During his four-game appearances last season, he recorded a total of six tackles. After getting released by the Eagles in September 2022, he joined the Bills practice squad in October but was cut on November 3. Two days later, Mayden signed onto the New York Jets practice squad.

While the circumstances are grim, Mayden is excited to rejoin the Bills. He’s already changed his Instgram bio to read, “Bills Mafia💙🦬.”

There’s Still Doubt the Bills Will Play in Week 18

The Bills are in an incredibly tough spot heading into the final game of the regular season. CBS Sports reporter Jeff Howe tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, “I asked NFL EVP Troy Vincent if the Bills have discussed whether they want to play this week or resume this game. He said all discussions to this point with the Bills have been focused solely on Damar Hamlin’s well-being and the mental health of all involved with the Bills.”

USA Today‘s Bradley Gelber tweeted on Wednesday evening, “Just found out I’ll be at the #Bills vs. Patriots game (if it happens) — cannot even fathom the emotion for players and fans inside the stadium on Sunday.”

Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins appeared on SportsCenter on Tuesday evening, and when asked about the possibility of playing a game this week, the Pro Bowler said the team is still focused on just one thing: Hamlin.

“Anything that we have to give is for Damar and his family,” Dawkins said. “We understand that we have a job and that this is still what it is. But every emotion, every bit of energy that we have, we’re giving it to Damar and his family. We’re giving it to his best friends. Guys like Dane [Jackson] and Tre [White], and his DBs that are closest with him. And we’re giving them all of that love. … They all need it. … We’re not worried about nothing else. Right now, our time is family, prayer, and positive love, positive spirits so they can continue to step with strength and light.”

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