When the Bills started Norman, a 35-year-old veteran yet to play this season, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football, over Elam, a player they traded up to land in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft, the writing was on the wall.
Syracuse.com’s Matt Parrino posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Have to think there’s a good chance that Kaiir Elam has played his last snap for the Bills.” Norman then made a splash on Thursday night, recording two tackles on Tampa Bay’s first two kickoff returns.
After the Bills defeated the Buccaneers 24-18, Bills head coach Sean McDermott didn’t mince words on why he benched Elam.
“Yeah, we want the players, at this point, and we feel like every decision we make is who can help us win,” McDermott told reporters on October 26, “We wanted to see what Josh could do there.”
If McDermott no longer believes that Elam can help the team win, it’s time to admit he’s a bust and let him get a fresh start elsewhere. ESPN Jeremy Fowler posted on October 28 that Elam was a name “worth watching” as the October 31 trade deadline nears, noting that he’s already “garnered interest.”
While Elam signed a four-year, $13.69 million rookie contract with Buffalo last year, it shouldn’t be difficult to trade the sophomore corner, at least from a financial standpoint. Cover 1’s Greg Thompsett posted that Buffalo had already paid Elam’s signing bonus. “Teams only take on the Salary, which is $1.3M this year, $1.9M next year and $2.5M in 2025.”
Did the Bills Wait Too Long to Trade Kaiir Elam?
Elam’s name has been thrown in trade rumors since before preseason, but it seemed the Bills weren’t ready to throw the towel in on the 22-year-old cornerback, which was understandable since they invested so much capital to obtain him.
However, Buffalo kept Elam on the bench throughout the first four weeks of the season, which might’ve put a huge dent in his trade value. Spectrum News 1’s Jon Scott posted on Saturday, “I thought Elam should have been traded before roster cuts [because] value would only drop as he didn’t play. What’s it now?”
Elam was only activated after cornerback Tre’Davious White suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 4. The Florida alum failed to impress against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5 and was benched midway through the fourth quarter. Ja’Marcus Ingram, a former undrafted free agent out of Buffalo, who was elevated from the practice squad on Sunday, took over his role for the remainder of the game.
McDermott refused to let rust be an excuse for the former No. 23 overall pick’s performance. “No,” McDermott told reporters.. “You’re playing, you’re expected to play and perform well, regardless of whether you’ve played or been active or inactive the week before, and guys have done that over the years.”
It wasn’t a crazy move for McDermott to bench Elam. At the end of the third quarter, he allowed Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley to gain 14 yards. In the fourth quarter, with Elam in coverage, quarterback Trevor Lawrence again connected with Ridley for 20 yards.
The Athletic‘s Matthew Fairburn wrote, “The play before Elam came out of the game, he was late supporting the play in run defense. Elam was the closest player in coverage on three completions of 16 or more yards… If the Bills can’t get Elam turned around, they have to consider looking outside the organization for a cornerback.”
Kaiir Elam Never Gave Up on Trying to Make Things Work in Buffalo
After it was clear that Elam had permanently lost his job to Christian Benford, the team’s sixth-round pick from the 2022 NFL draft, he told The Buffalo News that he’s committed to getting back out there.
“Of course,” he answered when asked if he was still looking to make things work in Buffalo.
“It’s the team that drafted me. I love (general manager) Brandon Beane and his belief in me and I love the town of Buffalo. The people here, I’ve never been anywhere like this, where the people really care. I’m going to continue to work my butt off. This is the team that took a chance on me, believed in me, and drafted me. I think I can help us win. I just have to keep competing.”