The Buffalos Bills made a big move to get their defense back up to full strength before taking on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. On Tuesday, September 27, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo was first to report that three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes was taking his talents to Buffalo.
Garafolo tweeted, “The #Bills are signing veteran CB Xavier Rhodes, sources say. Former All Pro heads to Buffalo to help with a battered secondary and reunite with Leslie Frazier,” who was the head coach for the Minnesota Vikings when Rhodes was drafted by the team in 2013.
Immediately following Garafolo’s report, the 32-year-old veteran sent a simple message on Twitter. He tweeted, “#BillsMafia,” but that’s not the first message he’s sent about the franchise most favored to win the Super Bowl this year. The former Indianapolis Colts cornerback previously tweeted about how impressed he was by the team’s quarterback Josh Allen and his No. 1 wide receiver, Stefon Diggs.
On September 20, Rhodes tweeted, “I know I’m late but Diggs and Allen is must watch tv. They seem unstoppable at the moment.” Of course, the nine-year veteran is already familiar with Diggs’ talent. The former No. 25 overall pick from the 2013 NFL Draft spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Vikings, and joining the Bills reunites him with former teammates Diggs and backup quarterback Case Keenum.
While playing with Indianapolis Colts last season, 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, he tallied 81 tackles (67 solo) three interceptions, 19 passes defended, and a fumble recovery, as reported by Stampede Blue.
According to Syracuse.com’s Matt Parrino, safety Jordan Poyer has been quietly working to get Rhodes to join him in Buffalo. Parrino tweeted on Tuesday night, “Poyer has been recruiting Xavier Rhodes to Buffalo for awhile. The two train together in the offseason. The veteran CB headed to #Bills practice squad (per @JFowlerESPN) for some much needed reinforcements with DB group ravaged by injuries.”
ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg tweeted, “Rhodes will fill one of the two open practice squad spots on the Bills roster. The Bills also beefed up their offensive line on Tuesday, signing former Cardinals guard/tackle Justin Murray.
The Bills Were Urged to Sign Rhodes Back in July
Back in July, Pro Football Focus analyst Doug Kyed urged the Bills to sign Rhodes. “The Bills have All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White coming off a torn ACL, and 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam is projected to start on the other side of the field with Taron Johnson in the slot,” Kyed wrote. “Buffalo lacks veteran depth at cornerback, and Rhodes, 32, was still effective over the past two seasons, generating a 74.8 coverage grade.”
While it turned out to be the Bills sixth-round pick, cornerback Christian Benford, to get the starting role opposite Dane Jackson, both players are currently on the injured list.
Leslie Frazier Admitted It’s Difficult Having So Many Players Go Down at Once
While the addition of Rhodes will be a big help, it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to go right away. The Bills’ defense will likely need several reserve players to once again step up and start when they face quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday, October 2.
While All-Pro safety Micah Hyde will be on IR for the rest of the season, defensive starters that were out against the Dolphins in Week 3 included Jackson, Poyer, Ed Oliver, and Jordan Phillips. Benford is undergoing surgery for his fractured hand and is expected to miss several weeks.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said during his press conference on Monday, September 26 that he was discussing with general manager Brandon Beane on Saturday night if they could remember a time when so many players went down at once. “It’s part of our game — injuries are — it happens and you just have to keep moving forward. Hopefully, we’ll get some of those guys back soon.”
As for White, who was placed on the PUP list prior to the start of the season, Frazier said that we’re “on the verge” of getting him back, “which would lift the spirits” of the whole team. “We have our fingers crossed he’ll be back soon… In the meantime, we get the guys that can play ready to play.”